How Marina Larroudé managed to leverage her own brand in the middle of a pandemic
After nearly two decades of experience in companies such as Condé Nast and Barneys, Marina Larroudé built her new brand, Larroudé. Here, she tells the learnings and challenges as an entrepreneur.
Marina Larroudé can be proud of having conquered all her dream jobs and, even so, still feel butterflies in her stomach when heading up a new endeavor. Starting with a stint at Vogue Brasil, the career of the Brazilian based in New York is a source of inspiration for many who wish to enter the fashion market.
Eight years of her curriculum in the international publishing universe were dedicated to the extinct portal Style.com, in which she reached the position of market director until she was invited to join the Teen Vogue team as fashion director, in 2014. Three years later, after a selection process lasting 6 months, she assumed the sought-after position of fashion director of the women's department at Barneys, ensuring experience also in the retail sector.
“At Barneys we had 22 stores, in addition to e-commerce, and it was very interesting to see how consumers in each region of the United States were interested in a certain type of brand and product. I believe I had a very good reading of the market with the opportunity to understand what captivates the consumer's eye in terms of editorial image and what results in retail sales well”, she tells Vogue.
The desire for her own brand guarantees that it has always existed, but the ideal time to throw herself into the business had not yet arrived, until the beginning of 2020. “Suddenly, in the middle of the pandemic, I found myself unemployed for the first time in 20 years. The whole country is closed, nobody is hiring, all the doors are closed and I thought 'this is it'”, says Marina, who began to undertake little by little through a capsule collection with the Californian brand CQY Jeans and, later, with the development of sweaters and cashmere with a friend.
“At a certain point we started talking about the shoes, in 45 days the collection was ready and we presented it to buyers who wanted the order immediately. This all happened while the lockdown”, she explains about the idea that resulted in the shoe and fashion brand Larroudé.
“More than selling high quality shoes at a fair price, in keeping with your brand as a platform. “We are already developing bags and possible collaborations with other labels”, he announces.
The Brazilian and her husband, Ricardo Larroudé, combined his experience in administration and finance with her baggage to make the dream come true together. With an initial investment of $100,000 from personal funds, the couple (and now partners) quickly converted the business to fundraising as a startup and are currently gearing up for the first round of fundraising.
“We are a Startup. We have a group of investors that we call 'Friends and Family' and we are closing what we call 'seeding' [known as seed capital is a financing model aimed at early-stage business projects]. It was a high investment, but we set up a company for it to scale”, she explains.
With just 5 months, the results are already quite relevant and the financial market shows interest: "Nowadays the brand's numbers speak for themselves and investors are coming to us. We started selling at Revolve and in less than a month they've reordered 2, 3, 4 times. We launched it at Shopbop and in less than two weeks they've reordered. As our growth is exponential, people are interested in being part of this moment together with us."
Development and production in full pandemic
Seeking to fill a gap that existed in the shoe market, Larroudé offers a very high-quality product, with affordable prices and fashion information. But the goal is not the easiest of tasks, and broader research was needed to reach a standard that was a source of pride for the founder.
“It is important to say that we started Larroudé from scratch, in the middle of a global pandemic and without finding our time. Our shoe mold, which by the way is super comfortable, was developed by us and is for the exclusive use of the brand. Prints and box development in Brazil too. We researched the warehouse system [warehouse] and the import agency, we set up the site from scratch”, he says.
“We looked for our QR Code developer in India. Our editor is from Los Angeles, we have a team in Brazil. Today there are around 10 to 15 people who work at Larroudé, not counting the agencies that work with digital marketing and third parties. In addition to being our biggest challenge, it has also been and has been the coolest part”, she adds, who chose to produce Larroudé's shoes in a factory in southern Brazil due to their unique quality.
“When the first finished pair arrived at home, I cried with happiness. For me the main point was quality. I didn't want a product with my name that wasn't top-notch”, he explains and adds: “It's a pleasure to employ people in my country and I encourage a factory that was obsolete in the pandemic. At a time when people were firing employees, we are launching a brand”.
Marina points out that the shoes, whose prices start at $150, were designed to achieve 30% better quality and 30% lower value than a Stuart Weitzman brand: “I saw many customers walking around Barneys and wanting to buy the model more fun of the designer shoe, but they ended up taking basic black as an excuse because of the high price. At Larroudé, I wanted the customer to be able to buy a different shoe with quality as good as international brands and without breaking his checking account”.
“That was our theory and in practice, especially at this time when people are getting vaccinated and getting ready to go out again after the lockdown, there is what we call 'revenge dressing' or 'joyful dressing'. Customers are not buying the safest option with us but the most fun. This for me is to bring the highest quality fashion to more people”, she delivers.
Retail success stories
The first order of the bulletin brand with 150 pairs of the same model. Currently, more than 500 pairs are ordered per model. Among the best-sellers is the Gloria sandal, in honor of the eldest daughter of the Larroudé couple, orders were quadrupled.
“The prints have an incredible acceptance. We launched the special collection with a marijuana print and thought about the idea of releasing it on the website at 4:20 am because it has a whole story behind it. At first, we were in doubt thinking that no one would buy shoes at 4:20 am, but we faced marketing. To our surprise, at 4:25 am we already had 10 orders and we are practically sold out of this model”, attests Marina, who also prepared a special collection for the month of Pride (June) where part of the profit will be donated.
Essential Pillars of Larroudé
From the beginning, Larroudé was designed to have its own identity. “I didn't want the product to look like Marina, it was important that it had something to say”, she says.
When browsing @larroude's channels, the goal is to make you feel part of this story. “Consumers need to see that they are welcome. When working with fashion, clients often admired a brand but imagined that it was not for her. And it's quite the opposite I imagine. Larroudé had to be inspiring but fun, real, and accessible. The brand is in 2021. The shoe market here in the United States was very dormant, there was no voice behind it”, says the founder.
Social and environmental responsibility
Made in Brazil, a label works exclusively with companies where the standards of the ILO (International Label Organization) are closely followed, guaranteeing the rights and benefits of workers.
All the leather used comes from local tanneries with Gold certification from the Leather Working Group, an independent group of tanners and manufacturers who work with sustainable practices while creating the environmental impact of working with leather.
“It still needs to improve a lot and the long-term goal is to be able to make a 100% sustainable shoe or work with factories that also act in this way”, observes Marina.
QR Code on the sole of the shoe
The purpose of boosting sales goes beyond internal marketing and gains traction on the streets through a technology patented by the brand, in which each shoe carries a QR code printed on the sole.
“This idea came after a trip to a restaurant during the pandemic when all the menus were produced digitally. One day at home, my daughter Gloria questioned why we didn't make a business card with this technology. Ricardo is super technological and saw that there was an idea to be worked on”, she says.
After a brief registration that guarantees a 20 dollar voucher, customers reach the models for their friends, who can make the purchase reserve exact part by pointing their cell phone to the QR Code. A customer gets an extra $20 credit for every purchase made after referral, and the friend gets a discount, encouraging constant referrals and digital interaction. “It's a sense of community and everyone wins. If I sold all the clothes I told you where they were from, it would be very advantageous”, she concludes.
Unfortunately, the brand still does not sell or deliver its products in Brazil, but it is an invitation to large buyers and, of course, the immediate desire for the pieces that are necessary for the freshness of the looks that we are eager to use.