Derossi’s Fashion Tech: Custom Footwear with an App

Derossi Men's Option

What do you get when you combine the traditional, elegant days of custom fashion with today’s tech landscape? Derossi, a high-end Fort Wayne-based footwear and accessory line that’s marrying the custom niche market with a dazzling iPad app.

Derossi provides women and men with modern and classic footwear options that are handcrafted in Europe. Customers can choose from slipper or driver styles and, following the launch of their official app, will be able to fully customize their shoe–from the material to the color to the overall look.

Jon-Paul Capito is the man behind Derossi, which launched in 2010. His fashion industry origins entailed screenprinting shirts in his parents’ basement eight years ago. He later started a golf apparel line for men.

“I wanted to find a niche in the apparel world,” he said. “After I got started there, I realized my calling was more toward customization.”

He began specializing in measuring individuals in their homes and offices for a true custom experience. Derossi’s roots was actually in shirts, the result of Capito noticing men were seeking slim-fit shirts but often found they were too tight in stores.

“All I wanted to do was really specialize in the actual customization of not only fit, but style, for gentleman to be able to get the perfect casual shirt, to get the perfect business shirt,” he explained. “Sometimes when you go shopping, you settle with what’s off the rack and by getting a service where someone comes to you, then offers you all of the fabric choices and style options, it really makes a lot of sense to dive into a program like this.”

The shift to shoes came about through a supplier connection who mentioned a friend in the footwear industry. Capito reached out to them.

“At first they were very plain vanilla,” he said of their style options. Initially, the company wasn’t interested in pursuing custom orders, but a second meeting presenting the capabilities of an iPad app changed their minds.

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“They quickly caught onto my concept and definitely wanted to make this work, just because of the ability to market and spread this particular type of manufacturing,” Capito explained. “When it’s an application it can be downloaded for free by anybody on the iTunes store and everybody can make their own shoes on their own time and the order can go straight to the factory.”

When it came to developing the app, Capito enlisted the help of a company in Spain that specializes in the footwear market. Most of their prior work involved athletic shoes, but Derossi’s casual footwear required a more detailed app.

“All of these different fabrics have different textures, and we wanted to be able to really show the customer what a shoe in this particular blue linen would look like,” he said.

The customer is able to see the textures and shading, as well as spin the shoe 360 degrees for a full picture of what it will look like. “It’s about as real as it gets,” said Capito.

The app is currently about 90% complete with a goal to launch in March. Right now the biggest part to work out involves shipping charges and specifications based on the two separate factory locations, one being in Spain and the other in Italy.

Interested in the shoes, but worried about fit? Starting in May, Derossi will be hosting a series of trunk shows in various cities. The shows, similar to pop-up shops, will allow customers to see the various styles, feel the materials, and get a custom fit profile that will let them know exactly what to order when they’re ready.

“Obviously we’re taking a different approach to traditional start-up apparel companies, where most make samples and then they go to tradeshow and hope that they get orders,” Capito said. “For us, we wanted to try to keep everything internal and market our product in a more intimate way, where we’re still able to go to the clients and offer that wonderful service.”

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