Modern Fashion: Michael Strauss of Strauss and Ramm On The 5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today
An Interview With Candice Georgiadice
You need to have some individuality and know what sets your brand apart. For us, I think it’s our comfort within the shoes. You need to have a unique look and the customers have to like what they’re buying, and I think we have that down with the styling. People need to feel good in your shoes and have to identify with the branding and want to wear the brand, because a lot of times people are buying the “brand” and not necessarily the product. So that’s something to keep that in mind when you’re marketing the shoes. You need to have a great team like designers, technicians, and marketing team to make it go round.
Many in the fashion industry have been making huge pivots in their business models. Many have turned away from the fast fashion trend. Many have been focusing on fashion that also makes a social impact. Many have turned to sustainable and ethical sourcing. Many have turned to hi tech manufacturing. Many have turned to subscription models. What are the other trends that we will see in the fashion industry? What does it take to lead a successful fashion brand today?
Well, I’ll start at the end. To be able to lead a successful fashion brand today you need to have a product that’s different, and in today’s world, everyone has visibility to copy everybody else and it’s really about what makes your product different and what white space you can fill that’s not already being maximized. Regarding our product and what we do to make it different and sustainable, we put coconut shavings in our footbeds. That’s just one step that we do, but obviously we want to do more and find new ways to help the environment. Everything comes at a cost, and I think it’s more of something that the industry needs to do together rather than one by one. It has to be a collective thing.
In our series called, “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today” we are talking to successful leaders of fashion brands who can talk about the Future of Fashion and the 5 things it takes to lead a successful fashion brand in our “new normal.”
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Michael Strauss.
Michael Strauss is an entrepreneur born and raised in Key Biscayne, Florida. He was an athlete all throughout college, but always knew he wanted to be part of the fashion industry. Strauss launched his business ‘Strauss and Ramm’ in 2020, inspired by his upbringing in Florida. With fashion constantly in motion, the brand continues to evolve and keeps up with the latest trends every male consumer is looking for.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was born and raised in Key Biscayne, Florida and I was a football player my whole life playing at the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond. I grew up around the shoe business and I always knew that was what I would do. Other than that, I enjoy my time boating in Miami and I love it here and will probably be here forever.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path
What led me to this career path was growing up in it and valuing family business. It’s more than shoes to me. It’s more like the family’s legacy. That’s what really led me to this business, but on top of that, I’ve always had a liking for shoes and I’ve always cared about fashion and fast fashion. If you go back to the beginning, you can see how much things have changed. People care more about comfort now more so than they do about fashion, but they kind of what a mix of both. That’s what excited me too because I’ve kind of experienced that myself graduating from fast fashion and caring more about comfort.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story that has happened since I began my career probably has to be how covid affected my Men’s line. I always had the idea to do the Men’s line, and I had already built a good business for the Women’s line with the buyer at Nordstrom rack at the time. During the pandemic, there was a lot of changes with people being fired, laid off and so on. So, I was able to get my orders for the brand to jump start it and all of the orders ended up getting cancelled two weeks later. They basically pulled the rug and I thought I was all but done at that point because I needed a partner to launch the brand with, or else I would have had to invest a lot more money into the brand marketing wise. When things opened up, he actually called me and told me that he had gotten promoted to head buyer at Nordstrom full price stores. So what was originally going to start off as a more off price channel distribution with more synthetic materials ended up becoming a 25 store launch with Nordstrom using genuine materials. That was pretty interesting because we went from almost not having a brand to being better than what we were before.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Communication is obviously key and the number one trait. That all comes from my football history. Playing quarterback is a lot of play calling and telling everyone what they have to do, so it was kind of a natural transition for me. You also have to be tenacious and relentless. You have to be able to keep going when things don’t look the best. We’re very dependent on our partners and when the talks of the economy, recession, and covid start looming you have to be able to keep at it and keep knocking on doors. You also have to be humble. Your ego can get you hurt. You can invest a lot of money into an idea that you think is amazing and others may not think it’s as good. So just keep a level head and stay humble and things will usually work themselves out.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’ve identified key silhouettes that we think are commercial yet fashionable. At the same time, we think the comfort side of it really makes us stand out. We took the component of our women’s shoes that makes them so comfortable and put that into our men’s shoes and it’s worked. The price point also makes the shoes special, being under $100 and not passing on a lot of the costs we endure to the customer rather than just building a brand and a customer base and worrying about that later on.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
One quote that comes to mind is one that my mom always tells me. “If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.” That’s kind of been my thing. Always stay prepared whether it was for football, film studies, or knowing everything about the stores I deal with. I’m almost annoying with these people.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
There’s a lot. You know there’s some brands that go against every fashionable person’s beliefs but then at the same time we see designers wearing those styles. I think it’s exciting that these brands can collaborate, and it comes to show that anyone will wear anything in today’s world. I also think it’s great what a lot of these brands and companies are doing with the sustainability factor and I like how a lot of things have moved away from leather and synthetic leather to more fabrics like knit materials and athletic materials. And I think that even though dress shoes are ramping back up there’s still a huge push on casual and comfortable shoes while still being fashionable.
