High heels are known for making a stylish statement. But they’re not known for being comfortable. As a result, many people buying shoes feel like they have to make a choice between comfort and style. 

Pashion Footwear is trying to change that. The company has invented a removable sole support mechanism that allows high heels to be transformed into flats. Its shoes are stylish, easy to walk in, and more cushioned than a standard heel or flat. We spoke with Pashion Footwear founder Haley Pavone to learn more about the company’s technology and early traction. 

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Funding Round Details

Pashion Footwear logo
Company: Pashion Footwear
Security Type: Convertible Note
Valuation: $20,000,000
Min Investment: $200
Platform: StartEngine
Deadline: Jun 28, 2023
View Deal

In your own words, how would you describe your company?

Pashion is a revolutionary footwear company pioneering an entirely new category in the space — fully convertible heels. Our utility patented design allows a consumer to turn a stylish high heel into a comfortable flat by removing the heel itself. You can also repeatedly customize our shoes, dressing them up or down for any occasion with our line of swappable heel accessories (ranging from 1.5-inch blocks up to 4-inch stilettos). Our business is backed by the core belief that the “beauty is pain” mindset that has been marketed to women for centuries is archaic and long overdue for an exit. We believe that women should be able to look good and feel good, without compromise.

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

I have seven people on my team, including myself — as well as an all-star board of directors. My chief operating officer, Jessica Norman, has more than 15 years of experience in the consumer goods industry at big names like Beach Riot, Billabong, and Ralph Lauren. Serial entrepreneur Forrest Fleming serves on our board — specializing in creating, funding, and executing business plans to commercialize innovation (most recently serving as founder/CEO at TrueVision Surgical, which was acquired by Alcon). Gabriella Liotta brings incredible brand management expertise to the team, having held executive roles in business development/commercial strategy at Nike, Ralph Lauren, Authentic Brands Group, and currently U.S. Major League Soccer.

How is your product different from what is already on the market besides the removable heel?

Our product has three main areas of innovation for the industry. First, and most obviously, the convertible heel technology — allowing for a heel to transform to a flat. 

The second innovation revolves around the materials and manufacturing methods used to make our design possible. Of course, any other heel on the market does not go seamlessly flat when the heel is removed. This is because every other heel on the market is made of compressed wood fiber with a permanently affixed metal rod screwed into the sole (no wonder they hurt!). For our midsole, we use an injection-molding process borrowed from the athletic footwear space — allowing not only for the needed flexibility, but also three times more cushion than your standard heel and over two times more durability (think: a sneaker midsole in a heel!). 

Lastly, we had an unexpected realization during product development. Since the heels are already designed to come off, we figured, why not make them swappable? All of our heel kits are interchangeable onto any shoe — allowing the customer to customize her look over and over with a variety of different heel shapes, heights, and designs. 

Combined, these three innovations allow us to pioneer two new categories in the women’s footwear space: (1) convertible footwear (2) customizable accessories. This new technology provides women versatility unmatched by any other player in the space. 

You have just seen three months of profitability. What contributed to this early success?

We are so proud to have seen first profits so early in our journey — which is very rare for a consumer direct-to-consumer brand. This is due to four main factors: 

  1. The unique margin profile of our heel kit accessory business. Our accessories are strictly an upsell business (think: the razor/razorblade model of shoes) — bolstering margins due to the minimal marketing needed to repeat customers. We see 69% to 90% margins on our various accessories, which is a very novel profile for the footwear category. 
  2. The inherent visual/viral nature of our product. When a customer takes off her heel at a wedding in front of women whose feet are hurting in normal heels, they take notice. Similarly, women who see a heel being swapped out on a shoe on social media immediately stop scrolling. We have been able to capture repeatable virality and organic, grassroots word of mouth due to this inherent nature of the product. By doing so, we see more than 80% of our business coming to us completely organically — reducing the need for big marketing budgets typically seen in the fashion industry.
  3. Smart supply chain practices. We identified an opportunity to move our warehousing from California to Canada. In doing so, we do not incur any import duty on our products — saving us anywhere from 12% to 45% per shoe. 
  4. Industry-leading consumer loyalty. We have found that we are really changing the way women buy and experience their shoes — actually changing their daily behavior. In the past, women would end up barefoot, lug around backup shoes, or just suffer through high heel pain. Once they try Pashion, they develop the new habit of simply removing their heel when they no longer want it – or swapping it to a new height/style to better suit their current need. Once they are used to this value on one pair of shoes, they desire the same versatility from every shoe in their closet. Given that our tech is only on the bottom of the shoe, we are not limited stylistically — with our line currently including sandals, boots, pumps, slides, etc. Women are coming back, on average, within 52 days of their first purchase to buy their next pair and start building out their collection. Due to this, 25% to 35% of our monthly business, on average, is supported by repeat customers.

If we talk again in 12 months, what milestones will you have achieved?

In 12 months, we will be launched into a major U.S. retailer. We will have grown our bridal ambassador program, which is novel in itself and highly profitable — activating the bride as a salesperson to her entire captive guestlist audience, to an excess of 5,000 brides. We will be posting consistent monthly EBITDA profits and will be continuing to release seasonal lines of our game-changing designs (including key development milestones such as knee-high boots and wide widths).

What is the biggest lesson that you learned in your journey as an entrepreneur?

I have learned that any time you have a product that isn’t being created by the end user, there is a natural opportunity for disruption. I am frequently asked why this technology hasn’t existed before. Something I have been consistently surprised by while building Pashion is the sheer lack of women in executive leadership roles in the broader women’s fashion industry. Decision makers in the space aren’t actually wearing the product on a daily basis. What sets Pashion apart is that our female-founded, female-led, and 85% female team is able to bring our actual, lived experiences with our footwear into our development process. That allows us to have a very unique perspective on what the consumer actually wants. The consumer of today is not caught up in shoes as an “emotional” purchase, as the fashion industry would like you to believe. We are demanding actual function, versatility, and convenience from our products — without sacrificing style. That is exactly what we are bringing to the market.

As you think about the business five to 10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

It is incredibly rare to have utility intellectual property (IP) in the fashion space. Typically the industry players compete with each other season over season for who has the best designs — and then the loser knocks off the winner, and the cycle goes round and round. The fact that we are able to bring an entirely new value to the consumer that pioneers a whole new category, that we own courtesy of our issued patents, is wildly desirable for a potential acquirer. If I had to guess, we will be acquired for our IP and captive category segment in the future.

We look forward to seeing where Haley and her team take the company. Pashion Footwear is currently raising on StartEngine.