Can you buy perfectly fit shoes online? The entrepreneurs behind Poppy Barley say they can do it
While on a trip to Bali in January 2012, Justine fell in love with a pair of boots, but couldn’t get them to fit. The man in the store pulled out his measuring tape and told her he would ship the boots back to Canada. Justine saw this as a business opportunity — made-to-measure footwear was not readily available in North America. She pitched the idea to her sister and they began looking globally for a manufacturer.
“A lot of the countries we were looking at had everything manufactured on an assembly line and they really weren’t interested in working with us to make boots and shoes one-on-one,” Kendall says.
Their search eventually lead them to Leon, Mexico. The sisters flew down, but were turned away from many factories. When they had almost given up, their translator received a text from her then 13-year-old daughter that said one of her classmate’s mothers could help. They meet with Lupeta Lyons, a custom men’s dress shoe shoemaker, who agreed to help them.
Poppy Barley distinguishes itself from other made-to-measure companies because everything is done online. As long as you have a measuring tape, the company’s website says it can guide you through the process. Transparency throughout the process, they say, is valued above all: Customers know how the shoes are being made, who is making them and how the workers are compensated — approximately US$1,440 per month, according to their website.
One of Poppy Barley’s biggest design philosophies is that women should be as beautiful as they are comfortable. “We always say that we’re designing for the woman who leaves her house at 7 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 10 p.m.,” said Kendall. “She’s too busy for sore feet.”
Justine is in charge of all the design work — she comes up with the idea, then the team in Mexico makes the technical drawings and patterns. The “Everyday City Boot” is the brand’s bestseller to date. “We keep our styles classic and play with colours in leather, but make sure we offer the classics — a beautiful brown, a great black, and a beautiful red because those are the staples of most women’s shoe wardrobes,” Kendall says.
With no retail store currently available (a showroom is in the works), the company has become known for its pop-up shops in Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary. But, this month was the first time they’ve ventured to Toronto.