FN is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. Observed from September 15 to October 15, the occasion recognizes the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. FN invites you to follow along as we shine a light on Hispanic-American shoe designers and entrepreneurs making big waves in the fashion industry.
Alepel designer Adriana Epelboim Levy launched her Miami-based shoe brand six years ago and is seeing recent growth, despite coronavirus challenges. With footwear made in Brazil and hand-painted with various designs, Epelboim Levy said her sales have doubled year-over-year.
She credits her shift to focusing more on her direct-to-consumer strategy, which was in the works prior to the current health crisis, for the success. “We did that with enough time in advance,” she said. “And it’s been an amazing year because we’re finally doing what works for us. Working through our direct channels rather than a third party has been really helpful to connect directly with our customers.”
Beforehand, Alepel was dedicated to its wholesale partners, which made up 90% of its business. Now, the business is 50-50, Epelboim Levy said.
What sets Alepel apart is the label’s distinct hand-painted graphics, offering multiple floral and animal designs that are created by local artists — many of which have Hispanic roots.
For Epelboim Levy, who is from Venuzeula, supporting a diverse community of artists has been part of her brand’s DNA from day one.
“Venezuela is my home. It will be my home. I have strong connection with people that still live there and in Miami, believe it or not, it’s like an extension,” she said. “We have lot of people working with us from Venezuela and Cuba and we have a lot of women. They need the flexibility to work and be with their kids and have their own schedules and work from their own studios. I usually find them through word of mouth. This gives them opportunity to have a steady job in the arts while allowing them to work on their own projects. So that’s a good thing.”
Through a working roster of about 15 creatives, Alepel is able to offer a series of its best-selling mules, slide sandals and block heels that are made to order. Now, Epelboim Levy is expanding the brand’s categories and is launching sneakers for the first time, which are available for pre-order now. In addition, she offers bags and accessories.
While direct-to-consumer is certainly key for the company, it will still remain working with its major retail partners, such as Olivela, local boutiques and through an upcoming partnership with Goop.