3 Questions for Ashley Ebner of Joker’s Closet

Less than a year after bowing her customizable, e-commerce-focused footwear label, Joker’s Closet, Ashley Ebner has landed her first Fashion Week collaboration. The Toronto-based entrepreneur teamed with Korean designer Lie Sang Bong to create 16 footwear styles set to appear in his Paris runway show this week.

“Lie Sang Bong has injected parts of its seasonal prints [into Joker’s Closet footwear looks],” said Ebner, who was in Europe for the show and soon will travel to Seoul for a second presentation later this fall. “It’s something really different, and we are quite excited about it.”

Ebner elaborated on the Fashion Week partnership and shared the challenges and opportunities that come with giving consumers more creative control.

1. How did the Lie Sang Bong collaboration come about?
I approached the designer. I love his work because it is quite avant-garde, and he dresses the confident power-woman, so that is definitely our customer. It’s a good fit. I haven’t actually seen the [apparel] yet, so I’m excited to see the collaborative process come to life, to see it all put together and [find out] why he chose certain color and texture combinations.

2. Joker’s Closet launched six months ago amid an increasing array of DIY e-commerce sites for shoes. What sets your business apart from the competition?
The way we are differentiating ourselves is by taking a fashion-forward, branded approach. A lot of the [competing] sites allow for full customization, but our goal is to intrigue and inspire by launching the collection [each season] in a curated palette [with options to personalize styles within those parameters]. This kind of customization is becoming part of our everyday culture, from Starbucks to fashion, and a lot of brands are jumping onto it.

3. What’s been the toughest part of launching this type of footwear business?
It’s something new and different, so some people get it and some don’t. Bringing the customer into the design process really changes the whole e-commerce game for footwear, and some embrace change quicker than others. The biggest challenge is [getting] people — retailers, press and [direct] customers — to see the benefit. I think we are on the verge.

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