TAFT Shoe Display

TAFT Founder Kory Stevens Discusses the Footwear Brand’s Early Beginnings, New Philly Location and More

As temperatures continue to drop, boots, sneakers, and shoes are wardrobe must-haves to keep your feet warm. If you’re in the market for a new pair of designer footwear for the fall and winter, it’s worth taking a look at some of the offerings from a fashion brand called TAFT.

Founded in 2013, the company went from starting in a two-bedroom apartment in Utah to growing to now five locations between New York, Dallas, Houston and its newly opened storefront in Philadelphia. In 2018, the Fast Company reported that NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Andre Iguadala were such fans of the brand that they contributed to a $5 million round in seed funding.

With TAFT’s ever-growing customer base and influence in the fashion world, founder Kory Stevens spoke with us about the inspiration behind the footwear label, the level of craftsmanship that goes into each piece and what makes this brand stand out.

On TAFT’s Early Beginnings:

Kory and Mallory Stevens
Kory and Mallory Stevens (Courtesy of TAFT)

“My wife and I got married when I was still in college. When I was about to graduate, I didn’t get any job offers and we were expecting our first child, so the pressure was high and I felt like I needed to do something to make some money.

“Thankfully, we had the idea to start a men’s no-show sock company and did so via Kickstarter. About a year and half later, we transitioned into shoes and haven’t looked back.

So it originally started out of necessity honestly, but has now blossomed into a desire to change the footwear industry and offer something really unique. The business is named after our oldest child so it’s always been about family and people.”

On the Production Process Behind the Footwear:

“When we first started, I knew I wanted quality to be a big thing for us. I just would never be able to really push sales if I knew the product could be better and I didn’t want to spend my time selling something I didn’t truly believe in. So from the get-go, I looked to Europe for shoe factories. The birthplace of great shoes. Thankfully, we found an amazing factory in Spain that was willing to take a shot with an unknown brand.

“We actually still use them to this day. The process all kind of starts in my little design studio. Searching all over the world for unique materials that would work on footwear. All of our materials hand-cut in the factories, which allows us to use the best pieces of the leather and textiles instead of machines that will just cut anything.

“The artisans in our workshops have been doing this for decades and are just the most wonderful people. We have our providers and sources audited each year to make sure we are meeting certain quality and workplace standards. There’s just a level of artisanship and craft that goes into our shoes that is missing in a lot of factories I have visited. It’s a special place and I feel lucky we make our products where we do.”

On the Brand’s Bold Styles and Designs:

“Our shoes are very bold, unique, and really built to stand out. That being said, these are built for daily wear. Of course we have a lot of customers that buy a pair for a wedding or graduation or interview but the majority of our customers just want to introduce or keep a bit of flair in their daily style.

“When the quality is there, you can wear them however you would like and they will be up for it. Some of our styles are targeted more towards special events and occasions but the majority of our stuff is just meant for work, school, the office, a date with your special someone.

“Just those normal things where you want to make sure you look good from head to toe. As for maintenance and care, these materials are more resilient than people think they are. Our shoes aren’t particularly high maintenance or difficult. When you source great raw materials, then they are up to the task of daily wear and tear.”

On Their New Philly Location & the Pandemic:

“We’ve witnessed the growth of a high concentration of customers in cities like Philadelphia, and are now able to provide them with an in-real-life and omnichannel experience. When we dreamed up TAFT in our living room, we had big ambitions, and having our own store was absolutely one of them. Seeing our products displayed on shelves and in the hands of our customers is literally a dream come true. We are so excited to be in Philadelphia and open our fourth store in the TAFT retail portfolio.

“Early on, COVID put a real pressure on our supply chain. We had factories getting shut down. Shipments not leaving the hubs. Materials not arriving at the factory. Providers going out of business. It was tough.

“But we coped and we adapted and we learned. I am happy to say that we had a very successful 2020 and we are currently having our best year ever in 2021. Our team has always been scrappy and creative and the pandemic has really put all of us through a major test. Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, our amazing team has impressed time and time again.”

The interior of TAFT Philadelphia
The interior of TAFT Philadelphia (Courtesy of TAFT)

On What’s Next for TAFT:

“We have great products coming down the pipeline. The pandemic has allowed me more time to design and get creative. We have our first brand collaborations in the works coming this Fall. With the pandemic, a lot of our suppliers got better about being digital and we were able to develop and source some really amazing materials that will be featured in our new releases.

“A lot to look forward to. We are so excited to introduce Philly to what we have to offer.”

On What Makes the Brand Stand Out:

“I think what makes TAFT stand out the most is the product and our relationship with our customers. We make product that you just can’t find anywhere else in the footwear industry. When someone is wearing TAFT, you know it pretty much immediately.

“Secondly, and probably more important, is our relationship with our customers. Since the beginning, we have always been very personal and transparent and real with our customers. We operate like the little mom and pop shop on the corner that you used to go to as a kid.

I want to make sure we keep that feel forever.”

Where to Purchase

You can visit TAFT’s Philly location at 1527 Walnut Street Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm and on Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm. Plus, you can shop their styles starting at $225 on their website (taftclothing.com). Be sure to follow them on Facebook (@taftclothing) and Instagram (@taft) to be in the know for new releases, sales and more!

(Featured image credit: TAFT)

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