There are way too many choices when it comes to dress shoes. Black or brown, leather or suede, high top or low top? It’s tough to decide on that one, go-to pair.
That’s where Paul Evans comes in.
Paul Evans is a direct-to-consumer luxury men’s footwear brand based in New York that makes it easy to break into the whole “I wear adult shoes now” thing.
Their shoes are designed in New York and made it Italy, and they recently opened a guide shop in Manhattan.
We sat down with founder, Evan Fript, to learn more about the company.
Hey Evan! Let’s get right into this thing. How’d you come up with name of your company?
Great question. My first name is Evan and my middle name is Paul, so I flipped them around and added an “s” to Paul!
How do you define the Paul Evans brand, and what measures do you take to identify your brand to your customers?
Our raison d’etre at Paul Evans is to help guys everywhere step up their shoe game. We do that by producing the highest quality Italian calfskin leather dress shoes and selling them directly to customers for savings up to 65% versus traditional retail prices. Plus, we offer free international shipping, free US returns and exchanges, and a 365-day return policy.
We’ve marketed the brand to customers over the past three years by developing relationships with bloggers, influencers and tastemakers on social media, as well as digital, print and outdoor advertising channels.
What’s your background? How’d you end up in footwear?
I have a BSM and Master’s degree from Tulane University, both in Finance (‘09 and ‘10). After graduating I moved to NYC and worked at a few investment banks. I hated it from day one and immediately began planning my escape.
I saw the success of direct-to-consumer brands Warby Parker and Bonobos and began researching the footwear industry to determine if there was a market opportunity for D2C high-end footwear. There was, so I started traveling and having samples made at factories around the world.
I finally found a family-owned factory in Naples, Italy that produced truly stunning footwear. We started working with them over three years ago and haven’t looked back.
What’s your most effective form of marketing? Have you tried any marketing techniques that have surprised you (in a good or bad way)?
In the beginning we were gifting tons of product to social media bloggers, influencers and tastemakers. It was very effective and helped us build our own following. We don’t do that as much anymore as we’ve mostly tapped out that constituency but still maintain a few very close relationships with top-tier influencers.
We’re big digital marketers. Tons of retargeting ads which are very effective. We’ve played around with paid Facebook ads but never saw the required return necessary to devote a huge budget to it. The best form of marketing we’ve pursued has been sponsored posts with publishers who have the same demographic as us.
This season we started heavily investing in print advertising. So you’ll most likely see our ads in the NYT, WSJ, Forbes and GQ. Plus, we’re doing direct mailers and catalogs as well as some outdoor advertising. Very pumped for a huge November and December.
Are you eCommerce only? Or do you have a physical store presence?
We’re digitally native but opened our first guide shop at 35 Christopher Street in Manhattan at the beginning of 2016. It’s been a huge success and we’ve been looking for additional locations around the country all year. My goal is to open LA, SF, Chicago and Boston guide shops by the end of 2017.
Our NYC guide shop isn’t cash-and-carry, meaning we don’t hold inventory there. Customers can come in and get sized correctly from our sizing shoes and check out all our styles and colors on display, but all orders done at the store are fulfilled from our distribution center just like an online order.
This is advantageous because 1) we operate out of a small 250 square foot space so we’re saving tons of money and 2) our goal at the guide shop is to educate customers on the brand and our products. It’s a soft sell and something I believe to be very important in building the Paul Evans brand for long-term success.
What are the biggest challenges with brick and mortar?
Haha I spent all summer trying to fix our air conditioning unit. Our basement has flooded multiple times.
Finding the right sales associate to work the store. Having coverage as many days a week as possible. Making sure our selection of sizing and display shoes is correctly stocked.
Certainly a different set of challenges that operating an online store, but at the time meeting and speaking with customers in real life has been very gratifying.
Where’d you get your first pair of shoes made? Why did you select that location?
Portugal because of a relationship I had. I didn’t like the quality though so decided after that I needed to find a better factory in Italy.
I traveled down both coasts of Italy searching for the perfect factory and finally found it in Naples, as opposed to the Marche region of Italy which is where most Italian footwear is produced, but the quality is nothing compared to Naples.
Why did you decide to go distribute direct to consumer, instead of pursuing big box retailers? If you were to go back in time, would you make the same decision?
I never wanted to sell a $1000 pair of shoes. Again, our mission is to help guys everywhere (we sell into 80+ countries) step up their shoe game. I’m trying to reach a larger audience, so a higher price point isn’t possible.
Our shoes represent an incredible value proposition because we’ve eliminated the 2.5x traditional retail markup. If we were to wholesale our shoes they would wind up costing $1000 in stores but that’s not what we’re trying to do.
Why do good-looking shoes always tend to be uncomfortable?
I can’t speak for other brands, but our shoes are incredibly comfortable. They are blake stitched (an Italian tradition) for exceptional comfort and support.
Plus, they can be resoled as needed and therefore will last many years provided you maintain them (weekly shoe shines, removing excess moisture with cedar shoe trees, avoiding inclement weather).
What’s your sock game like? Traditional or funky?
Traditional, which is why we sell Italian-made socks! Come check out our collection.
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