Shoes of Prey: Experiencing Customization
I started following Shoes of Prey early last year, just before visiting their office in Santa Monica. The company started making custom shoes in 2009 and has been growing ever since. In the last year, their website, the primary sales channel, has evolved a lot. Taking cues from the pros at Shoes of Prey, here's what I've observed in their changes:
- They've increased inspirational pages and curation by creating small collections and features. By presenting already designed shoes to customers, they made the design process less intimidating.
- While they've introduced new styles and more styles, their configurator itself gives less choice to the customer during the customization process.
- They focused on creating an absolutely elegant configurator.
- A rebranding gave them a 'mark', a sophisticated logotype, a cleaner look, all the while leaving space for customers to have a hand in co-creation.
For those readers who aren't familiar with the term configurator, it is a choice board, an interface where someone can decide to make design changes to a product. A configurator can vary in complexity. In the case of Shoes of Prey, this is a visual configurator hosted in the browser. In other examples, a configurator might do cost estimation for different sizes and materials. There are many possibilities!
Balancing Brand and Custom
Companies working on customization have a delicate balance to strike when it comes to how much brand and how much customization they need to have to sell product. With too much brand, the company become only a brand and because it's easier, they end up selling off-the-shelf product and losing the edge that make them successful in the first place. On the flip side, too much customization leaves customers completely confused about where to start and what to design or how to fit themselves.
What Sold Me
I find it difficult to talk about fashion and the impetus for the buy without sounding frivolous and superficial. It seems somehow improbable that someone could simultaneously be pragmatic and love fashion. To me, these two characteristics are not at odds. My hope is that the 'future of fashion' is a space where we can evaluate from all angles and welcome each others perspectives as intelligent.
Trained as an apparel designer, it can be difficult for me to buy apparel and accessories I find in the stores. For me the challenge is part value evaluation and part "I can make that." The reason why I finally purchased a pair of shoes from Shoes of Prey is because I wanted a pair of shoes that were special, comfortable enough for daily wear, and that I didn't have to spend hours and hours searching online for. Not to mention, I had a need for a pair of professional shoes to take over the place of a pair that were at end of life.
Making something special
Every individual will have a different idea about what makes a garment or shoe "special." For me, it was two elements: a fun fabric and a hard to find color combination. Enter... the black pony hair. I wanted funky, textured, and black so I could wear these shoes in a professional environment, but still have a creative edge. I also wanted something that's hard to find, a combination of navy blue and black together. I often find myself pairing these two wardrobe staple colors.
Comfortable Enough for Daily Wear
Firstly, not everyone is after comfort, but for those who are, it can be hard to find shoes that hit a home run in both comfort and style. I admit that I don't wear the same shoes everyday, but I like to buy shoes that are comfortable enough to wear daily. I know I have a heel height limit to achieve that comfort level. For me that limit maxes out at 3". Unless the shoes are platforms, if they're more than 3", it's unlikely I will make it more than a couple hours wearing them. Heel height is a tiny irksome detail that significantly changes the shoe shopping experience. Suddenly, a 3" heel max in your search query puts you in a sea of shoes that aren't quite what you wanted. The recommendation engines are firing with comfort first Danskos and Clarks, which brings me to my next pain point, online shopping.
Making Online Shopping Easy and Engaging
The online shopping issue. I can fall into hours and hours of online searching for a pair of shoes and because I'm searching in a database style e-commerce site, it's difficult to engage with the product in a meaningful way. On the other hand finding a silhouette you like the shape of then tweaking it to suit your needs, like on Shoes of Prey, is an empowering feeling!
I will make a confession here. Before I bought, I searched. I wanted to make sure these shoes were good value. I looked for Pony Hair shoes across the internet and I hated every result. I thought the shoes were horribly ugly. They were also very expensive, on average 2-3x the price of the shoes I ordered on Shoes of Prey. From a value perspective, I felt like I was getting something worth spending money on, not just because I could customize them but because the value of the material, quality, and style.
You can create your own designs as well on the Shoes of Prey website. Their site allows you to save styles and purchase them later or keep tweaking the design until you're sure that it's what you want.