Mass customization has been the holy grail of the fashion industry ever since the Internet was born. Jodie Fox discusses why mass customization is so hard, and how her company is scaling a business that offers custom shoes.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Jodie Fox: I was born in a small country town in Australia. I was raised by a Sicilian mother and an Australian father. I was the first person in my family to go to university. Both my parents came from very humble backgrounds and worked really hard so that my sister and I could have a good education. It was very challenging to decide what I wanted to study. I was torn between my more artistic side and my more academic side. Ultimately, I decided to study Law and International Business. The reason for that was because as I was growing up, my father would often talk to me about the fact that I could speak two languages and the opportunities that lay ahead for a potential career. My feeling was that when I listened to news or read newspapers, I didn’t understand well enough how the world works to one day be able to achieve those things.
I went on to practice law for a small amount of time. I was in banking and finance and then moved on to securitization. It was at that point that I found that despite the work itself being amazing and being with people who were quite extraordinary, it wasn’t making me happy. So I made a list of all the things that made me happy in life. I interrogated everybody around me who would talk to me about their career, industry, and things they loved. I married that up against this list that I made and decided that advertising was the next step for me. I went into an agency and learned about building brands.
It was during that time that we came up with the idea of Shoes of Prey. It came about because I like shoes. I found it very difficult to find exactly what I wanted. Either the color wasn’t what I’d hoped for or the heel height wasn’t high enough. I’d also watch some close friends and family who had these disappointing experiences where they would walk on to a shoe floor and discover that the shoes weren’t in their size or shape. As I was struggling, I found somebody I could commission my shoe design to, in much the same way that you could commission a suit or a shirt. I began commissioning my shoe design. As my collection grew, my friends asked where the shoes was coming from. When I explained, they asked me to commission their shoe designs too.
Sramana Mitra: The designer that you were commissioning your designs to, where was that designer based?
Jodie Fox: In Hong Kong.
Sramana Mitra: You were still based in Australia?
Jodie Fox: That’s right.
Sramana Mitra: Is that where you are based now?
Jodie Fox: I’m in the midst of moving to the US actually. Currently, I’m in New York.
Sramana Mitra: So your friends were asking you. They liked what you were wearing. They wanted you to help them commission shoes to the same designer who you were working with.
Jodie Fox: That’s correct. I would say that but for my two co-founders, I wouldn’t have thought to turn this into a business. We had all met at law school. One was a software engineer and the other was in advertising sales. They were so excited about the opportunity of online retail. We’re looking for that one unique exciting idea. As we talked about our passions and what we were up to, it all came together. That was the beginning of Shoes of Prey.