Founder/Designer of Android Homme, and all-around O.G, Javier Laval and I go way back. It’s really amazing what randomly befriending someone on Facebook can lead to. From that one solitary FB message we’ve had many deep conversations on current creative narratives, created a shoe for GE to celebrate the Moon landing and I’m pleased to have actually met the man himself in Paris a couple months back.
The internet is an amazing networking tool, and TBH a lot of the time you don’t have to meet in-person to know when someone’s a genuinely good dude.
During our quick meet up in Paris, Javier showed me a couple of the shoes from his new, new collection (coming either AW15 or SS16 I believe?). It’s fair to say I was pretty taken back (in a good way). It looks like Javier’s back to having fun with his designs, and really starting to push the aesthetic of the brand even further. So, after seeing what’s in store, I thought it would only be right to have a quick chat about where his heads at, what he has planned for the future, etc…
Check out his thoughts on the current footwear industry, what it’s missing, and what his advice is to young creatives looking to start their own brand, below.
JL: My name is Javier Laval born in San Francisco and raised in Foster City, California a small suburb about 20 minutes from the city. My cultural background is Panamanian/Puerto Rican. I currently reside near the beach in Santa Monica, California and get tons of inspiration from being near the ocean. My background is in marketing and event promotions. For many years I was a consultant to some amazing brands like Nike, Pony, Apple and more. I was also a pioneer of the hybrid mix of nightlife and events that has taken over LA for the past few years. Around 2008 and during that time of doing events and consulting I saw a huge opportunity in the luxury footwear segment for men. I was very early in predicting that street & high fashion were on a massive collision course. I realized that at the time there was nothing on the market that would fill that void where street meets luxury and was being designed with that evolving customer in mind. When we came out there was no men’s sneaker collections from Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Balenciaga, or any of the smaller independent brands that exist today.
JL: That has been awesome so far, KITH has supported us since they launched Day 1. Their partner retailer was actually our first account ever, Atrium NYC. So when KITH took over the footwear from Atrium we migrated into the KITH part of the store and have done very well in their doors. Honestly there isn’t a better retailing group than Sam & Ronnie at Atrium & KITH. We’ve also sold out of 80% of our stock in less than a week so that’s great as well!
JL: Yeah some of what you saw in Paris was me having fun as a designer again. I believe that what we had been doing in the past was a reflection of where this customer was comfortable with in terms of fashion. The last 2 years has seen an explosion in independent footwear brands. The “instagram” brands have also been pushing the movement because now there is actually a audience and category for what we’ve been doing for years. So now is the right time for us as a brand to push the envelope in terms of designs and concepts as the market is demonstrating that it is ready for it.
JL: Our plans are as they have always been and that’s to build a complete lifestyle brand with a Femme category as well as apparel, accessories, and monobrand retail shops. We are on schedule to launch our first monbrand store in Shanghai this year 2015.
JL: We started producing small collections in Italy in 2012 and it was an amazing experience for us across the board. The people, sources, factories, food, and overall master craftsmanship that you get in Italy is incomparable. In the past we were also doing our mainline in many areas of Asia and just decided that after battling with factories there to actually meet our standards of quality we just couldn’t get what we wanted and visualized through our sources in Asia, so we moved our mainline production to Portugal and the product is just beautiful and so much better than before.
JL: I feel like it’s an exciting time in footwear. There has never been as many “independent”, and high end fashion brands competing for the same customer. The new brands have helped create a category in retail for brands like ours whereas before it was usually just us sitting around the $250-$450 price point and it was a bit awkward for the retailer and customer when the rest of their prices were like $80-$180. I am really glad that we are past that phase.
JL: I feel that the industry is missing some innovation. 90% of the brands are using the same Margom cupsole and not really pushing any innovation like the big brands are. I understand why we all use the same public molds as there is a big risk in tooling out different outsoles for an evolving customer that may not be ready for a new aggressive design. The big guys can afford to market new innovation and tooling because they have huge budgets to make us believe that Springblade, boost, and other innovations are actually cool. Our particular category will get there as the market starts to demand more of it.
JL: Have more money! I don’t think people really understand how much it costs to start, operate, and ship a footwear brand. Its not like starting a t-shirt, or apparel line. It costs way more and Is much more difficult to execute. Without the proper financing infrastructure it can get very difficult to move forward.
JL: Fearless, Bold, Leaders
JL: Yes, do your research on the business and realize that no matter how amazing your ideas, designs, cads, renders are, this is a business and if you don’t have the team or infrastructure supporting your amazing ideas then it wont go the distance. Nowadays anybody can create a logo, samples, lookbook, and a website…now what? Once the novelty of your brand wares off then its just black and white business and everything is on you to perform and deliver. Put as much focus on the business aspect as you do on your designs and it will fare much better than if you didn’t.
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