Name: Blake Brody
Company: Blake Brody
Why she’s fierce: The Blake Brody line of footwear may look charming and dainty, but they are high-tech and utilitarian. Brody’s shoes are more performance gear than ballet flat, and before she launched her company in December 2012, performance shoes for Pilates and yoga did not exist. While there may have been no direct competition, she faced the colossal challenge of proving to her fellow Pilates enthusiasts the necessity of a product they had never heard of. While she had previously worked at a financial services company doing media and marketing, she had help with the manufacturing aspect of her business from her father, a former CEO of Sag Harbor, a women’s apparel producer.
In her own words:
Daria Meoli: Where did you get the idea for creating in-studio footwear for Pilates and yoga?
Blake Brody: I’ve always been a huge Pilates person. It’s a passion of mine and it’s been a constant in my adult life. A few years ago I was taking a Pilates class and sweating while I was working out. My feet slipped off the foot bar and I actually fell into the spring. After that I became really nervous to rely on my feet in order to support my body while I was doing the different exercises. I searched everywhere for shoes to wear, or an alternative to going barefoot. I tried every alternative—sticky socks, barefoot running sneakers, ballet slippers, but there was really nothing that was made specifically for use inside of a studio. So, I felt that there was a need in the marketplace.
DM: Your products are eco-friendly and adhere to vegan standards. Why was that important?
BB: It was very important to me. I generally subscribe to more humane and vegetarian ideals to begin with. I also felt that our customer base tends to share the same ideals since they’re women who are in yoga and Pilates studios. I felt a sense of responsibility for living a healthy lifestyle and cultivating a healthy environment was very important. I really couldn’t have made the shoes any other way. We only use vegan materials. We don’t use any toxic chemicals or adhesives. Everything is as recycled and sustainable as we can possibly make it.
DM: What has been your biggest challenge in running the business so far?
BB: I would say that the biggest challenge that we had is that, unlike any other categories of shoes, we didn’t sell directly to department stores. In terms of the shoe industry, those are the largest buyers. Instead, I sold directly to studios and spas with retail areas and boutiques, many of which had never stocked footwear before because there were no relevant shoes to stock. I would say that my biggest challenge was building a customer base from scratch, and introducing the product to the market has similarly been a challenge. But I think that it’s a very artisanal approach and very grass roots, and I’ve really enjoyed doing it. And we’ve been very successful so far.