Many consumers have taken a step back from discretionary purchases, instead prioritizing pandemic essentials. But brands with functional, protective products may have discovered the sweet spot between want and need.
Footwear startup Muvez believes it has hit that target with its line of indoor-outdoor slippers. The comfortable slip-ons feature mesh uppers and collapsible heels, so that they can be worn as slides. But the most ingenious innovation is a removable outsole that allows wearers to leave outside germs and microbes at their front doors, while continuing to wear their cozy kicks inside their homes.
According to co-founding CEO Eric Cruz, the idea for Muvez came about long before a global outbreak prompted shoppers’ obsession with hygiene and cleanliness.
“The idea was born from wanting to create footwear that provided comfort and convenience,” he said, adding that he strove to imbue his creation with “a cool aesthetic that would speak to current trends.”
The brand appeared on popular television show “Shark Tank” in early April, at the height of the virus’ spread across U.S. communities and the world at large. Appearing on Shark Tank enabled Muvez to bypass months of painful pleas to investors, Cruz said. “A lot of startups can be years into their business and still haven’t proven their model,” he added.
The frenzy that followed “was impossible to predict,” Cruz said, noting that the launch of his germ-conscious line of footwear coincidentally coincided with the rise of a global health crisis.
“I wouldn’t have imagined the high level of interest in a product with a dual-sole functionality,” he added. “We really have a product that speaks to consumers who are a bit more conscious in terms of tracking bacteria back into the home.”
Following the show’s airing, Muvez racked up thousands of pre-orders on its direct-to-consumer site. While Cruz is conscious of exploiting the devastating impacts of the crisis, he hopes the brand can give shoppers a little peace of mind as they venture out into their newly reopened communities in the coming months.
As the brand marches forward, it will continue to iterate on the technology and look into accessories to make its products more effective. “We’re looking to develop certain enhancements, like a footwear mat that would allow you to clean the outsole before entering your home,” he said.
The team is also keeping its ear to the ground on advancements in antiviral and antimicrobial fabrics and coatings. Cruz said Muvez won’t commit to pursuing any of these innovations until more testing has been done. “The research on how the virus can survive on footwear and surfaces is still in its infancy, and we’re not prepared to travel down that road yet,” he said.
Still, he believes “all brands should be thinking progressively” as it looks like COVID-19 will be sticking around for the foreseeable future.
In light of that reality, the company is looking to give back to the organizations and workforces combating the virus. The brand has now committed to donating $1 to the World Health Organization with every purchase, and is working to rush orders for donations to health professionals.
While Muvez is looking to an August delivery on men’s reorders and first shipments of shoes for women and kids, Cruz said the company is air freighting product for donation to “service the needs of those on the front lines, sooner.” A container is scheduled to arrive in July, and a reorder is already planned for August.
As Muvez continues to scale, Cruz is open to exploring retail relationships that could bolster the startup’s booming DTC business. “There’s no shortage of interest for wholesale, but we want to make sure we partner with the right platforms,” he said. The brand is also hoping to foster partnerships with other like-minded brands, designers and organizations.
“This is already beyond what I could have imagined early on,” he said. “I knew there would be a ‘wow’ factor once people saw how the product worked, but we can build upon the health benefits for long-term success.”