Can you share how your brand is helping to bring goodness to the world?
We offer a value to the customer. Today with everything that’s going on, a lot of people are having to deal with cost raises and by our brands offering an affordable product we can help out these people in a way. We offer them an affordable, comfortable, and high-quality product.
Can you share with our readers about the ethical standards you use when you choose where to source materials?
First off, we do not deal with any of the regions in China that have history with child labor, and there are certain areas that produce cotton and we do not use any cotton in our shoes. We have a lot of things in place so that we do not produce or buy products and materials from any areas that are banned from the US. Our factories are audited and checked on and we have a team in China that manages all of this. Having boots on the ground there is extremely important because if you don’t have boots on the ground, you don’t know what they’re giving you and you have to trust and outside source instead of trusting your own personnel.
Fast fashion has an advantage, that it is affordable for most people, but it also has the drawback that it does not last very long and is therefore not very sustainable. What are your thoughts about this? How does your company address this question?
Fast fashion is usually poor quality, and people want to wear it for only a season. How have we addressed that? We’ve taken the fast fashion looks and maybe commercialized them a little bit. Maybe instead of doing a 5-inch platform well do a 2–3-inch platform, but we’re still hitting the platform trend. And then adding all our comfort features to it like our contoured footbed insoles and keeping that consistent. We offer the fast fashion look at around the fast fashion price but much higher quality. We have that value niche that not a lot of people do. Not a lot of people can afford to live there so they charge more because they need to cover their costs, or they charge less because the product is actually no good.
Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand”. Please share a story or example for each.
You need to have some individuality and know what sets your brand apart. For us, I think it’s our comfort within the shoes. You need to have a unique look and the customers have to like what they’re buying, and I think we have that down with the styling. People need to feel good in your shoes and have to identify with the branding and want to wear the brand, because a lot of times people are buying the “brand” and not necessarily the product. So that’s something to keep that in mind when you’re marketing the shoes. You need to have a great team like designers, technicians, and marketing team to make it go round. There are times where you might get 4–5 shoe samples sent from China and 4/5 times they need corrections, and I may know about those corrections, but the designers may not know the corrections when getting down to the nitty gritty. You also need to have leadership and direction. You have to know where you’re going and where you want to go, because without a plan, you don’t really know what you want to do with the shoes. So a plan can develop and our plans are developing every day because there’s two ways you can do it: you can invest millions of dollars into an idea or you can slow play and get a feel for who your customer is and we’ve been lucky enough to be able to start small and grow.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
I think the fashion industry can improve itself by buying less low-quality footwear. This low-quality product is no good for the environment and no good for the customer because the shoes tend to fall apart and are not comfortable. I think there’s people like us and other people out there that can provide better products at similar values for consumers. I think a lot of the product that’s out there at lower price points or ever higher price points is marketed at that price because of the name or who they are. The fashion industry needs focus more on making sure the customer is getting a decent product for what they are paying rather than just throwing everything at the wall. And obviously, the sustainability aspect. If you do put more restrictions on sustainability, you will organically cancel out the low guys because they won’t be able to compete. Their prices will go up and you eliminate those people
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I think that more and more companies should charge the true value and true price of shoes. Fair value and not steal basically. A lot of these companies are “stealing” _from their customers in a sense. They portray an image of who they are when they really aren’t that person at all. They portray the image of beautiful designs and great quality and then you get the shoes and they fall apart. People should own up to what they make and identify if they’re selling bad shoes or not and do what they can do to make them a little nicer, like don’t cut corners because at the end of the day the more they cut corners, the more people like us benefit because they’ll stay away from those brands. As long as they are putting out shoes at those really cheap prices, there will always be a hunger because a lot of people just want to buy a look and be done with it.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can go to our website at https://www.straussandramm.com/ or our social media pages @straussandramm
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.