We’re fans of what we call the “mass bespoke” business model, and this fashion tech startup does just that, letting customers create and customize bespoke shoes for men. (And each pair purchased helps provide an education for children in India.) We spoke with Nikunj Marvania, Awl & Sundry’s Founder and CEO, who told us more.
Describe Awl & Sundry.
Awl & Sundry is a New York City based custom shoe brand that allows its members to design shoes that are tailored to their feet. Our members can choose from styles, shapes, design features, textures, colors and even include a personalized monogram – all while viewing their 3D designs in real time.
We are uniquely positioned between ultra-exclusive bespoke shoes (I.e. Berluti, Edward Green, John Lobb) and industrialized mass production (I.e. Aldo, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole). We achieve this by enabling full personalization on the member side and on-demand hand made construction on the manufacturing side. This process enables us to offer superior custom quality at a price that’s comparable even to off-the-shelf brands.
What inspired you to start Awl & Sundry?
Originally, I was very frustrated that I couldn’t find a great pair of shoes at a reasonable price. It was always “style, quality, or affordability: pick two”— but I could never have all three in a single pair. In my search for the perfect shoes, I explored much of the custom industry, which in turn drove me to travel the world to more fully understand the process of shoemaking. The more research I did, the more passionate I became about building a brand myself which would revolutionize the way men shop for shoes.
What sets Awl & Sundry apart from other fashion tech companies?
Quite a few things actually… Few online shoe brands offer customization to the extent that we do: with us, customers can decide the style, shape, materials & textures, colors, and detailing on their shoes—all topped off with a complimentary monogram. While typical made-to-order shoes often retail for more than $1200, Awl & Sundry pairs are a quarter of that price. Our craftsmanship is some of the best in bespoke shoemaking. We use a gold standard process of hand welting that is practiced by only a handful of luxury brands, and our leathers are sourced from the finest tanneries in Europe. Also our customer service is exceptional: for instance, despite being a fully customized product, our shoes can be exchanged within 30 days if you’re unsatisfied with it.
Simply put, between the quality, competitive price, and creative possibilities, we’re the brand that usually has people wondering where the catch is.
Do you have any retail locations or showrooms?
Yes we do! Our showroom is at the Lucky Guy space in Flatiron, which is at 18 W 23rd Street (on the 4th Floor). We’re always more than happy to set up appointments & fittings.
What has been the hardest obstacle for you in creating Awl & Sundry? What has been your favorite part?
There are always challenges in running a startup; I think our biggest obstacle has been growing the business with limited resources. We’re a bootstrapped startup, which means we have to be very selective with outreach initiatives and can only focus on ones that drive positive ROI.
But my favorite aspect has been the journey: I’ve had the time of my life building this brand from scratch. Along the way I’ve met some of the nicest and most talented people in the industry. If this is what the beginning feels like, I’m really looking forward to the coming years as we build Awl & Sundry into a global men’s lifestyle brand.
Tell us about your partnership with Care For Children.
Care for Children is a non-profit organization, which provides holistic education that addresses the mental, physical and emotional development of every child. In addition to education curriculum, yoga, meditation and breathing techniques are being offered to 44,078 students throughout 422 schools across India.
All Care for Children programs provides FREE education, which includes stationary, meals, uniforms, transportation and regular medical care to families from the lowest income categories in rural, tribal and urban slum areas. Many of these children are first in their family to ever receive an education! In tribal areas, the average household income is as low as $100 per year!
Starting January 1st 2016 for every custom pair of Awl & Sundry shoes purchased through our website, YOU will be helping to educate a child in need. In other words, we will be donating $40 towards a child’s education.
What can we expect from Awl & Sundry in the future?
We have a number of initiatives in the pipeline in the first half of the year… following our huge success with Kickstarter last year; we’ll be launching our first RTW collection this spring. We also have a number of collaborations lined up with other brands and sport celebrities. Lastly, we’re developing a smartphone app that will make the measurement & design processes easier for first time buyers— as you can see; we never stop working to improve the experience!
Check out Awl & Sundry’s website to learn more and watch the video below.
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