There’re some massive changes afoot in the fashion industry.
New brands are being built online first, and gathering a dedicated following through e-commerce, before taking their retail chops to their customers in brick and mortar stores.
These new fashion companies have taken a different approach to the industry, using the benefits of e-commerce to make only what they need, when their consumers want it. It’s an easy way to cut costs, relying on information from customers to make only what will sell, and not risk money on a fashion line that no one actually wants to buy.
The model has caught the attention of investors, with venture firms pouring $235 million into fashion-related technology companies (including new brands) as of August, according to CB Insights.
The latest to take its turn on the fashion catwalk is Shoes of Prey, the Khosla Ventures-backed, on-demand customized shoe retailer, which has raised $15.5 million from a syndicate of investors including the retail giant Nordstrom.
The round was led by the Australian firm Blue Sky Capital, with participation from Greycroft Partners and previous investor Khosla Ventures.
Part of the funding will be used to firmly entrench the Sydney-based startup in its new home in Los Angeles, according to the company’s co-founder Jodie Fox. The money will also be used to add new products to the Shoes of Prey roster (the company intends to roll out a line of boots next winter).
Shoes of Prey sells customizable shoes in a range of materials and designs online and in specialty retailers like Nordstrom (already a Shoes of Prey Partner and now an investor in the company).
Shoppers can choose the style, material, pattern and color they’d like for shoes ranging from ballet flats to stiletto heels.
As our own inimitable Leslie Hitchcock wrote about the company in 2012:
On Shoes Of Prey, the shoe style possibilities are endless: sandals, pumps, flats, skimmers, brogues (added as an option recently), booties, wedges, platforms. After you decide on the style of shoe, then the true customization begins. Shoes of Prey invites you to consider the details: peep toe, spectator heel, D’Orsay pump, slingback. And more. Heel type and height: stiletto, wedge, block heel. And more. Decorations: bows, trimming, Mary Jane’s. And more. The fabric: patent leather, soft leather, cotton blend, animal hair (sorry I’m not sorry, PETA), snakeskin. And more.
All of the shoes are now made in the company’s own manufacturing facility, which opened its doors in September 2014, and sits about two hours away from the Chinese manufacturing hub of Shenzhen (some of the money will be used to expand production at that facility).
Though focused on shoes now, Fox says the company has plans to move into other customizable women’s apparel and accessories, with handbags and purses high on the list for new products.
As for the fashion revolution, Fox sees Shoes of Prey as part of a growing cohort of companies that are looking to reinvent the fashion industry.
Companies like Bow and Drape, Original Stitch and Combatant Gentlemen are taking similar notions of on-demand manufacturing and customization to other parts of the fashion and luxury goods markets. And in Europe, at the higher end, there’s Scarosso, which does customizable shoes for women and men.
“If you think about it, designers are having to make minimum-order quantities of thousands of product and ship them all over the world and hope that people want to buy them,” says Fox.
Further down the road, Fox says she’d potentially like to work with new forms of manufacturing like 3D printing to continue the transformation of the industry. She pointed to other Khosla Ventures portfolio companies like Feetz and the 3d printed orthotics maker Sols as part of the movement to modernize the schmatta business (which hasn’t changed all that much since my grandmother worked making clothes in New York in the 1930s).
“We may go into 3D printing, but we would rather be powering what the future looks like,” says Fox.
Whether the company goes into manufacturing or not, its founders certainly have a vision for how technology can occupy a central place in the fashion industry of the future.
“You can look at Shoes of Prey as either a logistics and manufacturing business that has solved a fashion problem, or a fashion company that has solved a logistics and manufacturing problem. Either way, both markets are ripe for disruption,” said Elaine Stead, investment director of BlueSky Venture Capital, in a statement.