Rollie, a successful Australian shoe brand, is returning to America to expand the brand that has become popular among creatives. Here, the CEO, founder and designer, Vince Lebon, sat down with FN to discuss his brand strategy.
FN: After taking a step away from the U.S., why is now the time to come back and expand the Rollie presence here?
Vince Lebon: “I got to a point where it was doing really well in Australia. Most [of our customers] have four to seven pairs on average, and we have the data to back that up. Now we are trying to go to a bigger market and push it out here, so I moved my wife and two kids to Brooklyn, N.Y., because it was time to do this market properly. [For us], it’s about distribution, which is why our Nordstrom and Anthropologie partners are such
FN: How do you plan to make an impact in the States?
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VL: “We want to make sure we are servicing everyone. I have three wholesale reps now. It’s about people experiencing the brand. To build here with very little audience, it’s a challenge. It’s about how you get in front of people. For us, that’s with collaborations. [Next up], we are partnering with the influencer Oh Joy and artist Timothy Goodman.”
FN: Where have you found the most success since launching six years ago?
VL: “We have a cult following in Australia and New Zealand, in particular. The market is very small, with 24 million people, and we are doing 100,000 pairs a season over there. I found that good vibes and using business as a force for good to create community [are where the] values really come through. I’m also very product-heavy. I made the outsole and last, and the [shoe] is a complete original. The collection is made in China, with some in Portugal and India, [and retails from $120 to $150]. It has memory foam padding, EVA rubber soles, calf lining. Technology is important. Even though the shoes look so simple, every line, every component, has been considered. We essentially build everything off the Derby last. It’s super-lightweight and fun. It’s comfort-casual with fashion content in there. It’s a shoe that people don’t have to think twice about.”
FN: Who is the Rollie consumer?
VL: “We have a creative fan base with musicians and photographers. We also have the confident women who aren’t afraid to wear wacky colors. People have connected to the brand because of the stories we tell. My wife’s nickname is Rollie, and she was a flight attendant who traveled all over the world and wanted to be comfortable in shoes that wouldn’t weigh down her luggage. That’s where this idea came from. We promote travel and exploring. It’s also not so much about the shoes but what you do in the shoes. We want to create this feeling of empowerment. Don’t live a boring life, and don’t wear boring shoes. Life is meant to be fun, and you’re meant to be comfortable doing it.”
FN: How does e-commerce fit into your business model?
VL: “We were a wholesale business and started to focus energy online in 2015. Now the business there is big. It’s 40 percent of our revenue. We won the Most Innovative Ecommerce Brand award for BigCommerce in 2017. While we are still new to the market here, it will [continue] to be a big focus for us, alongside our partners, which include a handful of leading independent [wholesale] accounts. For us, online lets us tell our story effectively.”
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