NikeID for the 1 percent: Farfetch offers customizable $10,000 ostrich-skin sneakers

NikeID took the marketing world by storm with the idea it could offer customized sneakers to everyone. Farfetch is going in the opposite direction: combining customization with the fine craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and a creative director’s vision promised by luxury footwear.

In a partnership with London-based footwear brand Swear, Farfetch has launched MySwear, the first online platform for customizable luxury sneakers. The shoes will be handcrafted in Portugal and made with high-end materials like Nappa leather and genuine crocodile, ostrich and python skins, and each component (including the sneaker’s side panels, laces, toe and sole) is selected by the shopper. There’s a total of 80 different material and color combinations that can be dreamed up and purchased on MySwear. Don’t expect instant gratification, however: The process takes four to six weeks.

Attention, ad agency creative directors: identity by way of luxury sneakers doesn’t come cheap. Depending on the style and materials picked when customizing the sneakers, a pair could range anywhere between $385 and $10,000.

“We wanted to find a way of offering luxury and bespoke products to an audience who is increasingly knowledgeable about style and quality,” said Farfetch founder and CEO José Neves, who worked with Swear CEO Ben Demiri on the platform. “Custom-made sneakers offer this audience an outlet for their personal style and creativity, in a luxurious way.”

Neves said that Farfetch’s partnership with Swear was in part inspired by a spike in sneaker sales over the past year. So far in 2015, Farfetch has sold 90,000 pairs of sneakers in its marketplace, a 100 percent sales increase over the year before. He added that Farfetch, which sells online items from more than 300 independent designer boutiques in 80 countries, attracts customers who are looking for pieces to “create their own identity.”

According to Michael Norton, a business and marketing professor at Harvard Business School, people are willing to pay more when there’s a transparent process involved on the company’s part.

A pair of customized crocodile sneakers costing $8,690.
A pair of customized crocodile sneakers costing $8,690.

Norton said during a discussion about trust and transparency at L2’s event Sold: Why Consumers Buy What They Buy that having a clear handle on the process is more important to consumers than both marketing and immediacy. The luxury sneakers take four to six weeks to arrive once ordered, but customers know each piece of material that’s going into the sneaker and where the pair is being made.

Farfetch isn’t the first company to realize that when it comes to sneakers, people are passionate about creating a personalized pair. Major brands like Nike, Converse, Adidas, Vans and New Balance offer online tools that let customers pick colors and print initials or phrases on their sneakers. Farfetch, however, is the first to create a platform for shoes to be custom-made using luxury materials.

“Customization is becoming more and more important as it becomes increasingly in demand,” said Neves. “Social media is a driving force for personalization — it doesn’t dictate what people should wear but encourages people to develop a unique visual voice and create their own way of dressing.”

Adam Alter, a marketing and psychology professor at NYU Stern, said that customizable goods have the “Ikea effect” — people are more attached to products they feel represent themselves.

“Anything that’s rare is going to be more popular,” said Alter. “And when you make something yourself, you’re really going to love it.”

Social media, according to Alter, has given us the perfect platform to prove how unique and superior our personal tastes are. For its part, Farfetch encourages customers to display what they’ve created in the MySwear store with the hashtag #MySwearxFarfetch.

Neves said that judging from the social media response, customers have been satisfied with their custom creations. That’s a good thing — returns of personalized exotic python-skin and gold foil-embossed sneakers are up to the discretion of Farfetch.

Images via Farfetch

More in Marketing

Inside Linda Yaccarino’s first 12-months as X’s CEO

Her bustling week at Cannes Lions on the Côte d’Azur perfectly summed up her tenure so far at X: busy, flashy, but ultimately predictable and elaborate.

As Oracle’s ad business collapses, layoffs and uncertainty ripple through the industry

Whether it’s the privacy issues or its ad division’s poor state, Oracle’s chances of recouping much — if anything — on what it invested are slim. That’s the kind of mark in history CEOs try to avoid at all costs.