Entrepreneurial success in luxury – an exclusive interview with founder of MR HARE
As part of a series on how to build a successful luxury brand in the 21st century, CPP-LUXURY.COM has interviewed exclusively, Mr Marc Hare, Founder and CEO of Mr Hare – British luxury shoe brand.
MR HARE is a young luxury brand. What were the key elements which have contributed to the success of your company? How important is private ownership for a company such as Mr Hare?
I think the secret to Mr. Hare was not looking at what a traditional luxury company is, but thinking about what a young luxury company is and following that path. I was lucky to remember all the luxury companies when they were still family owned, before the slickness of the nineties buy up. Luxury wasn’t afraid to make mistakes back then. Now it is all multi million with attitude and heritage photo-shopped and overlaid, second, third, forth fifth hand. At the end of the day the product should have enough about it to sell itself without a marketing budget. Luckily the internet came along and negated the need for a massive budget. Shooting our images on real film and not retouching them also made it realer. Could I have got away with that as a public company? I doubt I would even be allowed to use words like realer.
Your company’s is based in London but you have chosen to manufacture your products in Italy. How different is shoemaking in England versus Italy?
I am only just about to find out. I wanted to make elegant sexy mens shoes. That is what Italy do best. Now I am interested in making sturdy rain resistant shoes with sexy leanings so I am looking into English shoes for the first time, but when I started every shoe company on the planet was talking about welts, heritage and sartorialism. Who walks into a crowded market with no money and replicates what everyone else is doing? I intend to make shoes all over the planet before I am done because different regions specialise in different shoes. I relish the challenge of understanding them all.
Besides manufacturing, how important are design, innovation and quality of raw materials for your company? Tell us more about the unique features of your products.
Everything is important. Design, materials, function, aesthetic, colour, texture , smell, marketing, tone, point of contact, service, user experience. Every single aspect has o be running at 8+. One thing drops below 5 and the whole house will eventually come crashing down. Even if you think you are getting away with it now.
How have you managed to persuade major luxury department stores to carry your products?
By being relevant to the universal conversation that was happening in the shoe world. It is the buyers job to buy what consumers are talking about to start with. Then it is yours and their job to make sure it sells when it hits the shop floor. There is nothing on any shop whose sell through figures decreased two seasons in a row.
What is your current ratio in your company’s turnover of pret-a-porter shoes versus bespoke shoes?
100% Ready to rock. 0% made to measure. We are not that kind of company.
How important is for your company to maintain a limited production?
It is important to me because I was a die hard sneaker head, where success is measured in never bumping into another person rocking the same sneaks. Coming from that tradition it is impotant for me to make lots of short runs with tweaks and variations. We hardly ever make more than 150 of anything in one run. That certainly ensure that on a global level, Mr. Hares are fairly sparse.
Do you have any plans to expand into other product categories?
What is the profile of your most loyal customer?
I don’t think there is one. I can from marketing and it would be neat to bundle those guys up into a demographic, but I have met them all and the only thing they have in common is their choice of shoe brand. My most loyal customer is a stylish, free-thinking individual who is independently wealthy enough to rock Mr. Hares on the reg reg. can we leave it there?
Which is your most successful market in terms of sales? Which are your top priority countries in terms of expansion?
The UK, my home market is our best market mainly because fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, but by launching my brand on the internet, Mr. Hare has always had a scattered loyal following across the globe. From the UK we have worked with Oki-ni, Mr Porter and LN-CC, that makes the UK our biggest market but 70% of those orders shipped worldwide. We have a massive following in the US but we only stock one store, Maxfields LA in the whole USA. Canada has five Gravity Pope outlets and Ssense webstore. Both ship loads into the US. The point I am getting at is that I don’t think we are going to be all conquering in any territory in the near future , but special in every territory is an aspiration I relate to.
Besides wholesale, do you plan to open mono-brand boutiques?
We just did. 8 Stafford Street, Mayfair, London. Mr. Hare needed it’s own environment where the brand could get up and do it’s thing. No other store is ever going to buy more than eight styles per season. We make about twenty and they really make sense when you see them all together.
How important are the internet and social media for creating awareness of your brand?
These are just the new ways of communicating. If we agree that communicating your message is very important then these mediums are very important. More important is what you communicate on these mediums. You wouldn’t go to a dinner party and just blurt random nonsense about yourself above everybody else would you?
Do you consider launching your own e-commerce? What is your view?
It launches around November 1st. We figured everyone in the world would want to walk into our Mayfair store for some Mr. Hares, so we are going to service our internet store from the Mayfair store. Press a button and you get the same service as if you walked down Bond Street to our front door. Like I said, this luxury company started on the internet, it sped up the whole process. I expect the e-com site to do the same.
Do you envisage your company’s future development and expansion as being part of a luxury group or attract investment from an equity fund?
If finance creates a force field around a creative mind then really good things can happen. By good thing’s I mean Balenciaga or Karl at Chanel, or however Dries has managed all these years. I definitely would veer towards monetising to facilitate creativity rather than creating to facilitate monetisation, so who knows?
Has your company’s financial performance been affected, if in any way, by the on-going European debt crisis?
Hell yeah! Have you tried chasing money in Europe lately? I chose to work only with reputable accounts as a young company with no cash reserves. I now assume that 20% of the orders I take may not be around to receive their orders let alone pay for them. But what can you do? Those stores are all doing everything they can to survive and at the end of the day, ain’t no leverage like a luxury group leverage.