Customization has been cropping up across the footwear market for a while now, from Nike’s ID collections to Soludos’ espadrille offering.
The purpose has always been to provide a personalized product that no one else owns. But now, newcomer Pxl is launching a platform for users to create, share and collaborate with each other on customized footwear.
“It’s not just about buying and wearing the product; it’s also about designing and sharing it,” said Micah Heftman, founder of the Pxl platform. “It’s the experience of design creation.”
For those in brand product development, digital footwear design tools have evolved into robust technology systems such as Romans CAD 3-D software and Voxel8’s 3-D prototype printer. But consumers have traditionally been given simpler customization programs with fewer options for choosing among colors, graphics and text that will feature on a preexisting silhouette.
At Pxl, users select each design component to create their finished style, such as determining color and fabric choice (options include leather, suede and canvas). Heftman also used his 15 years in product development for Cole Haan, Coach, John Varvatos and Camuto Group to design unique last and outsole options from scratch, which users can build their designs around.
But the main differentiator is Pxl’s shared public gallery of designs. With most customization programs, final designs live somewhere in the brand’s archives, and while customers can share their finished shoes on social media, they do not receive a digital copy. Through Pxl.gallery, a 3-D rendering is automatically uploaded to the free, public platform and users are able to review, purchase and even edit each other’s designs for their personal use.
“You’re able to have an archive of every product ever created and manufactured, which you can search and filter through,” said Heftman. “It’s all about enabling people to become the driving force behind the products that fill their life.”
The idea of sharing resources within the community isn’t new to the footwear industry. FDRA’s Material Exchange provides the footwear industry’s designers, vendors and developers with a database of raw materials, to aid in efficient product development. But Heftman believes that opening up this collaborative approach to the public will capitalize on younger shoppers’ desire for experiences (Pxl’s target demographic is 15- to 32-year-olds).
“I wanted to occupy the white space in the market that I don’t see anyone else filling: to treat the product as a content experience,” said Heftman.
Pxl is currently undergoing crowdfunding, with first orders due to be processed in October for shipping in November. Estimated wait times are 3-4 weeks, from design submission to shipped product, and shoes will range in price from $150 to $250 depending on style and material.
Watch the video below to see top designers talk about what shoe design means to them:
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