Design your own shoes and 3D-print them at home? It's not cobblers, it's the next step in customised apparel
Australian firm Shoes of Prey says it will be ready, when demand grows and technology improves, to help the women of the world put their best foot forward
The co-founder of Australian online retailer Shoes of Prey, which allows customers to design their own footwear, hopes one day to allow customers to print out pairs at home as technology improves and consumer demand grows for personalised products.
Founded in 2009, Shoes of Prey allows women to create unique designs on its website, choosing from millions of possible permutations of material, colour, style and size. It promises to deliver in four weeks but often manages two.
Jodie Fox, who set up Shoes of Prey in 2009 with former Google Inc employees Michael Fox and Mike Knapp, expects consumer demand for faster delivery to keep rising.
"Ideally we would get to a point where we are able to [deliver] overnight a pair of shoes to you that you designed the day before," Fox says by phone from Sydney.
That will only be possible once advances in 3D printing technology allow the company, which currently ships worldwide from a factory in China, to set up small manufacturing hubs around the globe.
Longer-term, Fox can imagine being able to check the weather, choose an outfit and design a pair of matching shoes that can print out in her wardrobe while she takes a shower.
"To truly marry real customisation and immediacy is a way bigger challenge," she says. "My dream of the future is manufacturing in the home."
Sportswear firms such as Nike and Adidas already allow fans to personalise trainers ordered online and Adidas hopes to be able to produce a custom-made running shoe from scratch in store by next year.
A survey by consultants Deloitte shows 37 per cent of consumers are interested in buying personalised footwear, rising to 48 per cent for those aged between 16 and 24.
Fox says Shoes of Prey's sales had risen 120 per cent in the last year, helped by the six design studios the brand has opened in the United States in upscale Nordstrom department stores.
Fox, 33, says customers still prefer to buy shoes in store despite the advent of e-commerce. "We want to touch it, we want to see it, we want to understand it in its physical form before we buy it. That hasn't changed," she says.
The top five materials her customers choose are all black, she adds, and the most popular style is a three-inch stiletto, often with a personal twist such as a colorful lining.
Fox, who prefers either totally flat shoes or a heel at least four inches high, says her typical customer is a professional woman between 25 and 35 years old, with above-average income – not surprising, given a price tag of about US$220 per pair.
"Honestly, Shoes of Prey is not about shoes. It is about this whole idea of getting you what you want, when you want it, and that will extend into many products," Fox says.
She says her Italian grandmother laughed when she described her business, noting cobblers used to make made-to-measure shoes when she grew up in Sicily.
"We're reimagining something that was a product of days past with the capabilities we have today," Fox says. "That is why technology is so exciting."