out of a downtown warehouse just off of 6th South, a local
shoe company has been putting its own purple stamp on the local
fashion scene. Becoming a hot commodity not just in Utah circles, but
branching out as a US brand gaining exposure one pair at a
--- Zuriick has been going strong since 2005, slowly becoming the norm to see in local boutiques and fashion shops, with their identifiable clothes and purple-sole shoes. And with a national and foreign audience starting to catch onto their line, there's a good chance you'll be seeing Zuriick everywhere down the road. I got a chance to chat with two of the minds behind the company, Mike McCaleb and Chad Tovey, about starting up and getting the product out, their impact on local fashion, a few words on the state of local fashion and some other topics.
Mike McCaleb & Chad Tovey
Gavin: Hey guys! First thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Mike: We're a Salt Lake City based clothing/shoe company. Zuriick started out as a hobby more than anything else. We didn't take an active role in pushing our product until about two years ago.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in clothing and designs?
Mike: I have been into clothing design since I was young. I printed my first tee shirt when I was 15 (1993) for the band I was playing in. It wasn't till I started working at Nordstrom locally that I noticed/realized that there wasn't really great prints being made and most shirts didn't fit well at all. I got together with some friends and threw out the idea of starting a clothing company. Shortly thereafter we began a company called Battery. We sold to a few stores the first year like Chloe Lane and Nordstrom. I was introduced to Clark Butterfield one night while at work. He mentioned to me that he had been designing shoes and trying to start a company. We quickly bonded and began designing shoes together. Our first shipment was 25 pairs of the Charcoal Ake and 25 of the White Ake. After realizing what we needed to do to make things work, we lost some partners, merged the clothing and shoe company and brought on some new partners. Chad Tovey had a lot of experience in the industry working with stores and began showing Zuriick to accounts and we began shipping our tee's and shoes to a handful of stores in the U.S.
Gavin: Did you go through any education for it or was it more self-taught?
Mike: Clark and myself do the majority of the design and neither of us took the time to pursue an education in design. It's all self-taught and I feel that it has a big impact on how our product looks. We're able to design what we feel is aesthetically pleasing, not something we learned in a class.
Gavin: How did the idea to start up Zuriick come about?
Mike: We wanted to make a shoe that wasn't so heavy and thick soled. We were tired of looking in the mirror and feeling like we had clogs on.
Gavin: What challenges did you meet starting the company up in SLC?
Mike: As far as making shirts, it wasn't really an option. The screen printing industry in Salt Lake pretty much disappeared in the 90's and left us with nothing to work with. We wanted a nice soft-hand water base print or discharge print and the places we found in SLC weren't very good at it. We had to take a trip to L.A. to find a factory that could make what we wanted. That's pretty much the only challenge we've faced, it'd be convenient to have the clothing made locally and see it from the beginning to the end.
Gavin: When you first kicked off, what shoes did you have to sell at the time, and how did the public react to them at first?
Mike: We only sold the Ake for the first two years we made shoes. We had a variety of colors, some pretty standard (Ake Charcoal) and others pretty odd (Ake Joker). It took the public a little while to catch on to what we were doing. We did alright locally selling them at Bastille.
Gavin: What's the process like for you guys in creating a pair of shoes from design to final product?
Mike: We try to introduce a few new styles each season so we don't look stale. We start with deciding which shoes to carry over to the next season. Then decide on the color palette. Clark and I collaborate on designs each season. Which works well with him living in Brooklyn, we can get two completely different views on each style/colorway and agree or disagree on what needs to change. Once we've decided on the shoes/colorways we send the tech sheets to our factory for samples. When we receive the samples, we edit them. Decide which shoes suck, which shoes don't suck and send them to our Showrooms to begin selling. At the end of the selling season, we gather the orders from our sales agents and write up the order for our factory to begin production. We work a year in advance, which is great, but can be a challenge on it's own.
Gavin: Probably the biggest note on the shoes I've heard is the purple bottoms being the logo as opposed to making your own logo on the shoe. Where did that idea come from?
Mike: We just figured there's no reason for someone to buy a product from us and us expecting them to advertise. They bought the shoes and that's what matters. The purple sole wasn't necessarily a conscious decision as far as branding. We really just wanted to add a consistency to our shoes and felt the best place to do this was to make the sole a bright color. I can't remember why we decided on purple, but it was a good decision.
Gavin: How was it adapting the product to a national scale, and in turn creating products to appeal to a larger audience?
Chad: There's not that much difference in selling the local stores and to a national audience. Our philosophy has always been to make product we like and want to wear. I think a lot of companies get into trouble when they design product they think people should wear. We want to avoid that.
Gavin: Have you met many difficulties expanding your company to meet the demand?
Chad: Yes, we're still a very small company, six in total, and have a limited amount of stock for each season. Some styles are sold out before we even receive our shipment for the factory, it's also been a challenge to accommodate all sizes for both mens and womens shoes.
Gavin: I know you've been shipping to Japan this year, how have the foreign markets taken to the shoes?
Chad: Our brand has been very well received in foreign markets. we have new distributors for spring/summer 2010 in most of Europe, Russia, Japan and Canada. It will be exciting to see how our brand does in these markets next spring.
Gavin: How did the idea of doing t-shirts come into play, and how have those been doing since being introduced?
Mike: We've actually been making tee's longer than shoes. The shoes just kind of took off the last few years and the clothing side has been put on the back burner. I think people are beginning to see that our attention to details carries through to every product we make. Although we strive on keeping things simple looking at Zuriick, every stitch length, seam, collar height has been tweaked to fit as well as possible.
Gavin: The company has been going strong for four years now. Reflecting on it, what's your take on the success you've had in that time and what do you think about the future for the company?
Chad: As I mentioned before we're still a very small company. We chose to grow organically with local shops and specialty boutiques. 2009 has been a great year for us, and we feel quite proud of the company we've built and the successes we've had. Our future looks much like our past. We're focused on making great styles and product, providing amazing customer service and making sure we're happy with every product that passes through our doors.
Gavin: Are there any plans to expand beyond what you're doing now with new lines or added clothing? Or sticking to business as usual for now?
Chad: Yes, we're releasing new leather and cement sole style shoes for spring/summer 2010 along with more tees both blank and graphic prints.
Gavin: Touching on the local, what are your thoughts the Utah fashion scene, both good and bad?
Chad: Good... we have a ton of great local customers, and we'll as several great local boutiques. Bad... we wish not only as business owners, but also as customers ourselves for more independent boutiques, along with a fashion and/or boutique shopping district. There are some pockets in Sugarhouse, 9th & 9th and along 300 South, but largely Utah is mall oriented and that kinda sucks.
Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Chad: We need more people to live downtown, we need shopping blocks, bar blocks, restaurant and coffee house blocks. Less sprawl and more concentration of people and business.
Gavin: What are your thoughts about local retailers and how they deal with local products?
Chad: We've been treated great by local retailers. Bastille carried our product day one and Fresh is another new boutique that has been great to us.
Gavin: Do you have any favorite clothing shops you like to work with or shop from?
Chad: Bastille, Fresh and Prospect in Park City.
Gavin: How has the current economy been treating your business and how has it been running it over the past year?
Chad: The current economy has been tough. We've been lucky to be a small company. We've been able to move and adjust pretty quickly.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and Zuriick the rest of the year?
Chad: We have new winter shoe styles that will be shipping to store and available starting November 1st. We have a Zuriick Trunk Show booked with Bastille on November 7th, and we're really excited to launch our new leather and cement sole shoes next spring.