YNOT to ‘level the playing field’ in the footwear industry

“We are disrupting the business of footwear worldwide and I am the creative
director who is getting men laid,” said John Leith, founder, CEO and
creative director of YNOT with a laugh to FashionUnited. “I’ll give you a
lot of one liners because that is part of the message. I am not just
selling a pair of shoes, I am selling what comes with that. That experience
of putting on a pair of YNOT shoes, which is like going Wow!”

YNOT footwear for bold, masculine and confident men

For a long time, Leith, entrepreneur and soon-to-be graduate from SLEM’s
footwear innovation Master program, has been asking why men cannot feel the
same power, that same allure that women feel when they put on a pair of
high heels. “The footwear industry is the most sexiest industry in the
world. I am just looking to level the playing field by offering a
completely different perspective for men.” Enter YNOT, the unapologetic,
luxury footwear brand which increases men’s height up to 10 centimeters,
but still ticks off all the boxes when it comes to style and comfort,
developed for “bold, masculine, confident men who can say YNOT.”

Being a confident business man, with not much interest in the fashion
industry, the source of inspiration for YNOT was quite surprising to hear.
“Long story short, I came up with the concept when watching
‘Matchmaking Millionaire’ after one of the guys on the show who was just
beautiful, just gorgeous caught my interest,” revealed Leith. “This guy was
a bit shorter than the other contestants but I was shocked when the host
asked the girls on the show what they wanted in a man, and the first thing
they said was they didn’t want a short guy! Which I thought was a shame
since the shorter guy was the best of the lot, he was simply gorgeous.”

“So I did some research, I was invested in getting that the guy, who
left the show after he heard the girls did not want a short guy and had an
‘Aha’ moment, where I thought if I create a product that solves that
problem then surely it will sell if that’s really what women think – mind
you I have a business background and not a fashion background.” After
conducting intensive market research, which included scooping out the
market for height adding footwear and testing several different types of
shoes, which he thought existed on a “hidden type of market, quite
embarrassing, like the wig of yesterday you would not tell anybody about,”
Leith figured he could develop a luxury product with the right technologies
inside the shoe for added lift and market it in a way so it looks “it bold,
sexy and masculine.”

‘I am on the men’s corner, here to get them laid’

At first, market research to his idea was not very positive – 70 percent of
men questioned said that they would not wear height enhancing shoes because
it negatively affected their manhood. “So I said well, hold on, go back to
them again and ask them if they would wear this product and they got laid,
would they wear it?” This time 96 percent of the men asked said they would
wear the product, no problem. “So what men needed is not the height
increase necessarily, but permission to be positioned in a way that is
masculine, they want to be able to say well, why not? Hence the name YNOT.”
In order to get an aerial view on the footwear business he enrolled at
SLEM, the international education institute for footwear for a master’s in
footwear innovation. “I thought it was a good way to get that knowledge,
especially in footwear innovation, because that is what I am about to do,”
he added.

Launching next February at London Fashion Week and all subsequent Fashion
Weeks, the starting price for a pair of simple shoes from YNOT is 395
dollars, although they can cost as much as 6,000 dollars a pair, sitting
firmly in the luxury end of the market assures Leith. “Of course they are
not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but they are not too far off
the market either that they are completely out of reach for most
consumers.” The shoes, which will be available in a number of styles and
colors, including sneakers, formal, casual and business-casual were also
developed around the concept of sustainability and longevity, something
Leith takes to heart.

“I often say I’m multi-millionaire and I can’t afford to buy fast-fashion,
I worked that out a long time ago. I am interested in the longevity of a
product, where it was made and how it was made. If it was cheaply made or
badly made, then I can’t do it because I feel bad for those working in the
supply chain. I actually worked out it would cost me 1,200 dollars a year
to buy cheap shoes because I would need 4 pairs that would have to be
replaced every 3 months. Where as if I buy a really good quality pair of
shoes, they will last me 8 years and then I can get them resoled for for
another 2 years, so its a decade I get out of them, instead of a year.
That’s a more sound investment to me as a business man.”

Therefore, YNOT shoes are made to last a decade, crafted from vegetable tan
leather in a factory in Italy and come with a hundred percent guarantee.
The shoes will never go on sale or be discounted, as Leith do not believe
in sales when it comes to luxury, quality products. “There are no hug
margins being made because everything is being done first-class and the
experience will be first-class, You either want that or you don’t.
Otherwise then you are better off going to Zara because they can do it for
free practical.” The YNOT experience first begins with the unboxing of the
shoes, which Leith likens to the opening of an iPad or iPhone, with the
added bonus that the box is eco-friendly, chic and comes with a care kit
complete with a silver brush, a silver buffer and polish.

‘YNOT: It’s for guys that have balls you know?’

The first collection of YNOT shoes, which includes the Oscars line that
will be sent to all of the male Oscar attendees next year, will be
available for purchase internationally online following the launch during
LFW. “Selling the shoes online is the first strategy, but at the moment
there are a few retailers who are keen to get the product in store,” hinted
Leith. “But we will have an online presence in February and there is a
website where people can go to for a behind the scenes access, where they
will be the first to see the teaser campaign which will kick off just
before the launch. The site is by invitation only at this stage and there
is a pre-order list which will be set up around December, but I already
have a waiting list of 406 people but they won’t get the product until the
official launch.”

The only aspect Leith remains silent on is the technology behind his
footwear. “I am open about the technology that goes into the shoes but at
this moment I can’t say much about it because it is being patented,” he
explained. “I’m not going to let people know my secret just yet because as
soon as this comes out Prada, Louboutin, Dior, everybody who is anybody
will be onto it, because they are our competitors. So I need to make sure I
have patented it in the first instance.”

Leith himself, is very confident his stylish shoes will catch on quickly enough amongst both women and men.
“I want to change the way men and women think about footwear worldwide.
Even if the shoes are only for men. Although I can see a lot of women
buying a pair for their boyfriends or husbands, so they can wear high heels
and not tower over them. They are gonna be the biggest advocates I think of
the shoes because they want to give the same feeling to their partners.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *