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Alterre Founders Discuss Using AAPI Heritage Month to Connect with Consumers, Asian Representation in Fashion & More

Shilpa Iyengar and Harmony Pilobello, founders of Alterre Shoes, first launched their customizable shoes in fall 2015 and have been growing ever since.

The DTC line is now available in 10 boutique retailers, including stores in California, New Jersey, Texas, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. Their women’s collection of shoes, including sandals, mules, flats and boots, caught consumers’ attention for their interchangeable components. All of its shoes, for instance, come as separate pieces that can be changed — whether it’s strapping or the base of the shoe. In September, the company is launching a pump silhouette for the first time.

Alterre shoes.
Alterre shoes.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alterre

This month, however, Alterre is focused on celebrating AAPI Heritage month through a series of Instagram Live sessions. While 2022 marks a year of consistent sales and growth, both founders said in 2020 and 2021 that people were choosing to purchase explicitly from the Asian-American-owned brand during AAPI Heritage Month. Pilobello, who is of Japanese and Filipino descent, said, “Now, we are using this opportunity to have a lot more conversations with our community and educate them on our own heritage. We’re at a point where it’s not just people buying from us. They’re actually invested in learning about our cultures and just connecting with us overall.”

“This is a month that we can really be the front of the brand because we both are Asian-American,” Iyengar, who is 100% Indian, added. “I do think it brings brand loyalty. It gives people a face and story that they want to buy from.”

The partners, who first met at Parsons School of Design, said Asian representation in fashion has become more egalitarian in recent years.

“Though we are not quite there yet, I do feel like the fashion industry is doing a better job of making the Asian-American communities seem like less of a monolith. The diversity isn’t just with the standard East Asian designers,” explained Pilobello. “I’m seeing a lot of South Pacific, Indigenous designers. And it really feels diverse and inclusive now. It’s very specific. I really love that because it’s helping me even understand that there’s all these different countries that we represent.”

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