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New Direction

A pair of direct-to-consumer footwear brands are paving the way of things to come.

From the Uber v. cab driver feuds to self-checkouts at the supermarket, “disruptor” has become a bit of a dirty word, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, two relatively new companies, M. Gemi and Tecovas are simultaneously supporting artisans and delivering exquisite, handmade products to the consumer at unbeatable price points.

 

When Paul Hedrick headed east, first to Harvard, then to the suited, corporate world as a trader and management consultate, he found himself getting in touch with his Texas roots, donning cowboy boots with business attire and listening to country music but he was disappointed with the styles on the market (and their often hefty price tags). After a stint in private equity in New York, Hedrick decided it was time to start his own company. “The firm I was working with is actually the largest consumer brand private equity firm and they just merged with LVMH. So basically it started with a desire to build a brand,” says Hedrick.

Meanwhile, across the Pond, M. Gemi, the booming e-commerce site/brainchild of Sicily native Maria Gangemi that recently got a seal of  approval from Ms. Goop herself, Gwyneth Paltrow, was just getting started. Gengemi launched the business in 2015 after longing for a not-so-long-ago time when one could discover quality, reasonable priced and handmade footwear made by skilled artisans. Partnering with underutilized family owned factories around Florence, the direct to client format allows for unheard of prices (nothing over $400) in the luxury category for men and women, with new styles—everything from pebbled driving moccasins to sky-scraping stilettos in a rainbow of colors—debuting on a weekly basis.

 

Hedrick, however, has taken a more refined approach, offering handmade cowboy boots for men and women in two styles (short and tall) and three colors topping out at $235, all of which he fashioned himself. Hedrick traveled to Mexico, spending about a week per month for a year, researching factories and suppliers and designing and despite the success of Tecovas, its founder aims to keep the offerings small: “People are realizing that classic, curated and simple is really the way to go as a brand. Everyone’s burdened by choice.”

 

 

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