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The Drapers Interview- Lele PyP

We caught up with one of the winners from the design categories at the Drapers Footwear & Accessories Awards 2014 in May to find out how they plan to capitalise on their success.

Footwear family: the signature high heels and woven ankle boots, the Mayfair store, and Samantha, Bernardo and Stephanie Müller Knab

Footwear family: Samantha, Bernardo and Stephanie Müller Knab

Lele Pyp
Footwear Designer of the Year

When Swiss footwear brand Lele PyP was victorious at this year’s awards it didn’t just triumph over its rivals, it piqued the interest of potential investors keen to help take it to the next level. A deal has yet to be signed, but its founders hope a cash injection will help boost its wholesale and retail businesses and help with sourcing and product development.

“We are just starting to talk to the [potential investors], because they are interested in helping us grow the business. It’s fantastic for us and exactly what we need to develop further,” says co-owner Bernardo Müller Knab, a business administration graduate who previously worked for Adidas and Brazilian sports fashion group Dass. Today he oversees the back-office operations at Lele PyP, including logistics, negotiating with suppliers, finance, finding new stores and drawing up contracts.

He founded the brand in 2008 with sisters Stephanie, who is creative director, and Samantha, who oversees the retail arm, which consists of two Swiss stores and one in the UK. Stephanie Müller Knab studied fashion design in London and Zurich and it was when she graduated that the three founded the business. “We’re obviously biased as siblings, but Samantha and I were always impressed by Stephanie’s creations and decided we needed to turn the brand into a reality,” says Bernardo.

For Samantha, there was a clear gap in the market for the collection, which is all made in Italy: “We were looking to find shoes in the market that were not only special in terms of design but also comfortable and wearable, but couldn’t find them. That was what we wanted to create.”

With wholesale prices from around £75 for a simple flat sandal to £200 for an ankle boot, signature styles include woven ankle boots and plastic high heels with the brand’s signature curved outsole. New styles for spring 15 can be personalised for shoppers in a selection of colours and prints.

The trio’s faith in the brand’s potential has paid off. After launching for autumn 09 they opened their first store in Zürich the same year, followed by a second in the city in 2011, and then a third on Stafford Street in London’s Mayfair last year. They are reluctant to reveal turnover, but do say that during the first half of this year the brand has posted a high single-digit year-on-year growth.

The business is 90% retail, but Müller Knabs hope to shift the balance to 30% wholesale within three years. They also plan to launch a transactional website next year. “We haven’t done that because we are a small team of three and self-financed, so we have to go step by step and get things right, rather than doing too many things at the same time. But it is on our radar and that is the strategy for the future growth of the brand,” says Bernardo.

Lele PyP has yet to score its first wholesale account in the UK - it already has stockists in Japan, the Middle East, France and Switzerland - but Bernardo says this is because the brand hasn’t yet focused on growing this area. “We are starting to work with a consultant [the contract has yet to be signed, so he can’t name them] who has vast experience and has worked for some famous brands, so we are looking to the future,” he explains.

“The idea is to add more stores, but also set up the wholesale structure and then focus on specific retailers, such as department stores. So that is the two main ways we want to go. We want to go multichannel, and online will be another aspect of our growth strategy.

“We know it takes a lot of time to build up the online presence and a lot of money, so the whole marketing budget must grow and in this sense we are really looking forward to getting to an agreement with some of the potential investors we are starting to talk to, so we can boost our budget and push the growth.”

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