Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Unruh.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Laura. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
LOU.EARL has been quite an interesting journey from the beginning. During 2012 and 2013, the job economy was not great at all, I had been out of work for about a year. I would interview at these established footwear companies and receive offers but the position would fall through due to budget cuts. It was a really frustrating and desperate time for me. It seemed that there was a bigger reason for me not being able to find work, things just weren’t making sense. I had 15 years of footwear design and development experience plus a solid apparel background. For me to not design and create wasn’t an option. I still kept up my daily routine of market/trend research and tried to stay on top of my game in case there was an inviting prospect. I had begun to run out of my savings and the freelance gigs were really scarce and difficult to even find.
With my previous experience, when I designed shoes, they sold well. I knew that I could sell my designs but I couldn’t sell sketches. At that time the majority of my experience had been with oversees manufacturing in China so I contacted a few girls who worked at a factory I once developed at years prior to see if they were able to point me in the right direction for developing leather footwear (they had worked with PU). They were happy to help and that began the journey.
It has been an immense up and down, twisted rollercoaster since those early moments. It would almost require a short novel to explain what I’ve gone through and the incredible roadblocks I’ve faced.
Currently LOU.EARL is in a positive and exciting place of growth. I’ve finally established a relationship with a great family-run factory in Northern Italy with whom I couldn’t be happier with. Recently this Spring, Pepperdine’s MBA Finance Program performed a case study on my brand which was so incredibly enlightening and really helped shift my perspective to try different things. I’ve finally gotten to the place where I feel comfortable and confident in building something with the help of investors which I’m currently preparing to do. I have this mentality where I believe that there are no limits to what people are capable of doing. It has been slow growth but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve managed every single task of the business completely alone so I’m well versed with everything from the finances to social media marketing to importing, sales, website building, design, development, photography, production, cost, etc. I’m very optimistic about the future and ready to take LOU.EARL to the next level with the help of others.
Has it been a smooth road?
This has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’ve had my share of difficult times and looking back, this takes the cake. Doing something like this and doing it alone without support, you quickly find out what you’re made of and you discover where your threshold lies. People with whom I’ve shared my entire journey with are shocked that I’m still passionate and driven after it all (and that it’s just been me behind the scenes). I really believe in LOU.EARL and what is represents for me and the possibilities that come with it.
Friends and family have tried to comfort me along the way saying, “if it were easy, everyone would do it”. Boy, is that an understatement. When you can’t meet factory minimums (so they change their mind a lot whether they’ll actually produce the styles you sold to shops) because you can’t find a sales rep, because you can’t offer them a draw and they’re not interested in only commission, you find yourself in a very tight corner constantly. There were months on end where I’d get up at 6 a.m, pack my duffle bag of samples and drive to whichever city / county was chosen for that day. Visit shops, speak with buyers and shop girls, leave cards and line sheets, shows samples and spend hours sitting in traffic to get back home. Arrive home around 7 or 8pm, eat a quick dinner and follow up with emails to the shops until 1 a.m. I’d do the same thing the next day again and again. I had zero experience of wholesale sales prior. Not having any money for gas or dog food and having to sell my belongings or ask friends for money wasn’t helping either. That was cake walk compared to the uphill battles I’ve faced with factories and manufacturing. It doesn’t matter how great of a product you have or how much the editors at Vogue loves it or even how many boutique orders you can get. When you can’t meet 500 pairs per color/style and you’re one blonde who looks like they’re 12 with no proper funding or backing, you have zero power and you’re lucky if even anyone in manufacturing gives you a nod. I think what got me through that is the intense determination and solemnity that I have about design and footwear making. I describe those days similar to pushing a semi-truck uphill that was shifted in reverse. Those days have slowly faded, thank God.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with LOU.EARL – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Thank you so much, that really means a lot. LOU.EARL is a brand of modern luxury footwear. We became known for our pointy flat mule (Lafayette) that was part of my first collection in 2014. It became very popular very quickly and was knocked-off by every larger brand in the business and that look is still retailing. We’ve been known for flats but have done boots that people have raved over and are slowly adding more heels to the collections. People are starting to realize that they can come to us for something fresh, fun, and tasteful. I refuse to design styles that are already in the market; I’m not interested in fitting in or following the crowd. I love to think outside of the box and create for the future but in a very tasteful, and modern way. Introducing new styles that you never knew you needed is what makes designing each collection so much fun.
I think LOU.EARL is known for quality and loyalty. Being really personal with customers and offering them a one on one experience differentiates us from others. This ideal wasn’t created by a corporate team sitting in an office developing marketing or branding. I think it’s because since it’s been just me since the beginning, customers have gotten to know me and I consider them friends and great LOU.EARL fans. This applies to buyers as well, they know me on a personal level and know the value of their relationship that I hold.
I love that I’m in the position to break rules. If I want to offer exceptional customer service, I can. If someone needs shoes delivered to their house or a shop needs a few extra sizes for their customers, we can get in the car and deliver them that day.
As far as the company’s internal ethics and mission, that’s a whole other exciting avenue that I’m really looking forward to implementing one day soon.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Los Angeles is so eclectic and rich. There’s never a dull-moment and the diversity of culture and activities is endless. I love that you can be on a relaxing secluded beach near Malibu one day and lunching poolside on a high-rise rooftop patio the next. The shopping is great, the restaurants are great and the art is great.
What do I like least about Los Angeles? I think what everyone would agree with; the traffic.
My personal love which I must add here is my 5 year old pup Mesley. When the first LOU.EARL
collection was produced in China at an Italian-run factory, I found a small 6 week old dog in an alley, in a cage alone without food or water. I would visit him after work and decided that I could get him out of that joint and at least maybe with some Italian friends who resided in China. After being in China that time for 2 months and going through a very hefty pet-export process, I conquered and brought the little guy back with me to Pasadena where he’s stopped daily for his photo to be taken. He’s the Vice President of LOU.EARL and would be very upset if I didn’t mention him in this interview. He’s stealing the show pictured here with model Adrianna Reloba who’s wearing our newest made in Italy ultra-pointed Vivienne flats.
I should also mention that if you’re interested in trying on our modern classic shoe collection, you can do so at:
- Wolf & Badger at Coal Drops Yard retail location in London.
- A guest pop-up at Therapy Life & Style in Southhampton, New York until September 2nd.
- Our favorite local weekend pop-up in Culver City at Platform LA with Modern Artisan Marketplace on July 27th and 28th.
We also have a 7 day return policy on our site at www.louearlshoes.com where we offer free shipping so you’re able to try on for free.
- Address: 995 East Green St. #416 Pasadena, CA 91106-2410 (mailing only)
- Website: https://www.louearlshoes.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/louearl/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/louearlshoes/
- Other: https://www.pinterest.com/LOUEARLSHOES/
model Lily Nunenmacher
Laura Unruh- all other photos
Joseph Armario- photo of Laura Unruh