Meet the Rising Warby Parker Affordable Luxury Footwear – WWD

Former Barneys editor and fashion director Marina Larroudé and her husband Ricardo set out six months ago to launch what they consider to be one of the world’s first digitally native luxury footwear brands. According to their account, Larroudé, the brand has already exceeded all expectations – and is on track to sell 30,000 pairs of shoes in its first year, hit $ 5 million in sales and is expected to triple to 15 million. in sales dollars in its second year. .

With a growing business, the husband and wife team – she with style, marketing, retail and visual experience and he with broad private equity and finance skills – just wrapped up a round. of financing table. While Ricardo declined to reveal financial details, he said the turn is “in the millions” and brings the company’s overall valuation into the double-digit million zone.

In no time, Larroudé has built up a core of trend-conscious buyers who want to get into luxury shoes with fun details, high quality and comfortable, but are on a budget. The brand’s average shoe is between $ 180 and $ 350. Marina said she envisions the brand as something like Stuart Weitzman for a new generation, and Ricardo is hoping she can evolve into a Warby Parker for high-end footwear.

“I think one of the key things you get [with this brand] is myself with 20 years of experience in everything fashion, from retail to press to wholesale, so Ricardo really has a deep knowledge of private equity. When we built the business, we built it for large-scale growth, ”Marina said of the duo’s strengths, relative to new labels in the market.

Hearing that her own brand will run 30,000 pairs in her early years, she said, “shocks me because at Barneys we had 750 women’s brands – it takes a lot for a brand to sell that many. units; There are so many brands. The ‘Gloria’ style that we have, I can’t keep in stock and I can’t remember having that kind of bulk in one shoe other than the Comme des Garçons Converse sneaker.

Components of a Larroudé shoe.
Courtesy / Larrodé

She said she still didn’t know what was in her brand’s secret sauce other than “various reasons women come for a designer look and quality, cheerful colors or printed pieces. very unique. I think this is a perfect match. The customer is looking for something unique and sees quality and very good value for money. We see in sales and data that when they buy their first pair , they quickly buy another.

“We started this business in a pandemic through Zoom and working under very stressful circumstances. This is the norm for us, so I feel like it will be so easy when we can get back to a normal way of working, ”added Marina.

But in the grand scheme of things, the Larroudés see their current numbers as a starting point – with the goal of eventually pushing between 10,000 and 20,000 pairs on the market each month. They hope to be an upscale option for the masses, with cute and trendy shoes being made and promoted as a premium product. All of the brand’s shoes are produced in Brazil, where the Larroudés – and many of their new investors – have strong roots. They say that by producing in Brazil, the costs of manufacturing the shoes are 70% lower than those of models produced in Italy.

“I had a thesis that there was white space in the market at this price. I felt like I was undervaluing the shoes because they have this very high quality. I asked [adviser] Martín Escobari – “Am I crazy about the prices here?” And he said, “You might have a new value proposition and maybe that’s what will allow you to grow your business,” Ricardo said of the company’s margins.

Marina said while working as a fashion editor and marketer, she would recommend shoes to friends or women who admired her style – often only to hear they were out of their budget. “I love fashion so much, but we’re not here to save lives. So if I’m not saving lives, it’s about, “How can I turn something important to me into something more women can accomplish?” “”

Larroudé’s business is a three-pronged approach. The company is partnering with key wholesalers, including Revolve and Shopbop, to increase brand awareness. When these styles sell out – as they often do – it drives traffic to the brand’s own site, where the brand is already seeing a 20% loyal following (and broad traits of sold out products). Printed leather is quickly becoming a brand signature, each released in limited drops, like little daisies or marijuana leaves (the latter released at 4:20 a.m. on April 20), often sold out within a week.

In a strategy to further develop the community and repeat purchases, Ricardo intended to develop the company’s own affiliate marketing program. He created a proprietary QR code system, in which each pair of shoes comes with a scannable code that can be shared with friends – giving new customers a $ 20 discount and the original customer a bribe. – $ 20 wine for each referral that can be used for future purchases. The technology is currently patent pending.

The same goes for the company’s handbag styles, one of which was recently worn by the first lady, Dr Jill Biden. Handbags will be an important part of Larroudé’s future growth as the company expands its stylistic imprint.

The style

The sold-out “Gloria” style of Larroudé.
Gabriel Amaral

“It’s about creating a digital connection with the customer and letting them text you back if they have a complaint about the delivery or whatever their comments are. That’s the idea, whether that’s the main way they know us, rather than a huge, expensive billboard in Times Square or someone they know being paid to wear it. We want [the customer] be part of history, ”said Ricardo.

The final piece of the company’s current makeup is a fledgling private label studio. Currently, Larroudé produces and designs shoes for a larger retailer and a smaller boutique brand – whose names they have declined to disclose. However, these combined efforts already account for a third of the company’s total sales volume (but Ricardo said the margins are different for this business model and therefore represent a smaller portion of the company’s profits).

“They come to us with a moodboard and we turn it into reality. The shoes magically appear in their warehouse with a margin they can sell, ”Ricardo said of the company, which is also based in Brazil and uses the same manufacturing partners as Larroudé. Marina added that this structure – with an internal label and then private label capabilities – reminds her in some ways of the Camuto Group’s successful journey in business.

With the additional investment, the company will hire new roles and establish its first appropriate digital marketing plan with external agencies. Larroudé will also expand its operational budget and improve production times. “It’s the thing we need to build the most, it’s the system within our supply chain. If we just stock heels for our Gloria style, every time something hits or someone famous uses it that would mean we’ll be bringing it to the US in four to six weeks. If I have heels in our inventory, I don’t have to wait. We want to be quick to market, ”said Ricardo, who noted that the company’s current lead time is around six to ten weeks.

Sometimes, however, this can be further delayed due to the continuing nature of the pandemic in Brazil. “The other day we had to wait [for a shipment] because our factory did not have paper to produce the boxes. It’s so interesting to see how the entire production and supply chain works with the global pandemic – every part is the key to our business. The shoes might be ready, but if the boxes aren’t ready, how do we ship them? Marina said.

In the wake of his investment, Larroudé has signed a partnership with giant Brazilian shoe company Melissa to launch two collections – the first drop of which will arrive in November for the resort season. For Marina, who wore Melissa’s iconic recycled PVC shoes as a child in Brazil, the tie checks a mark on her bucket list. “I didn’t want Barbies or dolls when I was a kid, all I wanted was Melissa shoes and my grandmother gave them to me every now and then,” she said.

Key investors Alexandre Cruz and Guilherme Ferreira, who are the founders of Jive, an alternative investment fund, are among the brand’s rounds. Cruz also sits on the Larroudé advisory board, which includes Escobari, the co-president of General Atlantic in Latin America; Matt Barnard, CEO of indoor farming startup Plenty in San Francisco, and Ashleigh Barker, director of investment advisory firm Michel Dyens & Co. The law firm Wilson Sonsini, which works with start-up, also invests and advises like Uber and also represents Larroudé.

But with the current growth rate, Ricardo is already having meetings on an A-Series – which is expected to end in late fall or early winter. Because, as fashion industry leaders know, rapid growth requires a rapid injection of capital. “We are fully funded for this first part of the growth, but we understand that in order to take the business to the next stages we will need additional investment and it will be great to partner with outside companies. To grow, we will need to invest in the supply chain and manufacturing, and further improve our distribution channels, ”said Ricardo.

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