“Two decades ago, Swear London sneakers were sold to ravers. Now they’re being bought by millennials and made to order online or via their mobile phones,” said Ben Demiri, CEO of the label’s umbrella company, Platforme International.
A lot has changed since Farfetch mastermind José Neves founded the brand 20 years ago. It relaunched in September 2017, collaborating with Vetements soon afterward. Today, Platforme International comprises three companies: Swear, digital arm PlatformE and licensing segment Six London.
On the Swear website, customers can create their own shoe from 14 base models, choosing colors, textures and materials across lining, sole and uppers, with virtually endless permutations. The process takes two weeks, though this will soon be slashed to seven days. There are also predesigned models where shoppers can customize a panel, add initials and receive their shoes in 48 hours.
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The shoes are made in Portugal, and fits are very specific, according to Demiri. While the styles are unisex, they are made on both men’s and women’s lasts. “We invested in every single-size mold from 35 to 41 women’s and 39 to 46 men’s in every style,” he said. Given that it works on a made-to-order model, the goal is to become a zero-inventory brand by the end of 2019.
“Consumers don’t want to see waste,” he said, “so if we can bridge the demand, we think that’s what you should do.”
In addition to its own e-tail portal, partners include Level Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Barneys New York and Los Angeles online, Corso Como in Milan, Browns Fashion in London and Fashion Clinic in Lisbon, Portugal. “Swear is at the forefront of the future of retail,” said Browns menswear buyer Thom Scherdel.
“Fully customizable products have been on every brand’s mind at some point, but the struggle has always been how to make it work commercially. To my knowledge, nobody is offering such an extensive service as Swear and turning it around in these time frames. It’s got to start somewhere, so if this is the first step, imagine where we will be in a few years.”
Among other retailers who have endorsed Swear’s strategy are Paris’ Le Bon Marché, which recently hosted an experiential space with the brand. “Its compelling digital proposition and short turnaround times make Swear an extremely strong proposition,” said the retailer’s women’s shoe buyer, Morgane Toullec.
The digital customization process is realized through proprietary software created by PlatformE, a division created at the time of the relaunch.
The technology was rolled out and made available to other labels as a plug-in. “It became apparent that it shouldn’t just be reserved for us,” said founding partner Mario Muttenthaler.
PlatformE clients include Farfetch and brands such as Nicholas Kirkwood, Paul Andrew, Fendi and Emilio Pucci. “It’s exciting to be a model for the industry and evolve with what our consumer wants,” said Demiri.
Platforme International also continues to build its third arm, Six London, which works with emerging labels across production and distribution.
The current stable includes Dorateymur, Rombaut, Toga Pulla and Edward Meadham’s recently launched shoe line, Blue Roses. PlatformE also powers the customization aspect of many of these sites.
“We are creating an ecosystem for footwear, not just for megabrands but also niche and emerging labels,” said Demiri.