For shoe makers, it’s a familiar sight: giant binders of leather and fabric swatches that pile up in offices season after season. Those books are an essential part of the design process, though they oftentimes provide little detail — not even prices or minimum order quantities (MOQs), since those frequently change — and they cost materials companies millions of dollars to produce and ship, not to mention the environmental impact.
Which is why a new technology company Weev is working to digitize materials to improve the design process for all footwear companies.
“What’s driving people right now is sustainability, circularity, speed-to-market and transparency. Those are the most important parts of building products right now,” said Joanne Stetson, CEO of Weev. “You have to have all of those things in place, but how do you get them. It’s through having all the information at your fingertips.”
In early 2022, Weev is set to launch a new SaaS (software as a solution) platform, in which materials companies can upload digital images of their products. The searchable files will come with up-to-date details, such as pricing, MOQs and technical features, as well as sustainable accreditations by organizations like the Leather Working Group.
The online concept was originally developed three years ago in Europe by manufacturer Wilhelm Möhlmann, who built Hugo Boss footwear in Germany. “He knew it’s going to be a digital world, that it was going to change,” said Stetson. “So he started using his own workflow to create everything.”
Though now operating under a new name, the company is still led by a team of footwear veterans with extensive industry experience. Stetson, for instance, got her start at Esprit in the 1980s and has worked in shoe production for several firms including Diesel, Birkenstock and most recently Ariat.
Stetson added, “What makes us different is that we’re industry people. We’ve been in your shoes and we know the pain points. So we’ve built the technology with those needs in mind.”
For the launch, the Weev platform is being marketed to designers, developers and materials managers, who can sign up for a per-user annual subscription free. Early adopters will be eligible for a discount.
Despite that targeted approach, Stetson said the software is built with the entire brand ecosystem in mind. “We really want this to be valuable to the whole product creation department,” she said. “We want to make sure that there are valuable tools for the sourcing department, for the planning department, for production.”
She noted that on the Weev platform, brands will have the capability to apply materials to their 3D designs, and for future releases, it will roll out more functionality for 3D and PLM (product lifecycle management) users.
But she acknowledged that not everyone will be interested in a digital design process. “We know some people can’t make a decision without touching a material, and that’s OK,” said Stetson, adding that brands can communicate directly with their suppliers to order specific samples. “By using the platform, you can procure swatches that are really targeted for you. Instead of getting a huge binder with everything, you can have a meaningful binder of the materials that are most valuable.”
Also through the Weev site, brands can collaborate with suppliers by sharing information about their mood boards and technical requirements, to better guide future interactions and purchases. “The idea is to basically make the suppliers smarter at what they do, and to give everyone a more productive experience,” said Stetson.