How This Designer Connects Consumers With Hand-Painted, One-of-a-Kind Shoes

It’s been five years since Miami-based designer Adriana Epelboim Levy debuted Alepel for fall ’14. Growth has been slow but steady, but now, the architect-turned-shoemaker said she’s found her stride and is looking to widen her audience through a direct-to-consumer approach.

“When we launched, we focused 90% on wholesale,” Epelboim Levy told FN. “We thought it was the best way to get the brand name out. It’s not necessarily the best for the business. Direct-to-consumer is more efficient.”

Alepel’s DTC push includes a redesigned website that launched in December and a feature on Instagram’s @shop account. However, Epelboim Levy said wholesale will remain an important part of the company’s distribution strategy, and she noted that partners including Bergdorf Goodman, Anthropologie, Olivela and Moda Operandi have helped the brand gain credibility with consumers.

“They’ve been our door openers,” she said. To further build its brick-and-mortar presence, the founder is looking to work with more independent boutiques in major markets such as New York and Los Angeles, as well as to expand into accounts internationally.

While Alepel’s main footwear collection features sculptural styles handcrafted in Brazil, Epelboim Levy is banking on the brand’s hand-painted, made-to-order line to connect with customers.

“They are all of one-of-a-kind,” she said. “The concept is to support a creative community that doesn’t necessarily have the opportunity to work in the arts. They are super-talented moms, immigrants, low-key artists who need the support.”

Through a roster of 15 creatives, Alepel is able to offer a series of slide sandals, leather mules and clutches decorated with animals, florals, fruits and more designs.

“We also want to explore even more intricate artwork offered in a limited amount to see if people engage with the exclusivity,” said Epelboim Levy.

The designer also aims to add more silhouettes to the collection, including block heels, booties and sneakers.

Next up, Alepel will launch a collaboration with the Make-a-Wish Foundation after successful philanthropic partnerships with influencer Rocky Barnes (which benefitted Barnes’ nephew, Phoenix, who su•ffers from a genetic heart condition) and stylist Angeles Almuna

(to support breast cancer awareness).

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