Jibs Life is ready for the jet set. The New York-based footwear startup, founded in 2015, has been developing a series of perforated leather sneakers that are made in Brazil and inspired by the country’s quintessential beach shoe.
Founder and CEO Natalie Kathleen explained that the concept was created by a young third-generation shoemaker, Isaqui Fetter. “He had just finished shoe school and decided to take his own twist on a traditional look,” she said. Kathleen, who also started the handbag label Sienna Ray & Co., was gifted a pair of Fetter’s shoes and began working with him to build a brand.
Jibs Life has since grown to include three unisex styles — the Classic gored slip-on, the High-Top with elastic laces and the Slim with a pointed toe — which retail for $98 to $140 and feature unlined leather uppers and recycled PVC bottoms. All the styles come in a range of solid colors, metallics and exotic prints.
The brand, whose name references the front sail on a ship, bills itself as a good travel option since the shoes are lightweight (a pair weighs 1 pound) and “splashable.” “The unlined leather dries quickly and doesn’t hold odors. I’ve worn them swimming one week and then to a business meeting the next. They can take you anywhere,” said Kathleen.
Jibs Life launched as a direct-to-consumer brand and still draws 70 percent of its revenue from digital sales. But it also wholesales to boutiques throughout the country, and Kathleen aims to strengthen that aspect of the business.
The brand is the midst of a seed fundraising push to fuel its next growth stages. “The first goal is to keep churning sales and to reinforce what we’ve already been doing,” she said. “Then we can execute a cross-country activation and solidify our strategic partners that will give us real oomph alongside selling direct.”
Kathleen noted that word-of-mouth has driven much of the buzz around the brand, and she also has focused on targeted activations to raise awareness. “We do Jibs Tastings, where we go into an office space like WeWork and talk directly about the product,” she said.
The label also teams up on collaborations with like-minded firms. New projects are in the works with Ocean Generation and other conservation nonprofits.