Designer Kendall Reynolds started her brand, Kendall Miles, during her senior year of college in 2015. Since then, Reynolds has grown her luxury label into a successful direct-to-consumer business while facing the typical fashion industry challenges related to starting a shoe brand. However, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, these obstacles have taken on a new meaning.
With her entire label consisting of made-in-Italy product, for instance, manufacturing as been paused as the country continues to be on lockdown. While this is the main concern for Reynolds, the designer is looking on the bright side. Mainly because she received 800 pairs of new shoes in January just before her factory closed down.
“We got one shipment, but we will need more shoes going forward and the process in luxury is long,” she told FN. “It can take five to six months, so I try to keep the production process ongoing. At this point, though, everyone is going to be late because there’s no telling when the factories are going to be up and running.”
She is also doing as much as she can to support her team in Italy by donating 10% of sales to a hospital in Florence to help fund N95 masks and ventilators.
In addition to manufacturing difficulties, Reynolds is facing other issues as well right now. For one, she relies heavily on in-person events, from trunk shows to pop-ups, and those have come to a halt. She said, “This is the bread and butter of our sales. All I can do is weather the storm. We have to hang on and do whatever we can to rally our community and get them to want to support us sales-wise. That’s the main call to action.”
Because of this, Reynolds is pivoting her focus to e-commerce while boosting her digital strategy. She’s able to do this thanks to receiving $700,000 in recent series of funding. Plus, she’s able to keep up with online orders since her warehouse is based in Chicago.
“If I didn’t have an investment, I would be stagnant and would have to wait for this to be over and focus on sales afterward,” she said. “The raise was for the digital strategy, to put money behind customer acquisition online, and now we can allocate the necessary budget for digital and putting ad spend behind social media.”
Though e-commerce is receiving her full attention, online shopping has been slow, given the world coronavirus crisis. Reynolds is optimistic that consumer behavior will change once social-distancing and lockdowns come to end, but financial projections for the year will certainly be altered.
“It’s feeling like every man for themselves,” she said. “Everyone is scared and it’s about a lot of internal work, a heads-down approach to reconfigure short-term strategies so the losses can be managed.”
At the end of the day, Reynolds is just looking to put in the work — something she’s been doing since day one. “I’m trying to lean in. What we sell are dreams and emotion,” she said about her Kendall Miles collection, which is filled with sexy sandals, stiletto heels and unusual boots, ranging in price from $280 to $1,300. “We are focused on ramping up social and seeing a growing community, a bigger footprint online and, in general, we are looking for support [for] weathering this storm.”
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