Faryl Robin Morse has always played by her own rules. The New York-based designer broke into a male-dominated footwear industry in 2001, a time when only a few women were running shoe companies. Now, after grinding away for more than 15 years building her namesake business, Morse said she is ready to pay her success forward — and she’s starting with the women who make her shoes.
“We’ve experienced double-digit growth over the last five years, and between 2017 and 2018, our sales have grown 40 percent. That’s given me the luxury to be able to finally step back and say, ‘What do I want the company to stand for?’” Morse said. “One thing I’d really like to do is give back to women in our industry and women in general.”
This summer, Morse will realize her long-held dream of establishing a daycare location for her factory workers in China. A joint effort with one of her manufacturing partners, Dongguan Maynalisa Footwear Co. (which also happens to be woman-owned), the facility will provide free care, giving mothers the opportunity to spend more time with their children.
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“Women who work on a factory line in Asia typically live far away from their families and see their kids very rarely, and that’s unfathomable,” Morse said. “As a mother, this project is personal to me. I want to do what I can to improve the quality of life for the people my company benefits from.”
Once the first daycare center is up and running, Morse plans to roll out facilities across her entire production base, which numbers more than a dozen factories. “I’m going to demand they do this with me — it’s non-negotiable. Right now, it’s not the industry culture to have child care. Well, so what? Let’s change it.”
Within her own organization, Morse has always been focused on supporting and empowering her tight-knit staff, almost exclusively women. She offers perks such as Summer Fridays, monthly Glamsquad sessions and, even more importantly, the flexibility to work from home.
“Being a working mother is incredibly hard — I nursed both of my kids behind a curtain at trade shows — so if an employee wants to work from home, I’m like, ‘Great. Let me set you up with a computer,’” Morse said. “The idea is that if you’re happy at home with your child, you’re going to be happy and productive at work.”
Morse also connects with other female shoe professionals through Two Ten Footwear Foundation’s WIFI group, for which she serves as both a mentor and co-chairwoman of the New York chapter. Describing her own rise in the industry as “incredibly difficult,” she hopes to help other women working their way up the ladder.
“When I started my brand, there were no women leaders in the shoe business, there were no discussions of female empowerment,” she recalled. “Things are beginning to change now, but we have a long way to go.”
Still, Morse believes her company is mightier for having faced adversity and forged its own path. “I truly think being a woman-owned business makes us the success that we are today. We were that tiny but tough company that managed to make it,” she said. “We’ve been able to take over a lot of business because we are women and we think about things with a woman’s mind. We’ve also never believed in following the traditional rules and we never will.”
Tonight, the designer will share her story at FN’s Women Who Rock event during a conversation with her good friend and “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing, who said she is proud of Morse’s success. “Faryl paved her own path in a male-dominated industry with focus, determination, authenticity and integrity,” Messing said. “She did not accept the word ‘no.’”
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