Margaux co-founder Alexa Buckley: ‘The world is too noisy to be all things to all people’

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Direct-to-consumer footwear brand Margaux wants to fix fit for women’s shoes. By designating three width options for every size – narrow, medium or wide – and offering a made-to-order approach, the brand is going after customers who have struggled to find comfort in standard-sized footwear.

Co-founders Alexa Buckley and Sarah Pierson, who launched the brand just one year out of undergrad, built a team of more experienced retailers and, after about 50 rejections, found a factory in Spain that could both produce its standard shoes and hand-make its customized pairs.

“We’re bigger right now than we thought we could be, by finding a team of experts and a factory owner who was also an entrepreneur,” said Buckley.

Buckley joined the Glossy Podcast to discuss how the DTC brand playbook is changing, what was behind her brand’s aha moment and what it means to be a modern heritage brand.

Unlocking fit and opening stores
Margaux started by offering standard sizes alongside the option for customers to buy made-to-order shoes, through an at-home fitting. But after collecting customer data in its first six months around fit and shoe size, down to the millimeter, the brand realized it could serve around 80 percent of customers with standard-sized shoes if it added three width options. While customers can measure themselves at home and build size profiles on the site, to get the new size scale across, Margaux went offline.

“That was our aha moment, and we realized it was much more powerful in person,” said Buckley. “Stores are an important part of the business, and offline has become a really integral piece of the puzzle that I don’t think we anticipated when we launched.”

Learning from the DTC brands before
Margaux had the same learning experience that prior DTC brands had before it: It’s almost impossible to build a differentiated brand at scale online only. So, the brand started to explore more opportunities it didn’t set out to pursue, including wholesale relationships. Margaux opened a shop-in-shop on Bloomingdale’s 59th Street shoe floor, and 97 percent of the customers it has reached there have been new to the brand.

“[Earlier DTC] brands taught us the power of focus. As attractive as it is to be all things to all people, the world is too noisy to get to do that anymore,” said Buckley. “We never imagined that as a direct-to-consumer brand, we would be selling at a historic retailer in Uptown New York. But we would have never gotten these customers otherwise, so we had to figure out a way to rethink wholesale and take advantage of it.”

The new heritage brands
Margaux has been cautious about raising funding, and Buckley said it’s because the brand knows growth takes time, not a three-year turnaround. The long-term goal: to become a heritage brand.

“Today, brands become heritage brands when they become the obvious choice for whatever category they’re in. We don’t yet have those big marketing elements behind us. Offline has been a critical acquisition channel for us — it’s opening our eyes to the customers we can have. We’re just now starting to invest in digital marketing.”

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