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Vass discontinuing US sales?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by kabert, Apr 6, 2005.

  1. kabert

    kabert Well-Known Member

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  2. lisapop

    lisapop Well-Known Member

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    If Vass is losing demand at the retail level, perhaps they can concentrate on a direct approach in the US, certainly facilitated by the Internet. While I am admiring of the workmanship of Vass and their adherence to old-world techniques, nevertheless the signature Vass designs for the most part are an acquired taste.  Additionally, a lot of guys want bragging rights to boast that their shoes are made in England or Italy.  Hungary just doesn't enjoy the same cache, unless you're talking about goulash.
    Grayson
     
  3. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Well-Known Member

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    I think you've hit the nail on the head, Marc. Vass needs to have some middle ground between the U-last and the Laslo and Budapest lasts -- something that has a reasonably discreet toe area, but is more gentle and less elongated than the U-last. I thought the P2 was at least moving in this direction, though I've seen it only in pictures. Allowing direct orders online could definitely increase market share, as the price would be much lower -- why can't it sell shoes on the Net for the prices that they would command in Budapest itself? Vass reps could facilitate trunk shows, regular MTM, and perhaps even bespoke (depending on whether Vass could hire out trusted cobblers on a semi-regular basis) at places like Louis and NM.
     
  4. lisapop

    lisapop Well-Known Member

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    I'm just guessing, but another obstacle Vass might have faced with Louis Boston and other stores is the wait time for their shoes.  Vass shoes are made slowly and carefully, one at a time, which is a process that does not lend itself to the instant gratification tendencies of many Americans.  Vass might have generated demand at Louis and elsewhere, however Vass might not have been able to fulfill demand quickly enough.  Sometimes, it's well worth the wait. By the way, Vass's East Coast manager, Gabor, is a real good guy.
    Grayson
     
  5. kabert

    kabert Well-Known Member

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    Does anyone know if Vass are/were sold anywhere in the US other than Louis Boston and Sky Valet?
     
  6. imageWIS

    imageWIS Well-Known Member

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    Yes, at the Regency hotel, but only for a few days [​IMG] . Jon.
     
  7. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Well-Known Member

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    Somewhere in the Bay Area, I think. A. Harris noted this in an old post.
     
  8. von Rothbart

    von Rothbart Well-Known Member

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    I believe it's Wilkes Bashford.
     
  9. tattersall

    tattersall Well-Known Member

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    No, Wilkes doesn't carry them. I believe the store in question is in Carmel or Monterey and A Harris was working on getting them to stock Vass. Don't know if he had success or not.
     
  10. A Harris

    A Harris Well-Known Member

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    Well, I suppose it's good that I'm late to this party, so I can set all the speculation to rest all in one go:

    Vass is certainly not going out of business in the US, though it does seem that Sky Valet will no longer be taking orders. I have not spoken with Sky Valet, nor have we been able to talk with Vass Budapest about it as of yet, so I cannot say for certain why this is the case.

    To hazard a guess, I would say it is very likely a pricing issue - Sky Valet is an old account and their prices are far below current market value. Think about it, completely handmade shoes at retail for $650?? What would you think if you saw Silvano Lattanzi selling for $650? That is 25% lower than what they are charging for Edward Green, and roughly equal to the Grensons sold at Paul Stuart. Yet Vass shoes are the finest quality ready-to-wear shoes in the world - the labor, care and skill that goes into making a pair far exceeds that required to produce Northampton's best. (I'm not saying that Vass has no equals, just that there is absolutely no such thing as a shoe that is MORE handmade.) Vass at Louis retailed for $850-$1200 (with the exception of the shell cordovan boots at $2000) which was still an extremely reasonable price point. The same as John Lobb RTW  for instance, which is not even a handmade shoe. At Louis prices, Vass is the Oxxford of shoes - the absolute best quality at a very reasonable price. Vass at $650 a pair is comparable to a retailer offering Oxxford for the price of a Canali - it is just not realistic.

    So, as of this moment, there are no sale points in the US. Gabor and I are both working to find suitable stores to cary the line. Please understand that there are very few stores in the US who are willing or capable of selling shoes at this price point. To illustrate, Wilkes Bashford is not interested in the line because of the price point. Most all their shoes sell for $400-$600, with a few John Lobb models and some alligator shoes as the only exceptions. You gentlemen can help us in this respect, if you want to buy Vass shoes, let the best store in your area know about it..
       
    In reponse to various other comments:

    Louis Boston - they bought a mix of the more conservative models, and models on the more fashion forward U-last. The conservative models sold very well, in fact they re-ordered the oxblood loafers on the Peter last and the shell cordovan wingtips, and maybe one other model I think. People loved the U last shoes but they did not sell as well as the others. Louis was really only interested in selling the fashion forward shoes - combine that with the fact that they are quite famous for moving on to new lines, and you now have Boston without Vass. Louis is truly a pioneer in this business, it was an honor working with them.  
     
