Vegan Heels with a DELUXE Twist!

I’m so excited to share with you a very cool shoe brand that I love: CULT OF COQUETTE.

The reason why I get so excited about this brand is because these shoes are not only made with cruelty-free and vegan materials, but they look and feel like the luxurious shoes I lust after at a fraction of the price!

I Zoomed with the very chic and stylish founder, Bebe Roxana, to find out how her journey into vegan shoes began…

“Since I was a child. I would always pretend I had my own fashion brand – it was called “B & company”! I was always into fashion. I loved Italian and French fashion, I was very obsessed with Versace and into the ‘90s supermodels. My father unknowingly created my shoe obsession! As he worked long hours, he’s way of showing me extra love would be to take me shoe shopping.

When I was in my 20s and I had a closet full of shoes, he would say, “You have a sickness.” I told him, “You created this sickness!”

Where do you get your inspiration to design your shoe collection?

I grew up with art everywhere…books of art and photography. My mom’s an artist and her studio was in our house, so she was always creating. She’s also a photographer. So we were always surrounded by that. And then, I’m a Virgo, so I’m just inclined to anything aesthetically pleasing. So that part was there. I was always obsessed with shoes. I actually had a boutique for 10 years in Tucson, Arizona selling other people’s designs. Clothing, shoes and accessories.

In 2008, I stopped eating meat and decided I didn’t want to sell items made of leather or that weren’t cruelty-free. That’s when I realized there wasn’t a lot of choices. It’s either very cheaply made and it’s what I call “unintentionally vegan” just to save money, or it was Stella McCartney, which was really the only designer vegan line at that point, and that was super expensive.

When I moved to LA in 2013, I sold my online boutique and then I was like, what’s the next move? Shoes were always on my mind, but what finally pushed me was that I always wanted the Louboutin “So Kate”, but I didn’t want them in real leather. I couldn’t find any kind of good knock-off in vegan materials. So, one day I thought, “Well, I can do this. I can figure out where a factory is and get them made.” It was sort of just my own selfish need, which I suppose is how most businesses end up starting.

And I just got going from there. I found an ethical factory really quickly through family friends, and it ended up also being woman owned. And then, the first style was just that one pump, the AZAR, which was named after my grandmother. I did it in 10 colors and it was just a basic pump in the style of the Louboutin’s.

What were some of the other challenges of getting started?

Originally, I started without a proper business plan. I did a very small run of 500 pairs in 10 colors – 50 of each. And at that time – it was 2014 – the term “cruelty-free” wasn’t what it is now. It’s because of the beauty industry that it became so common. So when I would say my shoes are “vegan” or “cruelty-free” people looked at me like they didn’t get it at all.

I was really just testing the waters to even see if there was any kind of demand. And there definitely was in the vegan community, but how many fashion-conscious vegans are there who want to wear 5-inch stilettos? That’s a super niche market.

At the time, I still had other jobs. I was styling and had a lifestyle management business. So, I just sort of set the shoe idea aside, and then in 2018 I realized, I don’t like working for other people! I felt I had made the right contacts and learned a lot about the fashion industry in LA – how to deal with stylists and celebrities and by this point “cruelty-free” was a very common term, so I decided to relaunch my brand. I had a rocky start with my first campaign which was a crowdfunding campaign amongst the vegan community – I got plenty of support but no-one could work out how to purchase the shoes so I had to set up an e-commerce site with-in hours and so it became a “Pre-sale” event which was super successful and birthed my pre-sale strategy and I’ve been doing this ever since!

So, what’s the incentive of a presale?

I usually do a period where there’s a discount if you buy at the beginning of the pre-sale and we can do custom sizing. So that gets people in.
Once the shoes arrive, I usually get a small batch so if you didn’t order during the presale and we don’t have your size, it’s probably going to be gone pretty soon. This creates a sense of urgency, so most people do order during pre-sale.

Do people ask you to make bespoke shoes for them?

Yes, they do. Actually, at the very beginning before our collection was in stock Miley Cyrus’s team contacted me, and they asked for white satin shoes. They didn’t tell me what they were for, but I was like, I think she is going to get married in these, oh, my God! She was a vegan at the time. I don’t know if she is any more. But she was a big vegan and advocate for animal rights. She ended up wearing them to her wedding. We never got any pictures of her in them, the pictures they released to the press she was barefoot, but they were kind enough to mention our name to the press. We also did Leona Lewis’ wedding shoes. We have a lot of celebrities ask for Cult of Coquette shoes for different events and shoots.

Do you have a big team that you work with?

No, since COVID it’s just me! In the beginning, I had two marketing people, a publicist, and a graphic designer. It was really important in the beginning because I would’ve gone crazy and been so overwhelmed without them. There is no way I would have been able to build the foundation. I had an incredible publicist, Melanie DeFilippis (@WOM.COMMUNICATIONS), who really believed in my brand and had the same kind of work ethic and style as me. So, we had a great synergy.

