I booked our flight and set about learning everything I could from Mary, I had already heard what could possibly stand in the way of them working with me from the other factories so I prepared to answer all the objections. On the flight Mary said something interesting to me, she said that maybe I should sell them the idea of working with a fresh designer and perhaps they would be open to reinventing themselves, so to speak. See they started their line quite a long time ago and they are still selling the same look and brand to the same customer, but that customer is aging and they needed a new look for a new younger customer.
I was excited to meet Taryn by this point, I had decided that it was a good thing that she was coming and I was grateful to be able to meet her and ask her some questions. I found out on the plane that Taryn wouldn’t make it, well so much for that.
We arrived at the factory and I was very surprised at what we found, I don’t know what I had expected but this was still surprising to me. I felt like I had stepped back in time, the office appeared to have been built and designed in the seventies and nothing had changed, the interior smelled like smoke and I could tell that smoking still occurred in the building. The factory itself was much more in line with the visions I had in my head and although factories in general aren’t the nicest places or the most exciting overall. This was probably not one of the nicer ones, but really I don’t know as I haven’t been to many shoe factories to compare.
I saw it through much different eyes though, you would have thought I was walking the red carpet, for me the place felt magical. This was a big step to making my dream a reality and for the first time I thought that maybe I wasn’t just dreaming after all. I was just fascinated as I toured watching the different artisans perform their work, it was then that I started to realize how complicated shoe making really is.
Turns out we met with the owner Frank and his partner Bill whom I have to say seemed very skeptical of us and our grand ideas. We spent the afternoon explaining what we wanted to do and they spent the same time explaining how we were entering the depression and this is the absolute worst time in retail they had ever experienced. I had never met people with such a dismal outlook and I worried that they wouldn’t even work with us because they had almost given up themselves. As the day wore on I started to realize that they were very much like my grandpa. He was the kind of man, love him though I do, he wasn’t happy unless he was complaining.
As we talked they started warming to the idea and then they started showing us some younger looks they had come up with. To be honest even the younger looks still seemed a little older to me but I could tell that they had thought about the need to reinvent themselves just like Mary had said. In fact it turns out they had already tried a number of ideas that were very similar to what I was proposing however they had run into opposition with the buyers. Their brand was so strong that they couldn’t get out from underneath it. According to them even when the buyers liked what they offered they were told “we don’t buy that from you, we buy that look from …”
As soon as I realized this was the thought I jumped in even stronger pointing out how I was doing my own thing, with my name and my designs. I was taking all the risk as far as cost and reputation, they would just be producing my shoes, if I was right I could revive the factory all without them having to change anything.
My excitement coupled with Mary’s started to shift they way they were thinking, you could feel the excitement come into their voices. Mary was really a lifesaver here because I sounded more like a starry-eyed dreamer because I was not able to talk the lingo and I don’t try to pretend I know things that I don’t, you tend to make a fool of yourself when you do. I would much rather be honest and say that I don’t know but, I will learn. Mary did know the lingo, the industry and she knew the people. I think what pulled them to my side was that she knew all their friends. They talked a lot of shop and being these were some good old boys they were much more apt to trust my craziness knowing that I had her on board and she knew the industry.
We ended the day with a verbal agreement to work together and I left with a feeling of excitement, this was what I had been searching for. Now I had a factory and all of a sudden life sped up, seems like I had much more to do than I had day to do it in.