In the sexy but ephemeral world of fashion, comfort is a quality that’s usually far from a designer’s mind. After all, comfort is not sexy. It doesn’t capture attention nor pop out on the glossy pages of a magazine.
But, like trust, you only begin to value comfort when it’s missing, especially when it comes to your footwear. For homegrown shoe and accessories brand Design & Comfort, that has been the key tenet of its business for three decades and one that has enabled it to grow from just one store in City Plaza to 21 outlets all over the island and three boutiques in Yangon, Myanmar.
Nicholas Chan (below), director of Design & Comfort and the only son of the founder understands, however, that in today’s business landscape, to stop growing is to court death. So, he has a bold new plan.
The first step was a logo redesign. The next is to change the perception of the brand, and that begins by redefining what sexy means. We speak to Chan about the new Design & Comfort.
When did you take over the business?
I officially took over the operations, marketing and human resource departments last year but the truth be told, I’ve been selling shoes since I was 14 years old.
My father remains very much involved with the finance and procurement department and we work together hand-in-hand to grow the company.
Did you feel pressure from your father when you joined the business?
I wouldn’t say pressure, but I do feel the responsibility to bring this company further especially since I’m his only child. After I served my National Service, I worked for the company for three years. I realised that I didn’t know enough to run this company my father had built up from scratch. So, I decided to leave the nest and venture into my own business to learn how to run a company successfully.
Could you tell us more about your shoes?
Our shoes are manufactured in China and Malaysia and our R&D team work very closely with them to ensure that we only sell the best. To manufacture a single shoe, we go through at least 10 tests to ensure neither design nor comfort is compromised. This process can easily take between three and four months.
With the challenging retail environment, how does the brand plan to evolve and adapt?
In business, it’s all about providing value to consumers. Our bread and butter has always been the design and comfort of our shoes and we believe that as long as we keep to these points, we can weather any challenge.
That said, I do make it a point to keep up with the times. When my dad started this company, there was no such thing as e-commerce. But this year, we just launched our online store. I also believe that consumer experience is important in maintaining and gaining brand loyalty.
You’ve expanded into Southeast Asia. How’s the business landscape like in these countries?
Doing business in SEA is pretty much the same – you just need to know your market and sell what they want or need.
The tastes of the Singaporean consumer has become more sophisticated. How are you planning to adapt?
I believe that every store should have something for everyone and it’s just a matter of looking between our shelves to find the perfect pair of shoes for any occasion.