PERLIE is a Dutch men's footwear brand that provides dress shoes with the comfort of a sneaker. With ultimate comfort and classic design, these dress shoes can be worn comfortably all day long, for years to come. The brand has incorporated ten key features of a sneaker into their footwear, while retaining the build quality that characterises traditional dress shoes. This includes a sneaker insole and footbed, a newly created patented sole, all around comfort cushioning, and a new soft and more flexible leather for the inside. The result is a dress shoe that fits perfectly and requires no break-in period.
In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Sep Breukers, Founder of PERLIE about where the idea for his brand came from, his law background, and the obstacles he had to overcome to launch the brand. Our host Peter Brooker and Sep talk about manufacturing challenges, what differentiates a PERLIE shoe to others, the patent process, sustainability, and the steps of designing and creating an eCommerce website.
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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete broker and today I'm talking to set brokers. I think I've got his name right when I have said, you pronounce it brokers, you guys know it's brokers. And right Well, it sounds like my name broker goes, Yeah, but it's brokers. Anyway, I called him SAP and SAP is the CEO of pearly shoes. And before I bring him in, I'm going to tell you a little bit about PR li stands for men's dress shoes with ultimate comfort, dress shoes and boots that you can wear comfortably all day long without having to compromise on style, quality, or design, sneak comfort, classic design. And setup is going to tell us all about the patent technology that goes into the shoes at the tell us about poly shoes, in his own words, here is set Brooker's. Early as a responsible men's footwear brand that provides treasures and boots with the comfort of a sneaker. The idea is really simple. We want to provide our customers with treasures and boots that you can comfortably wear all day long, while just feeling like you're wearing a nice pair of sneakers. We did this, sir, please go, oh, I would do this by taking all the things make our beloved sneakers as comfortable as they are and simply put those integrations and think of all one soft cushioning a leather removable sneaker footbed and anti sweat breathable insole, newly designed baits that also and a new type of softer and more flexible leather lining. On all this process took more than three years. And many samples and good feedback from our customers is really great. And and that's obviously what we're doing it for. And how did you get this off the ground? Did you crowdfund? Did you invest Personal Capital, I can be very honest about that part of the initial capital for starting Bali came from our own savings. And part of it came from a bank loan that we're very fortunate enough to receive fairly quickly fairly easily. So we're very lucky to have enough resources to build a good product from the ground up. Without having to compromise on quality, our asset to equity ratio is actually very healthy, the value of our assets substantially exceeds the amount that we borrowed. So broadly, it's very healthy. And that's I think, very important. I'm personally not too fond of having too much borrowed money in a company. And just borrowing money whenever you feel like borrowing money to be honest. And so tell me about well set Tell me about yourself and how you kind of your personal skills and you take in those skills into early shoes. Before started barely starting early, I always actually not working in footwear industry at all I'm you can hear from my accent, I'm Dutch. And I also grew up in Holland, I studied law and economics there. And I worked as a tax lawyer for a couple of years before I started teaching at the university that I studied at which I still do part time because our being a lawyer had meant that I was confronted with a problem of buying affordable dress shoes. And that's where the idea came up. And no matter how expensive the shoes were, or whatever brand I could choose, there was simply no shoes on the market that satisfy my satisfy my needs, especially with respect to come for the role, especially younger people are all used to wearing sneakers all day long, whenever wherever it suits them. And there is just a symbol. Yeah, there is a level of comfort in those sneakers that you cannot or that couldn't, weren't mimicked by dress shoes at that time. And so you were finding it hard to be comfortable in your work environment. Mainly because outside of your work environment. You're like wow, this is really comfy. I can just rock around all day, my sneakers, but now I feel like I'm putting on a costume when I go to work and those costumes or dress shoes. So were there no shoes around that you could find that would that would square that circle for you? No, yeah, to be honest, I looked. And I wonder idea started to come. I went to Ferris and shoe shows. And for example in Milan, we looked at all the different shoe shops in the big cities, but we couldn't find anything even close to what I wanted to make. So in that sense, the idea was unique. But then of course it's still the problem of whether it can be made. Again Do us a few years that from multiple samples to final product that satisfied satisfied our needs. For now, it was a very exciting, very exciting process. So you know what you want, you want a very comfortable dress shoe. But so when you start you, you see examples, where do you visit the factories where they made. And initially, we visited all these, these fashion shows. And we made some initial samples ourselves and thought it could be done. But of course, producing it in a large scale or something else. And then we found a small family 1/3 generation shoe factory in Portugal, that