    Wait time - I agree with Marc that many people don't like waiting for their shoes. With Vass, the wait is less than just about every other top end company on the market, substantially so in some cases, but one still has to wait, and it's worth it.

    Storefront - I know it is Gabor's hope that a Vass store in NY will someday be a reality, but that is still future.

    Actually, I'm fairly certain that they dropped Lattanzi because the prices went too high in the end, and the shoes were not selling...

    We have several lasts that fit this bill - the R, the Peter, the P2, even the Banana. But in my experience, retailers are not interested in a line that looks like everything else, they want something distinctive, which is why you usually see Vass shoes made on the Budapest or U lasts.

    I know this sounds good, but it is not feasible. Vass shoes are a phenomenal bargain in Budapest, that is true. But there, you are buying directly from the manufacturer, and you have also paid for the trip, so you really have not saved anything... To offer them in the US or on the net, at Budapest prices would mean personal financial ruin and devaluation of the brand, which is not exactly what we as reps are going for...

    Here in the US, promoting Vass has been a real labor of love for Gabor and I. We are selling these shoes because we believe in them. As it stands, it is the rare man that appreciates a ready-to-wear shoe that is made with all the care and skill of top bespoke, a work of art for your feet. Gabor and I have this appreciation, and we hope to eventually change things so that an appreciation for the very best in footwear becomes more mainstream.  

    Here on the forum, we have twice offered shoes for extremely reasonable prices, at times when we did not have any retail accounts.  Why? The answer is simple - it was an innovative way to promote the Vass name. What could be better than Vass shoes on the feet of extremely well dressed men who spend hours passionately discussing the intricacies and joys of the world's best clothing..  

    JohnnyNorman3 brings up another interesting point, that of special orders. It must be understood that it takes a shoemaker considerably longer to make ten pairs of special order shoes than it does to make a store order of a size range, all in the same style/color. Probably 20% or so longer I would guess. Combine that with the fact the skilled shoemakers are an extremely rare breed, and it makes no sense for a workshop to make special orders the primary focus of their business. Vass has a very limited annual production, and all the orders that they can handle. If a store is a good customer in the sense that they frequently stock shoes in a range of sizes and style, Vass will accomodate them as respects special orders. But a special-order only approach would not be welcome.
             
    I hope that answered everbody's questions, if you have others, feel free to contact me.
     
  11. Carlo

    Carlo Well-Known Member

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    We need a webcam so everyone can see me standing and clapping at Mr. Harris' response.
     
  12. alchimiste

    alchimiste Well-Known Member

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    A webcam would catch me working (otherwise I am not gonna be able to afford such shoes before I die).
     
  13. lisapop

    lisapop Well-Known Member

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    A challenge for any retailer, no matter how high end, is representing Vass with an intimate knowledge of the shoes, the proper amount of dedication, and PASSION for the product.  See my comments in another thread on why Edward Green did not work out for Oxxford's NY store.  Many on this forum could sell Vass shoes more effectively and successfully (Apart from A Harris and Gabor, of course) than the vast majority of retailers in America.
    Grayson
     
  14. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Well-Known Member

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    Agreed with A. Harris and Grayson.

    Having seen Vass quality first hand, it can only be a matter of time until they are back with US accounts. I'd put money on that.
     
  15. discostu004

    discostu004 Well-Known Member

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    yo, did you call Korshak? i know you did initially, but they really should pick up a new line. they have the lattanzi, mantellassi and artioli, and now lobb, so maybe that IS a lot, but they don't own the mantellassi and i have a feeling they don't do too well w/ artioli, but they did mention they MIGHT consider kiton shoes
    shoot me an email if you want, and i can put you in touch with the owner if you want
     
  16. lisapop

    lisapop Well-Known Member

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    Vass could be the crown jewel for Ron Rider at Franco's.
    Grayson
     
  17. kabert

    kabert Well-Known Member

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    Having seen Vass at Sky Valet, I would think a retailer would be advised to pick 2 of the lasts and stick with those, say the U-last and the Peter or P2 last. Much beyond that and it gets confusing to the consumer (and perhaps to the salesstaff too). Perhaps they should follow the Berluti route and only recommend people with certain width feet to certain lasts. For example, I would think that the U-last is best fit on those feet narrower than E-width.
     
  18. Mike C.

    Mike C. Well-Known Member

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    Harris; have you talked with Adam Derrick or Saks. With former Bergdorf CEO Ron Frash now at Saks, they're looking to up quality and exclusivity. Maybe this is an opportunity for Vass.
     
  19. matadorpoeta

    matadorpoeta Well-Known Member

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    in a worse case scenario, how would vass lose money by selling their shoes on their own website? if they can sell them for US $500 in their store, what would stop them from selling them for the same price online? they are not making anything off the price of the plane ticket.
     
  20. Mike C.

    Mike C. Well-Known Member

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    Handmade shoes, at least in Vass' case, doesn't seem scaleable. I couldn't image what would happen if they get hit with 500 internet orders.

    Also, it looks as if they are spending all their resources expanding their wholesale end rather than the retail side.
     

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