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WWD with Hari Mari: Luxury Flip-Flops With a Philanthropic Purpose

Jeremy and Lila Stewart founded the company in 2012.

By WWD Staff on July 30, 2020

 

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic fueled record-breaking online sales, shoppers flocked to brand sites. And in this past second-quarter period, high-end flip-flop brand Hari Mari found itself atop a list of the most embraced direct-to-consumer sites in the market.

 

Founded by husband-and-wife team Jeremy and Lila Stewart in 2012, Hari Mari, which is derived from the Indonesian words for “sun” and “sea,” is a brand with a purpose. The company donates 1 percent of sales to support children who are battling pediatric cancer under its Flops Fighting Cancer program.

 

Here, the Stewarts share their vision and the origin of the company, which set out to “make a sandal that would last and not bust or break during the first summer of wear, but also focusing on comfort and color.”

 

WWD: What was the impetus behind launching the company?

Jeremy and Lila Stewart: We’d been living abroad in Indonesia for three years, so upon moving back in 2012, we went shopping to buy a new pair and weren’t impressed. The pairs we had while abroad had broken, plus, we’d been wearing the same brand for nearly a decade and wanted something new. Jeremy wanted something with an elevated look, a nicer flip flop but something with a pop of color. I wanted a leather flip flop that didn’t destroy my feet to break in and looking at the flip flop assortment offered, none of that existed at that time. It was the same sea of black and brown. The same flip flops that were hanging on the walls when we left in 2007 were the same flip flops hanging on the walls when we returned in 2010 and to sum it up — nothing new or fresh was being offered and it was a stagnant category.  So, that’s when our wheels began turning, and after two years of R&D, we decided to launch Hari Mari, creating a new and improved flip flop focusing on color, out of the box comfort, and only using premium durable materials.

 

WWD: How would you describe the target customer? What do they expect in regard to quality and style?

J.S. & L.S.: Hari Mari’s product assortment has something to offer all ages and backgrounds, but we’d say our target customer is an adventure-seeker at heart, or what we like to call an “Everyday Explorer.” Those who have a thirst for travel, just like us, seem to gravitate toward and resonate well with the brand and we’re constantly inspired by the places our customers take their Hari Maris. Our customers can always expect comfortable craftsmanship, minimal, if any, break-in periods, and a sandal made with the best materials. It’s been incredibly exciting to see publications such as Vogue, O, the Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine, to name a few, include the brand in their “best looking” flip-flop round-ups over the years, which speaks to what our customers can expect from us for the style, look, and feel of the product.

 

WWD: How would you describe the brand attributes?

J.S. & L.S.: Hari Mari is known for breaking the mold of black and brown flops. We received a patent on our MemoryFoamToe piece last year, and by embodying a creative approach to this category, we’ve been able to infuse new colors, material stories, comfort and innovation into our products every season. Hari Mari was built on innovation, which is how we’ve approached decisions from marketing the brand to the idea of beginning the brand in Texas. Hari Mari is unique, fashion-forward but most of all, philanthropic. A large piece of our brand DNA is our Flops Fighting Cancer initiative, which is something near and dear to our entire team.

 

WWD: The product offerings have evolved and expanded since you first launched. How do you see it evolving in the future?

J.S. & L.S.: We have definitely grown our footwear offering from our initial launch. Men’s closed-toe was introduced in FA19 and has provided a nice way to engage with our customers in the sandal off-season. The response was incredibly positive, so we’re continuing to push the envelope here by broadening our men’s closed-toe assortment. As such, we’re launching a few new men’s boot styles in late September. On the ladies’ side, we’ve spent a few years developing more feminine styles, both in silhouettes and seasonal colors, that have really resonated with our customers. This past summer, we launched our first women’s slide and it sold out within two months. It was exciting to see that positive response right out of the gates, and plans are in play to launch shoes for women in spring 2021. Last, but certainly not least, our kids business has been growing year-over-year, providing us with a great opportunity to expand as a brand. Selling kids products wasn’t in our original business plan, so developing this side of our business, with our Flops Fighting Cancer initiative, is special for us. From inception, we have positioned Hari Mari as a lifestyle brand, which has enabled us to extend our reach well beyond footwear. Exciting times are on the horizon.



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