AAFA Executive Summit: Shoes Of Prey On The Future Of Customization

At just 7 years old, custom shoe company Shoes of Prey has seen significant growth thanks to its digital prowess and investment from major players such as Nordstrom.

Now the company wants to take the business to the next level as 3-D technology opens new doors for the industry.

“Our mission [has always been] to give customers what they want, when they want it,” said Jodie Fox, cofounder and chief creative officer of the company, which was founded in Sydney and is now based in Santa Monica, Calif.

Mike Knapp, cofounder and chief technology officer, said the company has seen some interesting shopping patterns emerge. While some customers “really go wild,” the majority of Shoes of Prey’s sales come from simple silhouettes — the most popular style is the ballet flat — and the best-selling color is black.

Shoes of Prey Jodie Fox
Guests design their own shoes at the Shoes of Prey pop-up event.
CREDIT: Lara Callahan

Often, consumers choose to make simple tweaks when designing a style. “It doesn’t have to be a wholesale change,” Knapp said. “It could be as simple as changing the color of the lining inside a simple d’Orsay flat.”

Not surprisingly, the wedding segment is a large part of Shoes of Prey’s sales. “If you have a range of different heights in the bridal party, they can customize and get what they want,” Knapp said, noting that the company opened a factory in China several years ago.

While the company focused on technology improvements during its early years, the team soon realized it needed to emphasize the shopping experience. Fox said that in many cases, the site’s consumers wanted to touch and feel the shoes and try them on, leading Shoes of Prey to open its first in-store shop with Australian retailer David Jones in 2013.

Shoes of Prey shop-in-shop.
Shoes of Prey shop-in-shop.

The innovative concept helped Shoes of Prey garner an award for best store design at the World Retail Awards in 2013, and the company soon attracted the attention of Nordstrom.

Now, the department store and Shoes of Prey have teamed up on five in-store shops, and Nordstrom has also invested in Shoes of Prey.

Looking ahead, the team wants to tap further into the tech revolution by unleashing the power of 3-D technology, said Michael Fox, cofounder and CEO. (Interestingly, Michael and Jodie Fox were formerly married. Now divorced, they remain business partners.)

“The change [with fashion] will likely be quite similar to what happened with books and movies in the way they are downloaded,” said Michael Fox.

Already, Shoes of Prey has worked with Nordstrom to build the retailer’s product assortment. For example, if Nordstrom only has one red loafer available online, Shoes of Prey’s technology allows the department store to suggest other iterations of the style for the customer to choose from. “Manufacturing on demand is the future of retail.” Fox said.

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