The women’s fashion brand, founded by Richard Strauss, gained its footing in the industry by manufacturing and selling Swedish clogs. Strauss, along with his wife Maria, son Michael and daughter Sydney, has evolved the company through the decades by taking chances on high-quality, forward-thinking designs with a European flair, but in an interesting twist of fate, the company is celebrating the big 4-0 during a year when fashion has ’70s fever.
Mia Shoes has come full circle. Vamp spoke to Richard and Michael Strauss, an account manager for the company, about the ebbs and flows of maintaining a fashion footwear brand during fickle times, what it means to be a family business and why the industry should be grooming the next generation of leaders.
VAMP: In what ways was 1976 similar to 2016?
Richard: As far as fashion, influences and trends from the ’70s have made a comeback in the industry. Woodstock influenced much of the fashion and attitudes then, similar to the music festivals of today.
VAMP: How would you describe your target consumer 40 years ago?
Richard: Our first shoe store was in Newark, Del. right down the street from the University of Delaware. Much of our focus was on college girls. As time went on our customer base has grown to include women of all ages and lifestyles.
VAMP: How has this consumer evolved to the Mia Shoes customer of today?
Richard: In 1976, fashion was pretty much one size fits all. Today our consumer is multifaceted.
VAMP: What are your long- and short-term goals for the company?
Richard: For the short-term, our goal is to expand and grow our independent business by adding ready-to-wear boutiques. For the long-term, our goal is to see the next generation of the Strauss family, my son Michael (23 years old) and my daughter Sydney (25 years old) take over the functions that my wife Maria and I perform today.
VAMP: Michael, did you always know you were going to work in the family business?
Michael: Yes, I was a quarterback at both University of Virginia and Richmond and was pursuing a career in football. However, whether it was before or after football, the shoe business has always been a part of me and my family. I feel it is my duty to carry on the torch. I also like fashion and footwear so it is something that I enjoy.
VAMP: What have been some drastic changes to the Mia Shoes brand in 40 years that you think changed the company’s course of direction?
Richard: At one point we only made shoes in Sweden and Brazil, all leather product. Consumer buying habits, economy setbacks and price competition made a move to producing in China inevitable. We are, however, very proud of offering our vegan footwear, as well as offering quality-conscious consumers with superior styling and comfort. Some shoes today are, in some cases, less expensive than they were 15 to 20 years ago.