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Designer Kendall Reynolds started her brand, Kendall Miles, during her senior year of college in 2015. Since then, Reynolds has grown her luxury label into a successful direct-to-consumer business while facing the typical fashion industry challenges when it comes to starting a shoe brand. However, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, these obstacles have taken on a new meaning.
With her entire label consisting of made-in-Italy product, for instance, manufacturing as been put on pause as the country continues to be on lock down. While this is a main concern for Reynolds, the designer is looking on the bright side as she received 800 new shoes in January just before her factory closed down.
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“We got one shipment but we will need more shoes going forward and the the process in luxury is long,” she told FN. “It can take 5 to 6 months so I try to keep the production process on-going. At this point, though, everyone is going to be late because there’s no telling when the factories are going to be up and running.”
She is also doing as much as she can to support her team in Italy by donating 10% of sales to a hospital in Florence to help fund N95 masks and ventilators.
To buy: Kendall Miles Pout Calf Boot, $1,050.
In addition to manufacturing issues, Reynolds is also being hit as she relies heavily on in-person events, from trunk shows to pop-ups, which has come to a halt. She said, “This is the bread and butter of our sales. All I can do is weather the storm. We have to hang on and do whatever we can to rally our community and get them to want to support us sales-wise. That’s the main call to action.”
Because of this, Reynolds is pivoting her focus to e-commerce while boosting her digital strategy. And she’s able to do this after receiving $700,000 in a recent series of funding. Plus, she’s able to keep up with online orders as her warehouse is based in Chicago.
“If I didn’t have an investment I would be stagnate and would have to wait for this to be over and focus on sales afterward,” she said. “The raise was for the digital strategy, to put money behind customer acquisition online and now we can allocate the necessary budget for digital and putting ad spend behind social media.”
To buy: Kendall Miles Miles Sneaker, $325
Though e-commerce is receiving her full attention, online shopping has been slow given the world crisis. Reynolds is optimistic consumer behavior will change once social-distancing and state lock downs come to end, but financial projections for the year will certainly be altered.
“It’s feeling like every man for themselves,” she said. “Everyone is scared and it’s about a lot of internal work, a heads-down approach to reconfigure short term strategies so the losses can be managed.”
At the end of the day, Reynolds is just looking to put in the work — something she’s been doing since Day 1. “I’m trying to lean in. What we sell are dreams and emotion,” she said about her Kendall Miles collection, which is filled with sexy sandals, stiletto heels and unique boots, ranging in price from $280 to $1,300. “We are focused on ramping up social and seeing a growing community, a bigger footprint online and, in general, we are looking for support from weathering this storm.”
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