At the FN CEO Summit, Footwear Entrepreneurs weigh in on Sustainability and Social Media.

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It is not easy to start a company, especially when trying to launch a brand of shoes in the middle of a global epidemic. Some emerging designers have made it to the top and shared their stories at FN’s CEO Summit in New York.

Tina Bhojwani (CEO and co-founder) of Aera; Marina Larroude, chief creative officer and co-founder of Larroude; Will Cooper (SVP and GMM for women’s shoes and accessories at Saks); and Amina Needs, creative director and founder of Nalebe, sat down to discuss the significant factors that impact their businesses. They discussed everything from sustainability and social media to maintaining fashion’s diversity push.

Here are some key takeaways from their conversation.
The importance of social media for business:
Means stated, “It’s all about bringing in customers behind the scenes to view some of the processes we use to make our shoes and building that personal connection.” We get tons of feedback on Instagram and Facebook, which helps us to design our shoes. We look for ways that we can add value by making them feel heard.

Cooper said, “It’s an enormous asset as a retailer.” “We find brands, and that’s what makes it fun. All ages of executives are constantly finding new things.”
Launching a brand new product during the pandemic

“It was an opportunity for us to launch when everyone was fleeing. “And so, for me, it was an opportunity to launch during a time when everyone was fleeing,” said Larroude.
How can the industry and retailers support emerging brands?

Larroude said, “We love tons of feedback and working practices, analyzing what is working, what is not, and what plans are being implemented.” I think that a lot of designers don’t have a business counterpart. They don’t know where to begin regarding logistics or everything else.

On pushing diversity momentum forward:
Bhojwani said, “I believe it’s important that if you’re in charge of an organization, you have the power and ability to effect change and create an equitable organization. So I think anyone leading a team needs to keep that top-of-mind and use their influence to ensure that that’s a constant.”

The impact of fashion on climate change and the environment
Bhojwani stated that there is something everyone can do, and it’s straightforward. He said, “There’s one thing we all can do, and that’s overproduction.” “And that’s just one piece, and also, just looking in one area of packaging, [or] transport, change one material — we have to start somewhere,” Bhojwani said.

Bhojwani stated, “What gives me hope, though, is people becoming more aware of these problems, and they are beginning to look into them more.” Gen Z, thank you for being so aware and pushing this conversation forward. However, I would also like to mention that my industry is fantastic because I have seen the changes in innovation, technology, creativity, and materials in the last few years. I believe we have a bright future when it is time to address the issue of sustainability.”

Means stated that sustainability is one of our grand theories. It’s important to have responsible production. “Now that we all know about the adverse effects of waste and how it affects climate change, it’s essential to have these core values in your brands. Make sure you are taking steps to do the right things every day.

The consumer’s interest in sustainable products
Cooper stated that “the customer is more interested [sustainability],” Cooper said “I believe there are some consumers who only want products that are fully sustainable.” Many customers love products and are delighted to learn that they are sustainable.

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