What was the driving force behind starting your brand?
After I sold my last footwear company (Creative Recreation), I took a year off to travel and enjoy life. During my travels, I begin to notice that luxury brands were charging increasingly obnoxious premiums, while fast-fashion prices were so low that questionable labor practices and environmental issues were surfacing way too often. Then the light went off, there has to be something better. After almost 20 years in this industry, I realized I was still in love with footwear just not the system. So I decided to help change it and started The Grand Voyage.
In search of artisans that were just as obsessed with quality and craftsmanship as I was, my journeys’ took me to Florence, Italy where I found the factories that produce Chanel and Christian Louboutin. I wanted to help break the concept that more is better and to be able to produce the highest quality possible with integrity. Collectively we realize we need to consume less but that fact is we are living in a society that is constantly telling us we need to consume more.
Fast fashion tends to fall apart after only a few wears and designer fashion is driven by quickly changing trends so they both end up in a landfill after a few seasons. I want to help inspire the lean closet movement. I want to encourage people to invest in quality timeless designs that last longer so you can feel better and consume less. My goal is to remove the barrier to luxury by offering the world’s finest handcrafted luxury goods at a reasonable price. So you can feel good about looking great.
What are the keys to taking a business to the next level?
To be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to figure that out myself. I think the product always comes first, but branding is a very strong second. You can have the best product in the world, and if your branding is not on point, people won’t have that connection to your brand. I think once you inspire your customers and make them feel that emotional connection to your brand, then you not only have a customer but a brand ambassador that feels like they are a part of a movement. There is nothing better than having a customer base that wants to see you win and in turn, you share that journey with them.
How has brand building changed since you started your first brand 17 years ago?
The entire landscape has changed, but I believe the fundamentals have stayed the same. Now it’s all about telling your story and staying connected to your customers. Everything is much more personal now. Back then, brands would run ads in magazines and have zero interaction with the end consumer. Today, if you release a product that is not up to your customer’s standards, they will immediately let you know. Now, thanks to social media, brands are able to have a direct conversation with their consumer and everyone has a voice.
What are the three tools/platforms you can’t live without for your business?
I would for sure say Shopify, Instagram, and Facebook. Shopify because they have revolutionized commerce, and with all of the plug-ins they offer, it’s easy for any size brand to compete with the larger brands. Instagram and Facebook because they have allowed brands to have a very personal two-way conversation with their customers, and that did not really exist before they came along.
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