Fall is around the corner and I have my eyes set on low-heel boots from INLU shoes. A newcomer to the shoe industry that is having a major breakout. Featured in British Vogue, Humble Magazine, New York Style Guide — and more, this brand won over my initial interest with cork mules. Which maintains the motivation behind the Portuguese brand that supports sustainability and Portuguese local/heritage materials. I was so impressed with their quality of shoes I contacted INLU to see if I could interview CEO Inês Lebre about building a business, success and sustainable shoes.
As luck would have it I got to chat with the innovative and exceptionally talented, Inês. As an entrepreneur starting a new business I was interested how this boss babe took the fashion world by storm with a simple Kickstarter, and challenged other luxury designers at the shoe game. Something I live for. From the words of fictional character Carrie Bradshaw, “When I want a ridiculously extravagant pair of shoes, I find a way to buy them.” And that is how I felt about a new pair of INLU shoes made from Portuguese cork and Italian leather.
INLU shoes stand apart because of their rich colors. All colors inspired from nature. They inspired my personal fashion style with their rich colors and how they pair them with vibrant almost contrasting colored clothing. Inês is a shoe mastermind and visionary and I got to pick her brain to inspire other like-minded individuals and entrepreneurs to purse their dreams, or buy their next pair of great shoes.
I am usually in the office early to give me time to catch up on emails. The most urgent emails I reply immediately, the others I can leave until a little later. I will catch up with the team on how everything is going, as you know there is always something happening in the fashion world.
I have found that in the first years of creating a business, the workday is typically very busy and between 8 to 12hours of work, which includes work during bank holidays, weekends, etc.
Basically, all normal roles in the company, at the beginning are focused on just one person, me. 😝 Hiring and training people, project coordination, making sure logistics, operations and customer service work according to our standards, help on product development, amongst others.
My business and entrepreneurial background.
It helped us reach our core international markets, mainly USA and UK. It was an opportunity to receive real feedback from customers and not just stockists/shops.
Unfortunately, the success means that tends to be a very crowded platform so it’s harder to be funded.
The major motivation was sustainability and Portuguese local/heritage materials. Portugal is the world leader in cork production and in our view, the materials were being explored in a very standard and boring way. We thought we could add playfulness and contemporaneity to it and so we made it our way. 😊 However, we are not attached just to a cork, but to strive to use innovative materials with a sustainable component the best we can.
I met Ana Fatia at an entrepreneur event from an organization called Women in Business and we immediately went along really well. She had experience in design and contemporary art and I had already the idea for INLU that was in the meantime clarified and defined with her presence. She is not, however, a co-founder but the Art Director that could add value to our imagery, design, and communication.
Being a women-led company was not an initial intention but it ended up happening naturally. I believe women are more empathic, collaborative and kind. We work really well together as a team and we definitely always encourage other women, especially those in business too.
Mainly it has to do with preconceived ideas on what a business person should look and behave, as we are still in a very dominated men entrepreneurial landscape. The workload is many times unbearable and almost impossible to handle. You have to multi-task even though we all know its not the healthiest behavior. Having a baby boy (he was 7 months when INLU began) makes the juggle a challenge. But for love and passion, anything is possible.
Influencers play a super important role in raising awareness to impactful companies and especially letting customers know that are more brands exist besides the big fast fashion ones. They show our wearability as a brand while opening up our brand to an entirely new market.
There’s no right time, so don’t wait. just start.
Developing a full sustainable collection next year, which will include influencer and artists design collaborations, while making sure we continue having a positive impact on the environment and society.