Emme Parsons is tackling the women’s shoe market with a less-is-more approach, and it’s paying off.
When Parsons launched her eponymous brand in November 2017, she had a goal to create timeless designs that speak to women, whether they are 16 or 60. Since then, she has expanded her label to include sneakers, boots, loafers and more — but sandals are her bread and butter.
While Parsons originally didn’t have design experience, she was previously the art director at Condé Nast’s Lucky magazine.
“I had always had this farfetched dream of mine to have a line of sandals,” she said, noting that after getting married, moving from New York to L.A., and taking time off to have her first child, she knew the timing was right. “When you become a mom for the first time, I feel like it’s so life changing. And I said I want to be a good role model for my son to never be afraid to follow his dreams. So I kind of went into it with this mentality, like it can’t fail. I’m not going to tell my son one day that I spent half of our life savings trying to start a shoe company and it didn’t work.”
The brand made its debut with three silhouettes, two of which, the Susan and the Cecilia, are still part of the collection. Immediately, Parsons knew she needed a wholesale business and launched her first season with three accounts: Goop and independent retailers Capitol and Bird.
Now, Emme Parsons’s made-in-Italy shoes can be found at Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Via Roma, Net-a-porter, Ssense, Shopbop and more. Plus, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meghan Markle and more celebs are fans.
“I always wanted to have a really healthy balance — around 50/50 split between wholesale and direct-to-consumer. I didn’t want to be too heavy in one category because you don’t want to be too beholden and rely on one channel too much,” she added.
There has been steady growth, according to Parsons, but it wasn’t until the pandemic when the brand saw boost, notably with the launch of the Bari sandal. “We really benefited on timing. It was exactly what women wanted at that time. And that was just pure luck,” she said of the shoe style.
Although, the moment also allowed Parsons to have a reset and rethink her business.
“We were toying around with getting a first round of angel investors, but I had time to think about what I wanted my strategy to be and [I decided] I’m not trying to be the next category disrupter. I don’t want to be a unicorn. I don’t want to be a billion dollar brand. I’ve worked at so many companies that once you take on big investor money, it changes the whole game,” she explained. “This was such like a passion project for me and I wanted it to be something that I enjoyed working on every day. I didn’t want to have that financial pressure to perform and hit these really astronomical goals, and then sacrifice so much of the culture.”
Slow and sustainable growth is what Parsons is focused on most, she said. And to do that, “it’s staying true to the brand DNA and your vision.”
“I just want to continue that and just be really mindful about how we expand and how we grow and not get too far ahead of ourselves,” she added.
Next up, Parsons is eyeing her own retail expansion with the potential of opening her our own brick and mortar shop. And while she currently works with three factories in Italy, becoming vertically integrated with her own factories is also a major goal for the future.