Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Focus Groups

Last week we embarked on a trip to preside over focus group studies regarding our flip-flops. We hit the road to get to Fort Lauderdale for two sessions, and then flew over to San Diego for two more. It was a great chance to get out and talk to the actual people who just may well be wearing Vere flip-flops in a few years.

Our focus groups went as good as we hoped. Big thanks to Periquin Strategy out of Denver Colorado for setting up and conducting these great sessions. We sat with a number of people who wear flip-flops whenever they can. Part of ‘Flip-Flop Nation’ as one participant put it. We were able to sit in on a candid conversation about what they like/dislike about flip-flops, what their ideal pair would be like, and the ideal company that makes them. They were able to see our entire line of Vere Sandals, pick them up, and even try them on (as long as they were the right size). We were encouraged by the positive response and support for the Vere Sandal brand, as well as the strong interest in supporting US made products. We had always believed that people would do the right thing if it were made easy, and we are learning from the focus groups that in an “apple-to-apple” comparison, people will consider the domestically produced product. They also will be more interested if the company acted on their claims of manufacturing with an eye toward the environment. Our big challenge is to get the word out that Vere not only makes a high quality, comfortable sandal, but we make it here in the United States. Hopefully people (you included) will help us spread the good word.

When we weren’t at the focus group and traveling we kept ourselves busy. We had our share of meetings. One included an interesting discussion with the head of an industrial design firm on the scope of manufacturing in the US, and how this country can reclaim their industrial edge through process innovation (there were some interesting ideas that merit another blog entry at another time). We also met with some owners of local surf shops and with discussions on their business in general, as well as what product is moving, not moving, and what is in the future for the flip-flop market.

There was also a sliver of time to catch up with old friends and just enjoy the area. Which included some surf time (thanks to those who lent us some gear) as well as time to enjoy the local sites and of course cuisine. For the record, surfing makes the burritos in Pacific Beach taste even better...

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Last week we were fortunate enough to be invited for a tour of a corrugate (cardboard) facility in Emmaus, Pennsylvania with the intent to view some potential Point Of Purchase designs we might be able to use. The people at Impress Packaging have an incredible facility and an impressive line of clients and work. They had their incredible design team sit down with us and help us with some designs we might be able to use for "sandal racks" within stores made completely of either corrugate or wood. The entire structures would thus be made without any metals or plastic like the traditional means used in the majority of stores today.

Many companies are beginning to use this type of product placement within the stores, but it's still not very widespread. We're really trying to open every available door to ensure we can continue our message of keeping things with an "eye to the environment" for each aspect of the production and sales we can.

We're very excited about the possibilities that were presented to us, we really hoped that we could make our entire POP with recycled or recyclable materials, and their design team loved the challenge. Looking forward to seeing what they sketch and put together for us and can't wait to hopefully share.

Gabi's Favorite Sandals are the Pink Ones

No doubt, she didn't bat an eyelash, when Gabi saw the assortment of all our samples, she gravitated immediately to the pink ones... Gotta love it. We only wish we had kids sizes, I think she'd wear them all day (and it's about 30 degrees these days...). Quick reminder, we're going to be in Fort Lauderdale, FL on December 15th and San Diego, California on the 17th running our pre-screened focus groups. Anyone within range, we'd love to get in touch and show you the line, maybe catch a surf or a bite, please holler.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Focus-Grouping and our 2011 Line

We've got 'em in-hands... each model, each color, in sample sizes. We were also able to shoot each sandal and get some nice product sheets for each model. The next step is focus-grouping. We're going to be in Fort Lauderdale, FL on December 15th and San Diego, California on the 17th running our pre-screened focus groups. Anxious to see what some very random people will have to say about our sandals, especially in comparison to current models and brands they're attached to and love.

If anyone's interested in either helping out with the focus groups or if anyone in those areas would like to just get a look at the actual sandal line and a version of each model, please give us a holler. We'd love to arrange a showing for you to get a look.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wear-Testing on the Beach

(posted by Michael, the "Finance Guy"...)
This is the time, where everyone has cozied up in the traditional Thanksgiving manner, admiring the early snowfalls by the warmth of the fireplace with family, and an abundance of comfort food. So while everyone is enjoying the festivities, I have taken it upon myself to do some more work for the brand. So armed with my pair of Don prototypes, I've taken them to the beach for some real-live scenario product testing.

First impression:
The sandals here are really in their element. The soft upper EVA layer gives each step a soft feel, backed by the support of the middle layers and arch. Finally the dense EVA outsole protects my feet from the potential hazards that can be native to a leisurely stroll along the shore, like those pesky sand burrs, or broken shells, or the hot mid-day sand. The secure fit of the soft webbing offers stability of each step and assures the wearer it will keep your foot squarely on the footbed.

Also, considering the efforts made to reduce waste in the Vere manufacturing process and the emphasis on using sustainable materials, it is comforting to know that although each step produces a distinguished tread on the sand showing the maker's logo, it produces a lighter tread on the earth as a whole.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Spring 2011 Women's "Angie"

After a long few weeks of production (and long months of conception/design/planning) we finally have our first model in-hands, our women's Angie model... Cannot possibly relay our excitement... unbelievably excited to see these, and even more, to get them into people's hands (and on their feet) to start letting people experience the quality and comfort...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

And For The Ladies

Another finalized webbing... on the girls side, our "angie" model shown here... the webbing will be reversed on the one side for our final product, so both sides point to the toe post.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finalized Our Webbing Today

Pretty insane to finally see things coming together. Got all three variations on our webbing finalized today, very stoked on how they look...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Modified Draft

We met with our mold shop again today and were able to see a model of our rubber outsole. They make these models so that we can check the dimensions and look of the finished product in full scale and in 3D. We made a small change to the tread as we saw it - we added a bit of an angle to the tread blocks, known as draft, to allow it to release easier from the mold when it's completed. Other than that, we were very happy with the way the outsole looked, and we can't wait to see it on Friday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Step On It

Today we met with our mold maker and got to see a sample of our molded outsole. We'll increase the size by about 20%, but this is a pretty accurate view of what it'll look like:

Pretty exciting day to finally see physical evidence of our efforts. Tomorrow we'll see a wooden model of our rubber outsole, and we'll have actual parts by the end of the week. Much left to do, but being able to "touch and feel" our product - or a part of it - makes the effort worthwhile!

