Footwear Clients Drawn to New Domestic Materials Printing Business

When Max Pierrot decided to launch Pelle Valore, a materials printing business, he didn’t let competition or the economy stand in his way. The self-financed entrepreneur, who set up shop in May in a 4,000-sq.-ft. facility in Hicksville, N.Y., is confident the company’s designs will give him an edge in today’s market.

“It’s been my dream to have my own business,” said the 25-year industry veteran, who most recently worked at Rainbow Leather, one of only a handful of domestic material printers. “It’s a big world and there’s room for [more than] two of us. The key factor is how creative you can be.”

Joining Pierrot, who also serves as creative director, are fellow printing specialists Peter Dunn and Vanessa Greco, who oversee sales and marketing. But design, emphasized Pierrot, is always a group effort. “We’re all very creative,” he said. “We put our thoughts together to see what works.”

In addition to working one-on-one with designers to create proprietary looks, the three of them shop local and European materials shows such as Lineapelle for inspiration. “The real competition is the Italian [market],” said Pierrot. “They lead the world in fashion.”

While Pelle Valore buys its leathers and materials from vendors here and abroad, all its printing is done in-house. Pierrot, Greco and Dunn take turns using a state-of-the-art printing machine from Italy. Leathers are then softened by being tumbled in an early 1900s wood cask acquired from a defunct tannery in upstate New York.

Roughly 90 percent of Pelle Valore’s offerings are focused on leathers, while the remaining is in materials such as plastic and burlap.

After only four months, Pelle Valore has an account list of 300. That includes 26 footwear clients, in addition to accessories, garment and upholstery manufacturers producing goods domestically and overseas. Despite the factory’s compact size, it can turn out 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of material a day, said Greco. And the company says it can handle any order, from a single pig hide measuring 14 square feet to tens of thousands of feet.

Pelle Valore’s design and production flexibility are a draw, particularly for independent shoe companies that manufacture domestically.

Salpy Kalaidjian, co-owner and co-designer of Salpy in Sun Valley, Calif., has taken advantage of being able to buy smaller quantities. Because she takes orders for as few as six pairs of shoes, she’s not required to purchase more than is necessary. “I don’t have to buy as much inventory,” she said. “I don’t need to go to Italy for sheets of leather that I don’t know I’ll be able to use.”

Dorinne Tal, owner of Olivia Rose Tal in Brooklyn, N.Y., said she enjoys working with a firm that’s close to home. “I’m always looking for a U.S. option because I’m a U.S.-made shoe,” said Tal, who has been forced to source overseas for heel and outsole components due to a lack of availability here. Coupled with this, lead time for upper materials is much shorter. “Leather shipments are often detained in customs,” she said. “[Pelle Valore] expedites the process.”

For JMR Shoes, which produces the iconic Jack Rogers Navajo sandal in its Miami Gardens, Fla., factory, Pelle Valore offers pricing advantages. “We don’t need to do the importation,” said Mark Laufer, production manager. “[Leather] comes to us [on land]. When you go direct off-shore you need to pay duties, brokerage fees.” And, he noted, problem-solving can be difficult long distance.

To further its business, Pelle Valore is looking to the next generation of designers. The company will supply students at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology with swatches for projects free of charge. “The likelihood of these students making it is pretty good,” said Pierrot. “We’re always nice to students. [One] could be the next Stuart Weitzman.”

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