DIS: When tradition becomes digitalInterview with Andrea Carpineti
Technology has made good taste democratic and allowed everyone access to products and services that are “made-to-order”, without having to spend a small fortune. Shoe customization is without a doubt one of the most striking examples: a service that up until a few short years ago was reserved for just an exclusive few, today has become accessible to everyone with just a simple click. Mainly offered in the past by leading names in sportswear for special lines of athletic footwear, today, thanks to an innovative Italian startup, it is now possible to also customize high-end shoes of great Made in Italy traditional craftsmanship. The company offering all this goes by the name of DIS.com, an online platform that is carving out an increasingly important role for itself on the digital market, thanks to its ability to perfectly combine the manual production techniques of the great Italian tradition with the ability to create shoes that are entirely made-to-order, as an evolution in research and design.
To better understand this completely Italian reality, we interviewed Andrea Carpineti, founder and CEO of the startup, who heads the company together with his brother Francesco, Chief Commercial Officer, and Michele Luconi, Chief Digital Officer.
When was the idea for Design Italian Shoes first conceived and when was the startup founded?
The idea first came about sometime in 2013 from a flash of intuition I had while vacationing with my brother Francesco. He had been working for many years in the footwear industry, and I wanted to start up an innovative project for selling shoes: from a few chats we had under our beach umbrella, a more structured idea began to take shape when we met up with our third partner, Michele Luconi, who was in charge of web mobile development. From there, we began to take our first steps by presenting the idea to the market, building a network of artisans for production, and developing a web platform.The rest is history: we made some test runs in April 2014, and after having received excellent feedback from both the Italian and foreign markets, “dis.shoes” was launched: a project that strives to renew the Italian footwear industry by tying together tradition, innovation, and Made in Italy.
In fact, it is not by chance that you chose the name “DIS”, which is an acronym for Design Italian Shoes:
That’s right, the name is important: we have united three key words – design, Italian, shoes – in the logo and web domain, so that we can be immediately identified, while also evoking the allure that Made in Italy designer footwear enjoys around the world.
What were the first reactions to your startup?
We were acknowledged as a startup and immediately won an award for 20 thousand euros from the Marches Region, and that’s not all. We were also among the finalists of the Marzotto, Unicredit and Intesa San Paolo award: these recognitions were encouraging, as well as the umpteenth confirmation of the validity of our project. We also appeared on Shark Tank, the TV show on Italia 1 that puts investors into contact with startups, and we left the program with a handshake worth 300 thousand euros of promised investment. An investment, however, which never actually occurred…
How does DIS function?
It’s extremely easy: after choosing the footwear model, the customer can use the 3D configurator to customize the shoe, selecting the materials, colours, kinds of eyelets and laces, lining, and preferred soles… 45 million different design combinations are available for making your shoe a truly exclusive product. If all this is not enough, it is also possible to customize the inscription on the sole with your name or initials. Once the selection has been made, the order is forwarded to our artisans who realize by hand the exclusive model as per your design. Delivery in Italy and abroad is within 48 hours via DHL, a courier that has been with us since the very beginning and which today is our exclusive partner. Thanks to DHL, we have also activated a tracking service that allows us to track the package to the final destination.
Have you had difficulty with either sizes or returns?
We are proud to say that we have never had a return made to us: our customers are asked to make use of a precise size guide offered on our DIS website. Moreover, we have activated a “Try on shoes service at home” to guarantee customers choose the right size.
In what part of the market do you position yourselves?
We are positioned in the mid to high-end range of the market: on average, a pair of shoes costs 300 euros. It is basically a classic proposal, which we have flanked more recently with a more casual one, a sneaker that sells for 190 euros a pair.
What are your sales numbers, turnover, and year-end goal for 2017?
We sell around 3,200 pairs of shoes a year and would like to end 2017 with a turnover of 300 thousand euro, for a 330% increase over 2016. 65% of our turnover is generated abroad, and we have received orders not only from Europe, but also from the USA, Canada, Australia, and China.
Are you only on the web or do you have projects also for traditional retail?
Next to the online platform, we are also present in traditional retail: we have a touch screen column available in our traditional store, where we offer clientele the same service they can find online, while also allowing them to try the sizes on in person.
What future developments does Design Italian Shoes have in mind?
We are striving to make our process more technological and to create an APP for scanning the foot. Moreover, we are interested in putting interactive media stations in all our stores. We are also working to create ad campaigns abroad and we expect to increase our personnel (we currently have 7 employees), by adding a professional marketing figure and online PR specialist to our ranks.