Our shoes were created to be survival shoes in Italy. They were handmade by the war survivors from bicycle tires and scrap fabrics in 1945. The same shoe, although refined, has become a sophisticated, elegant and must have shoe to be worn with your work out clothes, running errands in jeans or styled with an elegant, yet comfortable look with a Christian Dior dress.
Traveling to Italy often, I fell in love with this beautiful versatile velvet backless slide. I just knew they would be a fashion statement in America.
Being your classic entrepreneur I had no fear diving in to place a 200 pair order of various colors from this darling store near the Rialto bridge in Venice, Italy. Little did I know they would become our manufacturer for the next five years. Did I have a plan? Of course not, I am a fly by the seat of my pant crazy entrepreneur. I don’t even know how to do a business plan.
Shoes were arriving in 2 months! The fun began. We met with A’maree’s, the most amazing retail store in Newport Beach, California which was literally a stone’s throw from where we lived. They carry many beautiful designers in the store as well as very high end shoes, handbags and beautiful jewelry. The owners Dawn and Denise travel all over and are frequent visitors of Europe. They were head over heels about our velvet gems and were very excited to be the first store to launch them into the US.
Lynn Pyle and I met in college and have remained friends. We were in the same travel group and had many similar interests. We were both newly divorced and we wanted something to sink our teeth and brains into and both wanted our own identities. So we became the Fifi team of Fifi Venezia.
Lynn and I became business partners before she had an opportunity to turn me down. Lol! She has an amazing eye for style, and she is awesome with color and merchandising. We set up shop in my stepmother’s garage and waited for our Venetian velvets to land on our doorstep.
Meetings were held at my antique rectangular table in my living room every Wednesday. We would start with our iced coffees and finish our day with wine to celebrate. We had so much fun jumping into the new and updated way of branding and selling a product. Storyboards? Really? Nothing we did was by the books. We knew we had a great product that would appeal to women of all ages and men as well.
I had started and ran my Gourmet food company Fox’s Fine Foods for 10 years. I developed Gourmet food condiments which I sold to specialty stores nationally. Lynn worked for Ralph Lauren as a sales rep for 15 years. We felt that both of our skills combined would make a perfect team. I had the vision, Lynn had the great eye for merchandising and branding. We had 6 kids between us who could teach us about Instagram and Facebook which of course was the new way to advertise and sell.
It is also very thought provoking to keep up with the trends of social media because it is always evolving. Staying on top of it is essential and is extremely important.
Our product line consists of five styles. Four are imported from Italy and one style is imported from Leon, Mexico.
The canal is a backless slide which is very traditional. This style is considered the house shoe of Italy. We then introduced the Gritti, named after the Gritti Palace in Venice which is a loafer style. The Bambina, a Mary Jane, comes in 2 baby sizes and three colors. The 4th style was introduced in 2021. This shoe is also a Mary Jane style and was named after my mother Peggy, who made me wear Mary Janes my entire childhood. Last but certainly not least is the Fifi Daughter which is our active youthful slide, lightweight rubber with a single velvet strap across the top of the foot. The price, comfort, and lightweight makes the shoe a winner.
We are 7 years into this ride. Our challenges and rewards have been great. Our Italian Shoes are still partially handmade by retired women in the countryside so the time needed to make them and the quantities are our biggest challenge. The quality is amazing so we do not have any intention of ever having them copied and manufactured elsewhere.
Of course, language can be a problem with Italy and Mexico but Google Translate, and WhatsApp have made communication very manageable.
Everyone these days is feeling the pain of importing. Shipping and the hold ups in customs has driven our cost up tremendously. We lowered our prices after Covid to help Italy and our loyal followers get back on their feet. No pun intended.
Fifi Venezia is so rewarding in so many ways. We can be so creative with our colors, mixing and matching trims. We have added more styles annd have tried linen, cotton, and pattern fabrics.
Our favorite part of running Fifi’s is dealing with our customers. We get to be really hands on with them. They can call, text or email anytime. We strive to help with all their needs and deadlines. They are the most important part of why we are so happy with Fifi’s. Lynn and I love sharing a tradition of beauty and history.
We have been so lucky to have Nicole Richie, Glenn Close, and Oprah Winfrey have a pair in their wardrobe. As well as a handful of other influencers. We work with Brides, creating one of a kind colors and monograms for Bridesmaid gifts. We have a very famous doorman/bouncer at a club in New York that wears them to work. Although we are unable to share what he wanted monogrammed, let’s just say it makes a statement!!
I think what we have learned from running Fifi Venezia is that you can’t wear all the hats, drop the ego, gladly hand off the tasks to someone else who is better at it than you. Also, fear is a huge waste of time and is very draining.
Lynn and I have our strengths and weaknesses very defined. We agree and trust each other on all decisions made. We also know when it is time to ask for help.
Fifi’s are a fit for everyone and every lifestyle… I am so blessed and honored to have named these classy, timeless, and beautiful shoes after my grandmother Fifi Fox who was my muse.