For the past three years, Cassie Fossum has been on a mission to make high heels comfortable with Mavette, a made-in-Italy brand that specializes in high-quality women’s shoes built with the expertise of medical professionals.
“I wanted to find a way to make an impact,” she said. “The more time I spent learning about shoes, the more excited I got about the idea of making something beautiful that would help women feel good.”
But in 2021, the founder has set her sights on new ways to benefit the world — through sustainable business practices.
The Origin Story
After years working in e-commerce in San Francisco, Fossum embarked in 2018 on a journey to create her own brand. Her path started with a stint with the Founder Institute incubator, which helped Fossum shape a business plan and become incorporated.
She soon found a designer to craft the footwear, then headed to Italy’s Marche region to begin building the collection. Over the course of several months, Fossum reviewed each prototype alongside a podiatrist, Dr. Jenny Sanders, who helped her develop a patent-pending comfort system consisting of targeted cushioning and arch supports, hidden platforms and rubberized nonslip soles.
The line, which officially launched in late 2019, features a range of styles, including towering pumps, sandals and boots, as well as flats and its first sneakers, launched this month. Prices range from $250-$600.
Pivoting Amid COVID
Prior to the pandemic, Fossum had been building her customer base in-person, though pop-up shops and appearances at women’s conferences. But when COVID-19 put an end to face-to-face events, her team of three full-time employees shifted their focus to selling online on Mavette.com.
“We, of course, had a website before this happened, but now we’ve invested more in our digital operations,” she said.
Amid the many business challenges of the past year, Fossum (who is now based in Philadelphia) also recognized that consumer habits changed, as demand for 3-inch heels declined. So her spring ’21 line, coming out this month, will include more styles in lower heights. “The inspiration for this collection is just thinking about how we’re living right now,” she said. “There is nothing that is higher than 2 inches.”
A New Purpose
This spring also marks a big step forward in Mavette’s sustainability efforts. The brand partnered with the Leather Working Group and ICEC (Italy’s Institute of Quality Certification for leathers) to identify top-rated tanneries for sourcing ethically produced materials. “All our leathers and suedes will come from hides that are by-products of the food industry, so there’s less waste,” said Fossum.
In addition, it switched to packaging that is 100% recyclable. And to address the lifecycle of its shoes, Mavette recently signed on with Soles4Souls and is encouraging its customers to donate their used footwear to the nonprofit.
But Fossum said these are just the first steps in the brand’s sustainable journey. “Next, I really want to look into making heels made of compostable materials. The goal is for the shoes to eventually break down and have little impact on the environment.”