Entrepreneur Arveena Ahluwalia believes she knows what men want when it comes to footwear. After hearing complaints from her male co-workers about their pricey, uncomfortable shoes, she decided to take matters into her own hands by co-founding Paul Drish, a line of footwear that incorporates luxury leathers and cushioned footbeds.
Using a direct-to-consumer business model, Pauldrish.com recently launched with a wardrobe of looks that include wingtips, monk straps and chukka boots, retailing from $225 to $395. Coexisting with the website is a New York showroom in the Tribeca neighborhood that doubles as a fitting room; customers can try the shoes on and then order them online. Shoes are shipped for free within three to five business days.
According to Ahluwalia, who holds master’s degrees from both Stanford University and The Wharton School of Business, the business model allows her to pass savings on to customers by eliminating a brick-and-mortar store, while adding an element of exclusivity.
“We want to pamper customers and make them feel special with a one-on-one experience,” said Ahluwalia, about the showroom element, where sales associates help with shoe selection based on a customer’s lifestyle. Shoppers, she added, are even offered a glass of scotch or wine.
The shoes, produced in India by parent company Drish Shoes Ltd., a vertically integrated private-label manufacturer, emphasize the comfort factor. The shoes come with an extra cushioned insole that allows customers to adjust the width of the shoes by layering footbeds. According to Ahluwalia, her uncle Paul spent over year developing lasts specifically for the U.S. market that would appear sleek yet accommodate a wider American foot.
To further distinguish the brand, each pair is shipped in a reusable jute covered box, complete with a leather shoe horn and purple shoe bags to match the styles’ signature lining. In addition to footwear, the brand offers a companion series of men’s bags, including backpacks and totes, retailing from $295 to $450. International sales will be added in 2015.