THE SHOES YOU CAN CUSTOMIZE INSTANTLY
BY ACCLAIMED FASHION DESIGNER,
Kara Mac studied fashion design at FIT and spent her professional life as an apparel designer, specializing in knitwear, for labels such as Ralph Lauren and Talbots. After 25 years, she realized it was time to apply her skills and experience to solving a problem that she, and many women, experience every day: “I have a million things to do today and I need a shoe that can work in all those circumstances.” After two years of sketching, researching, molding and casting, rapid prototyping and sourcing, ShoeCandy by Kara Mac was launched. The patent pending design offers the worlds first shoe line with heel to toe customization that allows users to personalize their own shoe design from hundred of different interchangeable options. The collection is available on her Interactive Web Boutique where You become the designer. www.KaraMac.com
When Kara is not working, she enjoys playing golf. She has not been seen on the course this summer……..
How did you get into footwear design?
After 25 years as a fashion designer, I wanted to solve a problem I, and many women, experience every day: “I have a million things to do today and need a shoe that can work in all those circumstances.” I was a commuter and was greeted with close to a dozen pair of work shoes under my desk. If I had an event in the evening, I usually had another pair in my shoulder bag. I wondered why shoe designers had not come up with a comfortable, high quality and stylish shoe that could be worn from morning to night, with the ability to customize to match the outfit or occasion of choice. For a year and a half, I sat on the train and sketched ideas of how this shoe would work. I molded and casted various heel ideas on my kitchen counter, which my kids fondly referred to as “The Lab”. I hired two different engineers to put my idea into 3D models. We sent the heels out for rapid prototyping three times before I started seeking a manufacturer.
When I finalized my invention- the removable heel cover – and saw the possibilities for application, I realized that it was a real breakthrough in the fashion world. I spent months doing research on the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) to find that that the heel change technology had never been tapped. The patent pending design offers the world’s first shoe line with heel to toe customization that allows users to personalize their own shoe design from hundred of different interchangeable options. The idea that a woman could get on a plane for a 3 day business trip and pack one pair of shoes in her suitcase, yet have something brand new to wear each day and evening was the vision. I like to say, “Hey, I have 5 pairs of shoes in my purse!”
What was that first pair of shoes?
I started with the low, 5/8” heel and manufactured two shoe styles and a bootie: The Patent Party, which is a modified ballet flat, the Smokin Hot Slipper and the Betty Boot. All three utilize the same heel covers so one pair of heel covers can go a long way. Four months later, I introduced the Perfect Pump which has a 2 ¼” chunk heel and now have two additional styles utilizing the same high heel and a sandal in the low heel.
How many shoes are in your current collection? What are they?
Presently there are seven styles in two heel heights:
Low Heel models are the Patent Party, Smoking Hot Slipper, Betty Boot and the Stunning Sandal.
High heels are the Perfect Pump, the Celebrity Sandal and the Broadway Boot.
If I bought all the different adornments, how many days could I go without wearing the same one twice?
Between 20 and 350 days, depending on the shoe.
If you could time travel back to day one of your startup and have 15min with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heartache, what would you tell yourself?
I would probably have looked for help in the operations and logistics part of the business. It’s very time consuming and eats at my creative and networking time, which I enjoy much more.
What do you attribute the success of your Kickstarter campaign?
The timing was perfect. We set the campaign up so that the Stunning Sandal delivery would be right around Memorial Day. The style is classic and the accessories (straps and heel covers) went from playful leather prints to elegant rhinestones. It was easy for women to picture themselves taking on summer beach vacations and cruises and benefitting from not having to lug a bunch of shoes in her suitcases.
I heard you met Shark Tanks Daymond John; can you tell me a little about what happened?
May 30, 2014. I spent an hour and a half with him, one on one. I only had two shoe prototypes at that time, which were made in a sample shop in Queens. I casted all the routed heels and glued to the shoe samples and I made all of the heel covers and toe clips by hand. I made a presentation kit using my husband’s metal BBQ tool case and lined it with pink velvet and added display panels. I showed Daymond my heel cover invention and shared my vision as to where I see the company in 3 to 5 years. He got very excited and compared my business model to Build a Bear Workshop and American Girl and at one point, threw his arms up in the air and said, “this can be Huge!” That meeting validated my plan of action. I quit my job the next day and have been working 100% on ShoeCandy ever since.
You grew up in Yorktown Heights and now you’re back. What changes have you seen?
Not too many! Jack in the Box is gone and the Roller Rink is now a Cablevision store. The town looks very similar to when I grew up there in 70’s.
I love those cute little hearts on the soles of the shoes. Where did that idea come from?
I wanted a brand signature that wasn’t distractive. I think it is fun, it’s made in my signature pink color and it’s a personal, hand made touch. I like to say, “My Heart is in Your Sole”.
Who is the ultimate Shoe Candy customer?
The spontaneous woman who wants to express herself based on her outfit and mood, particularly working women, traveling women and busy moms. It’s all about convenience without having to compromise style. Women who wish to look fashionable but are looking for solutions that are a bit more practical. We initially focused on women in the 35-55 year age range, however, we’ve found that the versatility of our product makes it suitable for a wide age range, from college graduate to empty nester.
Where do you work — do you have a studio, workshop, or do you prefer to work out of your home?
I work out of my home and would like to continue for as long as I can. I put my kids on the bus at 6:40am and get right to work. By 9:00, which is when I would normally have arrived to my office in NYC, I’ve already knocked out over two hours of work. Also, as a mom of two high school boys, I like that I am around to see and interact with them daily, even if I may be working most of the time.
What’s the average price point for your designs?
The flat shoes and sandals are between $89.- $99; the pump is $149, the boots are $159. We manufacture in an area in Brazil known as “the leather shoemaking capital of South America”. I specifically chose the manufacturer because they produced for Tory Burch, Kate Spade and other U.S. based designers and it was important to me that they understood the American fit.
What has been your proudest moment as a designer so far?
We showed ShoeCandy by Kara Mac to the trade at Magic/FN Platform, which is the largest shoe show in the US, this past August. There were 1700 shoe vendors showing. We had a terrible booth location, all the way in the back of the colossal Las Vegas Convention Center. I was disappointed with the foot traffic around our booth.
Despite that, out of all of those vendors, we were chosen to be featured in Footwear Plus Magazine as the ‘Novel Idea’ at the show. I was proud of being found and recognized for developing something special in the women’s shoe industry.
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ShoeCandy by Kara Mac shoes and accessories are currently sold through our online boutique at www.KaraMac.com and through private in home trunk shows. If you are interested in hosting a trunk show, please contact us at [email protected].