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Sneak Peeking (aka Sneak Peek II)

OK, this is essentially an Illustrator and PhotoShop rendering of another model from the Spring 2011 line... but we're actually working right now (literally, as I type) on the production for all of these. We should have our prototypes in-hand before Thanksgiving... VERY exciting times for us right now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sneak Peek

We're getting closer. Some long hours late into the night for johnny have produced some insane production renderings that are something to see for sure. Very soon we'll be entering prototype production and will have some actual sandals to show off. In the meantime, feast your eyes ladies and gentleman... (and please feel free to throw us your 2¢, we're all about hearing both compliments and critiques..) email us at info@12vedegrees.com.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Waste not...

How does a pile of scrap foam inspire a business plan?  About four years ago, on yet another development trip in Asia for the company that used to sign my checks, a group of us ran across this pile of scrap material in a paved area behind one of the factories:

We were amazed by the amount of waste generated by making sandals.  We were already concerned with what happened to the finished product at the end of its life cycle – straight to the trash heap.  Right then, I thought “when I do my own thing, I’m doing it better.”  Well, here we are.  

Our goal is a closed loop sandal.  I think that’s the goal of any product design now, or should be anyway.  It’s guided by the Cradle-to-Cradle™ design philosophy, and we think we can get there eventually.  The goal is to put nothing into a landfill – when you’re done with your sandals, send ‘em back – we’ll take them apart and recycle the components to make new sandals.  

It’s a pretty ambitious goal, and there are quite a few obstacles in the way of making it happen.  For instance, we’ll need a glue strong enough to keep the sandals together during the full user-life, yet one that’s able to easily come apart when the time comes to separate the components for re-use.  Oh yeah – it needs to be a glue and primer that’s safe for the environment, too.  Then there’s the recycle-ability of the components themselves.  The straps we plan on using will be made from recycled polyester, and that can be recycled time and again.  The problem comes from the rubber and EVA used for the footbed: we can’t make a footbed with 100% recycled EVA or Rubber at this point, but we can recycle the materials we get back and keep them out of the landfill.

We’re not at the stage where we can make the closed loop sandal happen just yet, but we have confidence we’ll get there.  What we are committed to doing is using the best techniques we know of, and creating some new ones.  We plan on eliminating almost all the waste from our process, and recycling what little waste we do create.  We plan on using water-based adhesives and primers instead of the traditional solvent-based ones.  We plan to use only recyclable materials wherever and whenever we can – we want to make product that never sees a landfill, and use processes that produce no waste.

Here’s the catch: it’s gotta fit well, be comfortable, and last a long time.  What good is it to make an earth-friendlier sandal that nobody wants to wear?  We’ll be making the highest quality sandals on the market.  They’ll fit properly.  They’ll have the right amount of arch support.  They’ll be comfortable the day you get them, yet they’ll mold to the shape of your foot over time without “packing out” and losing their cushioning.  

We hope that when you finally wear out a pair of our sandals, you’ll want to send them back to us and get the exact same pair again – and maybe try out a different pair too…!

When we say “made better,” that’s what we mean:  better quality and better for the environment.  


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A better way.

Sandals really shouldn’t be hard. They mean different things to different people – summer, vacation, freedom, the beach, everyday foot covering (for those lucky enough) – but they shouldn’t be hard. They should be easy.

They should be comfortable as soon as you put them on. They should be made from materials and processes that are less harmful to the earth – or better yet - fully sustainable, recycled, or even recyclable. And why can’t they be made here in the US – providing jobs here and keeping our hard-earned sandal money in our own economy? Oh yeah, and they should be every bit as comfortable and durable as any other sandal without costing much more.

Well, that’s what we think. We’re out to prove it can be done. It’s going to be a pretty challenging journey to get there. For one, there aren’t any sandal factories like that in the US, so we’re going to have to build our own. Then there’s the fact that since no sandals are made here, the raw materials are pretty hard to come by. Plus the fact that some of the processes and materials we ultimately want to use don’t exist yet.

High quality, domestically manufactured, environmentally sound.

That’s the challenge we’ve accepted. We’re going to make them here. We’re going to make them with methods and materials that are friendlier to the environment, that reduce or reuse waste, and we’re going to keep pushing until we make the closed loop sandal. We’re going to do this all without sacrificing any fit, quality, or comfort you should expect from a good pair of flip flops – we actually think we can do a bit better. After all, the greenest, most job-producing sandals in the world aren’t any good if you get blisters on vacation.

We’re a long way from our goal. We’re a pretty fair distance from the starting line. We hope you join with us and follow our efforts along the way. We’ll be sharing some of our ideas and methods here and we welcome your comments, support, and criticism. We hope you check back soon, and we’ll discuss some of the events that got us believing we could make sandals here, and make sandals better.

Friday, September 18, 2009