was willing to try our idea out how on a larger scale, and after many samples, we came up with a shoe that was actually like we envisioned it. And it's really amazing that we can, we are able to combine their traditional skills with our design ideas and our technology because many other shoe factories just did not dare to undertake it. So we were a little struggle finding suitable factory Jews or shoes, because also, this also applies to Italy, shoes are made shoes are made for four years on same production methods. And our shoes just take a few steps extra to reduce them, and to make them more comfortable. And that's something that shoe factories are just not used to. So yeah, that was an exciting process. And so what what is going on in this shoe that makes it so different from other shoes and makes it so comfortable. And when I first had the idea, I just got open a nice shoe and just look at whatever was inside more shoes. And then I noticed all these different things that I couldn't find in a dress shoes. For example, a big part of the comfort is in the cushioning that you can find specially as the heel of the shoe. But in principle, in a nice sneaker, it's all around, you have the footbed that is a synthetic material, that is much more cushion as well. The insole that is anti sweat in most cases, the lining there is made to be much more flexible, much, much softer. And so all in all, we took about 10 points from the sneakers. And we incorporated them in our dresses. How come all dress shoes aren't doing this said? I mean, you'd think it would be priority number one. Yes, they've got to look good. But be they've got to be super comfy to wear. So how come they're not all putting in these extra padding around the heels in the footbed? Why do you think that is? Our it's not only of course bedding, how we designed and created and patented new outsole as well. So it's not just all about the cushioning? And to be honest, I've no idea I was in Porto last week. And at the airport, I looked at a few of those larger brands that make dress shoes and just boots. And it's for me, it's striking that they don't do it at all. Nobody doesn't actually to be honest. And and that's good for us. Yeah, definitely. So what's going on with the outsole? So you've got something patent pending, you say what is what what is so unique about the Elsa? Well, if you look at the outsole of sneakers, other types of footwear, you see that it's nowadays last 20 years, it's synthetic materials and adore, moulded. And we wanted to combine that technology with the strength and the new durability of classic leather. So so we mix it up a little. And, and, and then we weren't bought and paid for it, which also has a very nice process that took me hundreds of hours. And a lot of patience that I read in order to add to make our own, which was really really, really nice. Wow. So I guess I mean, how many of you are in the company? Now how many of you are at Pearlie shoes? And we have four people in the company and of course in love retailers. But those are of course not our own employees and so we are four or five people. But I guess at the beginning you kind of a one man band with all this. So you're, you can't go and tell your PA to go up and look up patent pendings and go down to the patent office and just pull the files. You're doing all of this on your own. Yeah, it must have been a huge learning curve for you what was the most satisfying part of it? Well, it was it was, of course, if we keep learning curve. The nice part was when you look at all those different basins, and you see certain elements that keep coming back across all these different pages, especially the large companies, they hire very expensive Braden lawyers, and also you see certain wording certain phrases coming back throughout all Payton's. And those are things that you can easily use. Of course, the phrasing is very important with maidens. So that we're all things that we could use in our own payment. But it's really nice to see that there is some structure across all these different things. And so you've got it cleared now, this is your own. Yeah. Do you get a certificate at the end of it that someone was actually we received a large letter and it was a state secret. It was classified as state secrets. And so I don't know why. But they deem it very important. What does that what does that mean a state secret that no one can see the ingredients of this pattern? Yeah, no. And especially I think for when delivering it to our own property at that nobody could look into the most important part. Okay. Well, it must be very exciting. Yeah. Very rewarding. Very exciting. How much do you think that would have cost in lawyers had had you a farm that out? Grant, somewhere less? Well said one question I do like to ask pretty much all the founders and the trailblazers that come on the show, as well as what it's like to get a great product off the ground. What what do you do with regards to sustainability? Is that something that you're conscious of as a brand? Yes, I always find it very important to be a sustainable brands to be a durable brands, and therefore all materials that we use, including our packaging, paper, velvet, shoe boxes, everything we use this source from within revenue only. This not only ensures the best quality, but it also helps limit our environmental impact, which I think which we think is very important to limit. Additionally, supported good costs, ranging from UNICEF to foundation treats all of our all around the world, with every shoe that we sell. So responsibility is a choice. And it's a choice that we are eager to make, and that we find easy to make. And so it's very important for us to be sustainable and to be responsible. Nice, nice. Well. Third, it must be a great feeling walking around in your own shoes. It is it is and I sold some shoes to my as well. Oh, great. So yeah, it's really