Sarah Flint launched her eponymous shoe company in the Fall of 2013. Flint positioned herself at the high-end of the spectrum, with quality and price-points comparable to those of Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo. The designer distinguished her shoes by making them not only beautiful, but also practical and comfortable. Meghan Markle, who has to clock many hours on her feet while looking elegant for her royal duties, is a fan.
"I wanted to offer women shoes that are luxurious and exquisitely crafted, but also functional," says Flint. "I studied at Ars Sutoria in Milan alongside craftsmen and factory workers whose families have been making shoes for generations. I fell in love with Italian craftsmanship and knew that I wanted to work with the same factories as the top luxury brands, but with techniques to enhance comfort and durability."
Like many small, high-end brands, Flint made a decision this year to go direct to consumer, joining the retail revolution that is spreading throughout the fashion business. The designer is thrilled with the results.
"We were able to drop our prices by 40%-50% below traditional retail by taking out the middle man and giving that savings back to our customers," says Flint. "Our previous price point was $495 to $1,200, and now it is $195-$725, with an average of $345. My goal was to be able to offer the best price-to-value ratio in luxury footwear."
"My goal in moving to a direct-to-consumer model was to never have to sacrifice on quality, and to make this amazing craftsmanship available to a larger addressable market," Flint continues. "In many ways, since moving direct-to-consumer, I have been able to add even more attributes to enhance the shoes that I wasn't able to when selling wholesale."
Flint gives her Perfect Pumps as an example: the shoes have 6mm of padding (whereas most luxury shoes have none), arch support, and a special outsole designed with a rubber foot pad to prevent slipping and increase wearability.
The designer stresses that direct to consumer does not have to mean online only.
"I believe there will always be a place for brick and mortar, it just looks different than what we are used to," says Flint. "Physical retail can come in the form of a pop-up shop inside a department store, an inventory-free guide shop, or a experiential flagship. The important thing is to create a seamless brand experience that unifies online and offline shopping."
The brand has already seen more than 250% growth in the first year of launching direct-to-consumer. Demand grew so quickly for some top selling styles that the waitlist surpassed 25,000 pairs.
"One thing I have been so excited to see is our customer engagement," says Flint. "Returning customers acquired early this year have already shopped with us more than four times on average."
Flint is in constant communication with her customers, through social media, email and customer service.
"The feedback is invaluable," says the designer. "One of our newest styles, the Rosie, is a loafer with a 30mm heel. I designed this based directly on feedback from customers who couldn’t wear flats and wanted a comfortable shoe with a slight heel. It’s now one of our most popular shoes."
Currently, the Rosie, the Perfect Pump and the Natalie Flat are strong sellers for the brand. The brand has also been releasing new styles and colors for the holiday season, including a red and blue tartan heel, crackled gold, and silver lamé. The Spring collection was inspired by Flint's recent trip to Greece and features strong primary colors and lace up detailing.
As for the future, Flint would love to see the brand expand into other product categories.
"We’re always looking into new collaborations with designers and brands that we admire," says Flint. "We’ve also been doing more and more pop up shops, and plan to expand that each year as it’s a great way to increase face time with our customers. As of right now, we are continuing to focus on footwear and are introducing as many people to the brand as possible."
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