The 3D printing trend is gathering momentum and as it does, a number of exciting and innovative new companies are emerging. As well as opening up exciting possibilities for the way our society runs, advances in 3D printing have allowed more people to enter industries and build products that would have otherwise been impossible without expert skills and years worth of knowledge.
Take Bryan Oknyansky, he had an idea that he wanted to launch the world’s first premium 3D printed footwear brand. Despite having no previous knowledge of the footwear industry, 3D printing allowed him to manufacture shoes without any knowledge of the craft of the shoe industry. He founded Shoes By Bryan and became one the first brands to offer customizable shoes for fashion conscious women.
After his launch in Old Street Station, we caught up with Bryan to find out more and discover what inspired him...
So where did it all begin?
Architecture is what led me to shoe design in the first place and it is solely responsible for me learning about robotic manufacturing technologies like 3D printing. It all kicked off when I won a shoe design competition sponsored by a footwear company that was founded by a famous architect from the mid-20th century. So, in effect, I’m part of a living a legacy of architects-turned-shoe-designers.
Before Shoes By Bryan, I designed two art shoe collections using very expensive 3D printing technology which prevented me from selling the designs at competitive prices. In 2012, I partnered with a 3D printing manufacturer to use their consumer 3D printer to enable me to design 3D printed footwear that many people find affordable. That’s the inspiration behind Shoes By Bryan - bringing the future of footwear to shoelovers everywhere, today.
Who do you see as your target audience?
My target audience appreciates the artistry of product design and new technologies like 3D printing. So far, my audience ranges in age between mid-20’s to 45+ and they live all over the world. These statistics make it difficult to narrow down my audience and I don’t mind that because 3D printing is inclusive.
How exactly are the shoes manufactured?
Split Heels is the debut collection from Shoes By Bryan and its four designs are hybrid shoes - one half 3D printed, one half traditional. I design the shoes in 3D CAD software and 3D print the soles and parts for the insoles. Everything else is handmade, including the leather uppers and my proprietary insole construction that, two and a half years running, have enjoyed a 100% comfort satisfaction rating from everyone who’s ever worn a pair. I don’t know another premium designer footwear brand that can say that. Because I own my 3D printers, all Shoes By Bryan shoes are made in the UK right from my London studio.
Why did you decide to launch your first physical retail experience in Old Street?
I decided to launch this store because I felt it was time to expose more people to the future of footwear that they can have today. This is the first time I have curated a physical sales showroom for Shoes By Bryan and I really liked the idea of doing it in Old Street because my shoes are hybrid of fashion and tech and where’s better to launch than right in the heart of London’s tech community?
What’s your stores main goal e.g. driving traffic to online, brand awareness, boosting sales...?
My goals include all of the above. I currently sell direct to the customer and most of my sales come from people who visit my studio and try on a pair of shoes. As Shoes By Bryan is a startup, brand awareness is critical and I’m excited for the 70,000 commuters filtering through Old Street station to see 3D printed shoes for the first time in their lives.
You’ve been in Old Street Station for almost a week, what are the results so far?
So far a lot of people have shown interest in my products. 3D printing is a captivating technology and, despite seeing and reading about it in mainstream media on a daily basis, people love seeing the 3D printers in my pop-up for themselves "in real life”. The strongest insight I’ve received so far is that people believe in what I’m doing and the product I’m selling. They’re excited for the near future because they’ve just met someone doing something they think will happen in the future right before them.
How do you see retail and technology merging in the future?
It’s exciting to think about how shopping is changing and will change in the future. You can try garments on in front of a television that projects it on to your body and know right away if it’s something you think looks good on you. There’s no doubt that retail is impacted by progressive technology and we always see the first movers benefitting from this merger the most. I think the future of 3D printing is downloadable products that you can either produce yourself or outsource to your local 3D print shop. For businesses, this means outsourcing the manufacture of your products to the consumer, which I find is a revolutionary proposition.