nice. It's really proud feeling to have a product that you can actually wear and use yourself. Because we are ourselves, of course, our most critical customers. I've just thought of the name for your next book set. It will be called something along the lines. I have walked a mile in my own shoes. Well, you should Well, I haven't you know I'm throwing spaghetti. Yeah, definitely, definitely something like that a good turn of phrase, I can't quite think at the moment. So you then I mean, look, I'm also a bit of an IT guy. I have a couple of ecommerce sites on the go. Do you have a hand in that? You put that together? You outsources work out so now we versus last time. We build our website, both our Dutch website and our International website, which is available also in the UK in the US and France and Germany, for example. We created that ourselves. So again, we looked at the major footwear and fashion brands in the world. And then we decided we want this and this element. But we don't want this in this element we want like done differently. And so it was possible to close I think about six months or a year. Okay, create our own website and of course control continuously improve moving. But I think it's, it looks really great. It's easy to use and no complaints about it. Yeah, that's one of the good things that I like I don't disappear down any cold effects where I've been like, Oh, how did I get here? This is not what I wanted. It's image strong. So what advice would you give? Like, what kind of platforms do you use? And without naming big brands, I suppose what did you like most about other sites that you wanted to implement in your own? It's actually funny, you see that many of the sites, many of the big sites, they change fairly rapidly. So three months from now, they may have a totally different homepage. But what I found consistent is that it should be simple. It should be clean. And it should have a clear message and our example, our shoes are made to be comfortable. They are made to be worn all day long. So we, in our marketing, it's important that we show that to people and we have pictures of people running and people jumping in and all these different types of exercises. So that's something that we find very important to be on the homepage. And it's all about telling a story. And our story, of course, is conflict. Yeah, no, I did get that message on the site, I did think that there was no ambiguity as to what the messages are like, they kind of love action shots, you know, guys jumping, yeah, yeah, board kicks and stuff like that. It's nice. It's an interesting place to hang out. And are you now looking to go into bricks and mortar at any stage? And he said, you have some retailers, but have you looking to maybe set up your own flagship stores? What's the next move? We're currently for sale. For a number of channels worldwide. We have retailers in for example, Netherlands, us as well. So especially in the US, we can complain. We just launched launched there a month, two months ago, and we already have a few retailers across the East Coast. So that's really, really nice. And we can complain about that. Maybe I'm not entirely sure we want to have actual brick and mortar stores of ourselves. Because that, of course, also has a lot of risks. Perhaps if we have grown a little bit more than it's certainly a possibility. But for now, we are really looking into selling online further and fire weekends, because of course, they are also brand ambassadors in a certain sense that they have that they have the ability and money to sell your story as well. Yeah. And are you looking to maybe add to the range next year? Oh, of course. Yeah. We mean range in in products are arranged in retailers and and channels and products? Yes, we have actually a new collection coming in within a few weeks, where we added multiple styles, especially the Chelsea boots, those are fairly, very good for a company. We sell them a lot and the feedback is really positive. So we added a few Chelsea boot styles to our new collection. We added some Derby styles, we added some Oxford styles. And next week of next week, and next year, we are planning indeed, to add maybe 1020 Different models or collection. Oh, oh fantastic. Well, we'll certainly be keeping an eye on the site as as they get updated and you can sign up to the newsletter. When you go on the site though. I'm sure you'll be updating people that way. Hurley shoes.com P E. R. L, ie, we'll leave all of the links over on the show notes at menswear style of course. said wonderful talking to you. Thanks for taking time out on them on a morning like this to get on the blur to me. I'm curious to know you mentioned at the beginning you're obviously part of the lawyer fraternity. What is your favourite lawyer film? Is it is it a few good men? Has to be right. Yes, but I also like suits it's not a film of course. Oh shoot. Never seen it. I get told all the time. I've got to watch it. Half the trouble for me is convincing my other half to watch that. Yeah, we but I actually have to go to the cinema on my own today to watch your film because I can't get it with me so um yeah, it I'm kind of hamstrung by what what she wants to watch half the time and I can't persuade her to watch suits much like madman I couldn't get to watch the cornerstones forever people are slipping me by good luck with I need it. Alright, so listen, great talking to you. And best of luck, Brandon, and I look forward to seeing more than you ranges in the new year. Thank you. pleasure was all mine you've been listening to the menswear style podcast be sure to head over to menswear style dot code at uk for more menswear content and email info at menswear style dot code at UK if you'd like to be a future guest on the show. Finally, please help support the show by leaving a review on iTunes or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Until next time