Nick Brown won't be offended if you're a bit confused when you meet him. The founder of Soludos knows you're probably expecting him to be older, perhaps, or more... Spanish. That just means his messaging is getting across: The Brit-transplant launched Soludos in 2010 when he couldn't find a pair of espadrilles in New York like the ones he picked up every summer while on holiday in Spain. He gave his Soho-based company a Spanish sounding name — combining "sol" and "salud" — with the hope that the customer would feel like it was a heritage brand.
"One of the things we talk about on our design team all the time is that we want to create products that when you see them, when you feel them, you could've brought them back from, say, a market on your travels," Brown says. "They have a timeless feeling to them; they don't look like they just came off the shelf, and that's the story we want to tell with the product, and hopefully that transcends the brand as well in terms of that feeling."
Seven years later and Soludos has expanded far beyond its classic slip-on espadrille, offering everything from sandals to lace-up wedges for women, as well as lines for men and children. Part of the appeal of Soludos is that it feels like a luxury brand, but most of its styles clock in under $100. Some of that is certainly due to Brown's commitment to creating a quality product, sourcing high-quality materials, like indigo, from places like India. But another key to Soludos's continued success is frequently collaborating with artists and fashion designers. The brand set a high bar when it collaborated with Opening Ceremony just one year after launching, and has continued to hit the mark with capsules from the likes of Mara Hoffman, Jason Polan and Lemlem.
"Whenever we're considering collaborations, it's like, 'Is there something unique here? Is there unique perspective that's going to bring something fresh to what we do?'" Brown explains. "We've been really lucky that it's been organic, and both parties have been really stoked about it, and I think it comes across in the designs, as well." To wit, just this month, Soludos created two styles of shoes to celebrate Vogue's 125th anniversary, both of which sold out in days.
The brand has exploded over the past two years, with their 2017 e-commerce numbers on track to be 100 percent over 2015 and global sales clocking in at $28 million. But the espadrille is a summer shoe, and Brown knows that for his business to expand, so must his seasonal options. He considers Soludos a "casual footwear" company — not to be confused with "comfort footwear" — and the brand will launch its first fall collection this August. "I think that's one of the biggest opportunities for us," Brown says. "If you're looking at the espadrille as this classic, Mediterranean summer shoe that we have updated, we've taken the Venetian loafer — which is, again, a shoe that's been made for hundreds of years, really simple, has beautiful lines — and distilled it to what we think is understated and chic, updated the materials, the fit, using lasting, more modern techniques." The line will also include two styles of booties and a sneaker.
This summer, Soludos experimented with bags, releasing a few woven styles Brown says sold out quickly. When it comes to branching into new categories, like the fall collection or handbags, Brown calls Instagram an "amazing resource." "We're really fortunate to have such proud customers; they're showing us where she is, what she's doing, what else is she wearing, and seeing what else feels organic for us and feels right for her," he says. The design team is able to view firsthand how the customer emotionally reacts to the product, and can apply that insight to future projects; "Does it bring a smile to the face?" is a question often asked in the Soludos office.
The photo-sharing platform has also proved an invaluable resource when it comes to growth. Soludos doesn't do much in terms of traditional advertising, but it has truly benefited from — you guessed it — influencer seeding. Brown notes the brand has been lucky to find people in the space who were already wearing Soludos, like Rocky Barnes or Julie Sarinana of Sincerely Jules, so that any influencer marketing feels organic. They partner with their ambassadors to send them on trips to places like Italy or India and allow them to have creative control over the shoot. "It ties in so well to our story of travel, and I think that everyone's yearning for that experience," he says.
Even with the success Soludos is currently experiencing, Brown is looking to the future; he's excited to see how his customer will receive the fall collection. "What excites me is that the line between a brand and the consumers have never been shorter," he says. "[We have] an ability to listen to what she wants, what she doesn't like and improve on the negative, and if something is really working, we can pursue that." But whatever the future brings, today, it's still summer, and the Soludos office is perfectly sunny.
Homepage photo: Soludos