Direct-to-consumer manufacturing companies like Everlane and Warby Parker have attracted a devoted customer following by offering attractive, top-quality products at a fraction of their traditional retail costs. Businessmen, tech geeks and shoe fanatics Nilton Duque, Emre Ulasti and Eamon Walsh are aiming to do the same with OneGround, which aims to manufacture and sell casual designer footwear for a fifth of the price—should their Kickstarter campaign be successful.
The name refers to the fact that, although the trio are separated by geographical distance (Duque in New York City, Ulasti in Istanbul and Walsh in Boston), they all share a common ground. Together, the three friends had a perfect storm of backgrounds for starting a business of this kind. Duque previously worked in e-commerce with companies including YOOX, while Walsh has experience in digital marketing, branding and distribution (specifically with several large European footwear companies). And Ulasti, who Walsh met in college, heads up his family’s 150-year-old shoe manufacturing factory in Turkey.
The idea for OneGround dawned on the trio gradually, after returning time and again from industry shows with trunks full of beautiful, overpriced footwear. “At the end of the day, I knew the production costs,” says Walsh. “I knew that really nice chukka was being produced for a twelfth of what it was being retailed for. I said, ‘Wait a minute. We can produce the shoes.’”
OneGround addresses several problems in the choked footwear market. The first and most obvious is that they reduce costs by eliminating distributors, retailers, advertising and unsold product. Second, Ulasti’s factory works in such small batches that the response time—from prototype to completed design—is lightning fast. Unlike many traditional fashion companies that maintain a lead time of over a year from design to finished retail product, OneGround can release new collections every 60 days. Rather than attempting to predict the fashions a year in advance, the company can simply react to which shoes are selling each season.
And finally, OneGround eventually hopes to offer the interested customer a transparent view of their manufacturing process, or as Walsh puts it, “the story of the shoe.” From sourcing the leather, to viewing the craftsman stitch and stamp each shoe with its individualized number, the insight even extends through to packaging.
The initial collection consists of three sneaker styles: The Edgar, a low-top; the Maya, a chukka; and the Walt, a slip-on. Each style comes in three different colorways and are made by hand in Turkey from full-grain calfskin leather, hand-stitched throughout the entire shoe and with gold numbering for each pair sold on the inside. The line will eventually include other flat, casual, unisex styles including oxfords, moccasins and Chelsea boots. “We wanted to make really functional products,” says Duque. “We took inspiration from the utilities, from iconic styles like the Common Projects low-top, the Jack Purcell, the Stan Smith.” The shoes start at $99, and OneGround’s goal is to keep the price of each style from ever exceeding $159.
OneGround’s Kickstarter just launched and profits will go towards starting pop-ups in cities like New York and towards initiatives like putting a production team in Ulasti’s factory to make short films about the making of each shoe.
Images courtesy of OneGround