The Black Suede Studio brand first launched in Canada in 2018 with shoes initially produced in China. Now, the label has made some major changes to its price points and production, and it’s reaping the benefits.
Just a year after its launch, founder and president Kris Avakian transitioned the company’s manufacturing to Brazil in order to increase the product quality and craftsmanship.
“I made the decision because of me as a consumer. I know that I don’t like seeing ‘made-in-China’ when I buy,” he said. “I wanted the brand to offer amazing quality shoes, 30% cheaper than the brands we’re competing against.”
Avakian originally launched with contemporary price points. He now sees luxury brands such as Wandler, Staud and Cult Gaia as competitors, with his shoes retailing from $248 to $568.
According to Avakian, Black Suede Studio doubled its profits in 2020 compared to 2019. He credits the product quality, large assortment and an aggressive push — despite uncertainty during the pandemic — to the substantial growth. The brand’s main market also shifted from primarily Canada to the United States during this time. The Middle East and Europe are also points of growth.
“Where a lot of brands were stepping back, cutting down on seasons, we really pushed to keep creating amazing collections, perfecting our production, going after the customers and just making sure we were in everyone’s face,” he explained.
Part of the sales gain came from the brand’s wholesale strategy, which counts for 80% of the business, while 20% comes from its direct-to-consumer e-commerce site. Partners include Revolve, Neiman Marcus, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdale’s.
As of this season, Nordstrom introduced the revamped Black Suede Studio online and in 10 stores.
With COVID-19 still surging, Avakian said he’s not concerned with whether or not shoppers return to stores as most partners offer online platforms and share inventory with its stores. He also hasn’t faced shipping delays since moving to Brazil, however, there has been material shortages from suppliers, which has prolonged production in some cases last year.
As for product, Black Suede Studio is making its mark with a vast offering, which includes 180 SKUs, ranging from sandals to boots in a variety of heel heights. And although comfort has proved to be the No. 1 footwear category as of late, with fashion sales still lagging, Black Suede Studio’s bold and colorful dress styles are what’s selling.
“From what I see, the consumer is buying less, but buying pieces that are going to stand out. We’re not going after basics — everything has a bit of a twist in the details, colors and materials,” he said.
In addition to the main line, Black Suede Studio launched a collaboration with influencer and reality star Caroline Stanbury in London this past June, with the capsule set to debut this month in North America.