I also really lucked out and found an incredible woman, Yerlin Brennes (Evrscale Media), who was still in college and building her marketing company, and just always went so above and beyond.

Because I worked with people that were so hands on and collaborative along the way, I learned enough to take it over myself.

So, let’s talk about the trend forecast now.

A really big trend is ankle straps. They’re sort of a springy ankle strap that wraps around the leg. They just look really sexy and are easy to put on and take off.

There’s a lot of new pumps with the shoestring tied up around the leg. We have one called DIANE. Which is the perfect holiday shoe.

What else? Oh, mules! We have two or three of those coming, and several from the last collection.

I’m about to do my first boot. We’ve never done a boot. The other day, I posted a fashion editorial style inspiration picture. In the photo, the model was pulling on a pair of these long black boots and everybody lost their minds. So, I reposted the shot and I said, “Would you guys buy these if we made them?”

And I got 150 people saying, “Yes
So, we’re almost done with that sample. I’ll have it next week!

Do you have a lot of competition?

No. There’s not a lot of vegan shoes. They exist but a lot of them are either sneakers or flats.

The materials are things you would assume vegan shoes are made of, like hemp or rope. They just aren’t very sexy, fashionable styles.

Of course, there’s a time and a place for those things, but I think what I wanted to make was something that felt very luxurious and high-end without that price tag. And I think Stella McCartney is probably the closest, but their price point is a lot higher whereas, we’re almost always under $200. Boots will probably be a little bit more, but for the most part all the shoes are under $200. And I think that’s a fair price point that almost anybody can afford, and yet it has the feel of a higher end shoe.

The box is really well-made with a satin dust bag inside. You get the same experience of a high-end shoe. I think that’s really important. You’re not going to get a dust bag for any shoes under $500. Those little touches really create a special experience when you receive your shoes. It’s like a gift to yourself!

Bebe, how would you describe your style?

My favorite word is CHIC!

I like a sleek look. I have always loved a good blazer. My mom always wore blazers and form fitting pants. So that’s sort of my thing. I think a good blazer makes everything look really elevated, and you can make something casual look better with a blazer over it. As far as a color palette I’m always drawn to black and nudes, but I’ve been trying to incorporate a lot more color as I’m back into Italian fashion which has so much opulence, rich colors and embellishments.

I look at a lot of the bloggers and influencers in Europe and I am really inspired by the way they mix and match colors and patterns.
When I think of Italian fashion I think of subtle sexiness, but with a lot of color, a lot of embellishment. I think my shoes are like that too.

Sexy without it being in your face – you can be covered up and still sexy. That little bit of mystery is what I like. Just one element of what you’re wearing to be exposed and everything else to be sort of covered. Like, what is sexier than wearing nothing under a blazer, and that hint of chest peeking out?

What’s the one shoe in your wardrobe that you always have, and you have it in many colors?

I think a pump. That’s why I started with a pump because it goes season-to-season. They don’t go out of style. You can do it in every color.

We re-designed the original style we made, AZAR, and re-released it when we re-launched.

It’s a lower heel, 3.5”, but the front is very low cut. It’s very comfortable, but since it’s cut low it gives the illusion of a higher heel. It’s my favorite shoe. THE most comfortable pump I’ve ever owned. I always go back to that one. And it’s always been our best seller too.

And then the new version that we have that’s been selling really well is a much higher one. That’s called Gloria. And that one I have in a number of colors. They aren’t for the faint hearted. They are high, with a thin stiletto. It’s sex in a shoe!

What has been your biggest achievement in your career so far?

Recently, I was in Italian Vogue which was actually the second time that happened. But, for some reason, the second time felt a lot more important. I don’t know why? Maybe, because my name was in it too? The first time, it just mentioned the brand. They had a list of vegan brands. But this time, they put my name in as the designer, and I was like, “Oh my God. The 13-year-old me is dying.” [laughter]

The Miley Cyrus moment was huge because it was like we didn’t even have shoes yet and they came to us. And it was just crazy and surreal. I don’t know, I think because I always wanted to be a stylist – I did styling as an assistant for a very short period, and I realized I don’t like it. It’s a lot of work without enough of the creative side I wanted to do.

But I’ve always respected stylists. I’ve always respected the behind-the-scenes person who kind of builds the celebrity’s image. And so now, getting to work with stylists, they’re the celebrity to me. That’s been really exciting.

I just love seeing what they create and choosing my shoes over all the other options. They have access to so many brands, and when mine ends up being the one they choose, it’s just – I don’t know. I pinch myself every time.

Shop here:  30% discount/ Use code:JEWELS expires January 31, 2021.

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