05 Jul 2023

‘Shoes like ours have never been made before’: luxury shoe entrepreneur Taro Ishida on his journey into the global marketplace

Company founder Taro Ishida talks about his obsession with brand building and delivering the best to the luxury market

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Taro Ishida

Amsterdam-born and Japanese-educated Taro Ishida is the founder of the luxury brand that bears his name. Launched in 2019, TARO ISHIDA shoes were on exhibit at the Luxury Law Summit in London last month, where the company’s co-CLO Ghada Qaisi Audi was also a panelist. Global Legal Post spoke with Ishida to learn more about the challenges of creating a new luxury shoe brand.

Tell us how you came to create your luxury shoe brand?

“I’ve always been fascinated with high heels and the way that a woman’s demeanor, attitude and persona change completely when she slips them on. I studied architecture and I see shoes as scaled down buildings that support the body; a form of embodied architecture. At the same time, my deep personal interest and preoccupation with the psychology of branding and luxury had led me to the absurd realisation that true women’s luxury shoes were still elusive. This needed to be addressed so I set out to build it by looking more broadly at the luxury personal goods industry standards, like Rolls Royce and Patek Philippe.”

As the company founder, is design your most significant challenge?

“Not at all. Wearing many hats while juggling different areas of the business can be challenging as a start-up company, but it’s production that is hands down the clear winner when it comes to difficulties. Shoes like ours have never been made before. So we needed to work with the highest quality suppliers and manufacturers in Italy. As a start-up business, our first challenge was to convince them to work with us and then second, to create the level of quality that we could stand behind. Another challenge has been to build our brand with a virtual workforce but we’re excited to be moving our headquarters to Milan so we can all be together, while being close to the heart of the business, which is manufacturing. 

“Intellectual property challenges followed too. We launched our brand in 2019 and almost immediately there were counterfeit reproductions coming from various corners of the world. In a way, it was an enormous compliment, but also a legal issue we had to address. It’s one of the reasons we are now working on implementing NFC chips into our shoes connected to a digital twin in the form of an NFT – it gives our clients a way to authenticate their purchase while helping the products to retain their value in the secondary market. It also gives us the ability to provide a more personalised, digital experience.”

I understand you are also in the midst of a capital raise. What’s happening there?

“Building a luxury business takes time and it is extremely capital intensive; it is a second full-time job. So we plan to raise enough to have double the runway so we remain focused on brand building. We require enough capital to expand our team, for marketing and business development and for global retail expansion. Did you know that 80% to 85% of high-end shoes are sold in physical stores? That’s why we have a goal of opening 25 retail stores in key cities around the world in the coming seven years.”

What are the qualities an entrepreneur needs to have to build a modern luxury brand today?

“You need an obsessive character. But you also need a vision, perseverance and a team of great people around you. Luxury is about having high standards and a level of perfectionism in all areas of the business while having to balance the challenge of where to prioritise as a start-up.”

What is your favourite part of the luxury business?

“I’m obsessed with the psychology of brand building, which means I like every aspect of the business – from sales and marketing to finance, production and distribution. I love the process – it’s not necessarily about the end result but the constant, never-ending improvement that drives me. The quest to deliver the best of something is very exciting.”

For more information on the panel or Taro Ishida shoes, contact info@taro-ishida.com.

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