David Sorrell founded women’s footwear label The Mode Collective in 2011 to fill what he saw as a gaping hole in the Australian shoe market.
“Being so close to Asia, the market is oversaturated with made-in-China shoes, and a lot of the styles being produced are very similar,” he said. “Plus, there is a 500 Australian dollar gap between these shoes and high-end designer labels here. We recognized a need for Australian fashion-forward women who want a comfortable, on-trend shoe priced in the AU$250-to-$300 range.”
Instead, Sorrell sought out production partners in Spain. The shoes are made in the well-known shoe region of Alicante.
Sorrell initially experimented with a direct-to-consumer model through the Sydney-based brand’s website, but now the collection is carried by more than 30 retailers throughout Australia, including Frontrowstyle.com and Tuchuzy.
1. Why did you get into the footwear business?
DS: To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. There was an opportunity in the market that we saw and went for. I have a formal education in marketing and my background is also in finance, so I’ve always done a bit of consultancy. I started working in a finance capacity, advising companies predominantly in energy and resources. My business partners own a company in Sydney called Bespoke PR. I spoke to them about brands they were working with, one of which was a successful shoe label. I mentioned to them that we should start our own and the idea went from there.
2. Does the business indeed function as a collective?
DS: Yes. The whole idea behind the brand is that we bring together a group of business people, PR professionals, design consultants and creatives, who put together the collection. I don’t handle the design. I focus on the overall business strategy to manage the company. We have a couple of design consultants who work really closely with us. As opposed to being based on a more traditional business model with quite a few staff in a head office, we are actually based on an outsource model. This has allowed us to grow much faster in the early stages and [handle] as many expansion issues as possible. I even have an outsourced assistant.
3. What are your growth plans moving forward?
DS: We’ve seen an opportunity in North America. The U.S. market is particularly attractive because of the much larger population and because [consumers] are a bit more open to spending on fashion. We’ve entered the market by working with [New York-based] Melt Management. We’ve recently been picked up by some really good stockists [for fall ’14], such as Piperlime.com, Revolveclothing.com and Free People. We still want to build our business here and move into New Zealand as well.