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In Conversation with Rafic Daud of Undandy

For a recent MenswearStyle podcast show our host and lifestyle editor Peter Brooker spoke with Co-Founder of Undandy, Rafic Daud, about how he began an online e-commerce platform that enables you to design and create your own shoes. Self-expression is an emerging core value for shoppers in 2018. With the dominance of mass production, the new luxury is something that is truly unique and customised. Mass customisation, fast fashion and ecommerce are forecasted for extreme growth within the coming years, and footwear has the highest penetration rate and lowest return rate.

Undandy is a customisable handcrafted men’s dress shoe brand with an online 3D customiser which allows its customers to design their very own shoes, right down to the smallest detail online. As a direct-to-customer company, they can offer a unique price quality ratio for handcrafted shoes proudly handcrafted in Portugal and delivered worldwide. Since its inception in 2015, Undandy has experienced exponential growth, with revenue in 2016 at 300k, 2 million in 2017 and a current run rate of 5 million.

Please tell us about your background and how you started with the brand 

“My background has always been with working with fragrance and cosmetics, working within 5 cities across the globe on a corporate level. Eventually I moved back to Portugal to my hometown of Lisbon in 2012. At that time, I was doing a little novel writing and was looking at new ventures. From there I was mostly involved within property and in 2015 I started working with start-ups because I had realised that the property industry was not challenging. One of these start-ups that I focussed on was Undandy. I was the first investor in this company, so I co-founded it from day one.”

How was the opportunity presented to you? 

“A friend of mine approached me, someone I’ve known for many years who wanted to get my insight on a business making custom shoes. I liked it, I’m a guy and can never find a shoe exactly as I want it. Also, customisation was a growing trend and I’m a big fan of bespoke and sartorial products, so I didn’t see a reason why it wouldn’t work. Especially being based in Portugal which is probably one of the best countries in the world to craft this type of footwear. We have the best artisans, and yes, we’re mainly exporters and we don’t have many brands, but we manufacture for all the big high-end brands. So, the skills were here, it was just about creating a business model that made sense.”

The website is fantastic, you have many bespoke customisation options. How did you condense this into a very usable platform? 

“Yes, 156 billion the last time we counted. It’s one of the challenging processes. In all fairness, its not as complex as it seems. There’s 25 models and cosmetic options such as the leather, colour, sole and stitching etc. We just had to choose a web design that would be user friendly, and it is still work in progress because we want to further improve it substantially. I’ve already seen the next version and it will be much better. The challenge was to just replicate what the car industry did. Nowadays everyone selects every single detail of their car, from the stitching of the seats to the colour of the leather, but the base product is still the same. We’ve applied this to footwear.”

Did you look around to see if anyone was doing anything similar? 

“Yes, there’s the traditional bespoke shoemakers such as John Lobb for example, but these shoes will sell for a couple of thousand. This isn’t affordable for the common guy. There was also a couple of companies online that were offering some customisation options, but not to the extent that we do. They were also offering the manufacture and delivery in 6 weeks which is a very lengthy time-frame. So, one of our big challenges was on production; could we deliver this in a timely manner. It needed to be consistent with people’s current needs, people want things now as soon as possible. This is why we do it in 2 weeks. After this successful crowdfund we hope to bring this down to 1 week and we know it can be done, it’s just a matter of executing it.”

This is a shortened edit of episode 37 of the MenswearStyle Podcast with Rafic Daud of custom-made shoe experience brand undandy.com. You can listen to the full version below or subscribe in iTunes directly and invest in them via Crowdcube today.


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