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My Fashion Life: Emmanuel Eribo & Philippe Homsy, Butterfly Twists co-founders on turning a concept into a brand

Two of the four co-founders of footwear brand Butterfly Twists discuss staying young and hungry and being inspired by the Rubin family.

Having met at university, Butterfly Twists co-founders Emmanuel Eribo & Philippe Homsy tell Drapers how they took an idea after a night out and transformed it into a thriving footwear business.

How did Butterfly Twists begin?

Philippe Homsy I went to university with co-founders Emmanuel [Eribo] and Mark [Quaradeghini]. The fourth co-founder, Frank Eribo, is Emmanuel’s brother. One night, we all went to a fancy dress party and, after losing a bet, one of us (I can’t reveal who) had to dress as a woman – including a pair of high heels. During the night, that person felt what most women feel most nights - their feet were killing them! And that’s how Butterfly Twists was born.

Did any of you have experience in the footwear industry?

PH Not at all. We were four guys who knew nothing about footwear. We spent a year learning as much as we could - going to workshops, visiting stores. The exciting part was that, because we had no experience, we had no qualms about what you could and couldn’t do. 

In 2009, we ordered 30,000 pieces in one colour from China, got them shipped to the UK and sold them online. Through word of mouth and a bit of PR we sold 25,000 pairs in two and a half months.

How has the brand evolved since then?

Emmanuel Eribo It started as a concept, an idea. We now have a footwear business. Back then, you had value retailers selling £6 ballet pumps and premium retailers selling them for £150 to £200. There was a gap in the market for £30 to £70 quality products. We compare ourselves to the equivalent of Toms or Havaianas – a mass-market footwear, predominantly ballerina, brand. We concentrate on getting the design right – and when people look great and feel great, it’s the perfect combination.

Describe the brand in three words.

EE Feminine. Confident. Free.

Where is your biggest market?

PH We originally found that Asia took to the brand. In the UK we initially launched exclusively with Office two years ago, and we are now also stocked in Sole Trader and a few online partners. We just launched with Nordstrom in the US and we are in discussions with Macy’s. It’s about growing the brand in the right way and keeping the brand position.

Who is the Butterfly Twists customer?

EE Urban. 25-35. Busy, social, active. She knows that she needs us.

Who would you like to see wearing Butterfly Twists?

EE Our choices are the obvious – Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Suki Waterhouse, Cara Delevingne. Reality TV stars are not the way to go for us – I respect The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea but our customer is smarter than that.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?

PH To stay young and hungry. Every day, you encounter a new obstacle that you have to overcome and there’s always a solution but sometimes it’s not easy to get over that hurdle.

EE I agree 100%. That’s what we’re looking for when employing people – there are loads of smart people out there and loads that have done it before but if they are not hungry – which I think is a massive driving force – then it just doesn’t work.

What are your favourite footwear styles?

PH For me its trainers. I love how now it’s become acceptable to wear trainers with everything.

EE I’m probably six months in flip-flops and six months in Oliver Sweeney’s. They are British, niche, cool and very much know who they are as a brand.

If you could walk in anyone’s footsteps, who would it be?

PH We were fortunate enough to meet Stephen Rubin [founder of Pentland Group]. He was such an inspirational character, so humble. He doesn’t shout about his greatness, you have to go away and read about it but he’s as absolute gentleman.

EE And obviously Andy [Rubin, son of Stephen] has come on and is exactly the same. What the Rubin family have done is incredible. Another person who is really inspiring to me is Horst Dassler who is the son of the founder of Adidas. He is an incredible businessman and made Adidas what it is today. The scale of what he has done is incredible.

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