Melbourne-based footwear brand Rollie, headed up by Jean Vincent Lebon, is fast gaining an international following.
But it’s not just the vivid mix of colours and fabrics that makes Rollie shoes stand out – the unique design means they’re light, comfortable and durable. And it’s their unique design that Lebon believes will keep customers coming back season after season.
Though his customers are more like a community, ‘it’s called Rollie Nation for a reason’.
I visited Rollie HQ and talked to Lebon about Rollie’s origins, his design and the challenges ahead for the brand.
Where did Rollie come from?
Rollie was inspired by my wife, who’s a flight attendant. She used to travel all the time and would complain that she couldn’t take many shoes with her and that when she shopped all day, they would hurt…I mean, tough life, really! I [wanted] to design something she could wear that’s super comfortable and very light.
Before Rollie what was your experience with shoes design and manufacture?
I worked for a shoe importer for about five years. I shadowed the director and did all the development, production, trade shows and learned heaps. The I got offered a partnership so I started a design and development house making private labels for big international brands. Unfortunately, the partnership fell through, [then] I started consulting for a New York based footwear company and another Chinese based company before I came up with the concept for Rollie.
How long have you been doing Rollie?
Rollie is three years old. We saw a niche in the market and I designed a business model alongside the shoe. We launched at a pop up store and my first wholesale customer was the world’s largest shoe store in Dubai. Since then it’s just been constant. We’re in 12 countries now.
How did you come up with the Rollie design?
The shoes look so simple – they’re very deceiving. I really challenged the manufacturing process from the start to the end. Every single component of the shoe is there for a reason, and the things that don’t need to be there, aren’t.
Why do Rollies come in such ‘out there’ designs?
When I launched the brand I didn’t do black. It was a very conscious decision, and completely uncommercial. The shoes are about being bright and creating an emotional connection with our customers. Now we do black, but it’s a secondary shoe to us. I want people to fall in love with that ‘one’ shoe, and that’s the shoe that’s getting them stopped in the street.
What challenges do you face going forward?
The shoes are based on pure comfort – it’s a fashion comfort brand, so I want people to always buy the brand because it’s comfortable. I’m not too concerned about whether we’re going to stay current with our colours because we do new colours all the time, and new materials, and innovative combinations. We’re [even] going to start doing more in terms of crowd sourcing to say, ‘hey guys, what colours do you want to see?’ Get people involved that way. From the get go it was meant to be a shoe brand for the people.
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