Note even a year old yet, Sole Finess has already pioneered lots of new territory. Among just a handful of women’s-only boutiques that exist in the world, it’s the very first one in existence in Australia. Opened by Murata “PJs” this past summer, the online operation is more than a store selling sneakers, it’s also an important gathering place for Australian women wanting to make a a cultural connection with the global streetwear scene.
On the site’s “For the Honeys” blog, Murata and her team covers the latest news in streetwear and also interviews significant women designers, photographers and artists on the scene. The site also organizes events in its home base city, Melbourne, and just last week, Sole Finess dropped a (really good!) mixtape curated by DJ Larrie. In other words, Sole Finess is a much-needed and awesome oasis in a culture that tends not to be very female friendly.
In our chat with Murata, she discussed what went into opening the store, sneakers that are evaporating upon arrival and also her view on the future of sneaker culture for women.
Snobette: So when did you open the shop?
Murata PJs: “It launched in July this year. It’s really new.”
Snobette: What’s the set up of the store?
Murata PJs: “It’s an online women’s premium sneaker boutique, an idea in Australia that hadn’t existed prior. It’s the first one of its kind.”
Snobette: I would argue a woman’s sneaker boutique is still not a common set up anywhere in the world.
Murata PJs: “There are so many men’s sneaker stores, it’s insane. For women, we still struggle. A lot of my customers, I know what they’re after, but in Australia we don’t get the same silhouettes here or it takes six months to a year after they’re released.”
Snobette: Where are you based?
Murata PJs: “We’re in Melbourne.”
Snobette: How was it approaching and putting yourself on the map with major athletic footwear brands?
Murata PJs: “I used to work with quite a few [sneaker brands] in the past so I had an established relationship, which was helpful. When I first approached them with a business plan everyone was excited.”
Snobette: In your store what shoes are evaporating upon arrival?
Murata PJs: “Nike Lab’s Air Max 90 Red Stardust and also the Stan Smith Ray Pink went flying. Anything Reebok does well, especially the Face Stockholm shoes. They may not be a sneakerhead’s sneaker, but there is an appeal among girls who are just starting to wear sneakers. It’s a gateway sneaker.”
Snobette: How about Adidas NMD?
Murata PJs: “That was a globally-launched style. We have them here and they sell out, but there are certain popular shoes like Air Max 95 and Air Max 97 Silver Bullet, all the retro silhouettes, that are harder for us to get our hands on.”
Snobette: How about in apparel?
Murata PJs: “I don’t have any apparel at the moment. I think we will start in about a year’s time. We wanted to make ourselves sneaker focused to begin with.”
Snobette: What was your background working with the brands?
Murata PJs: “Demand planning, analyst, a bit of buying and all the background stuff.”
Snobette: How did you put together the business plan?
Murata PJs: “I never had to write anything so thorough in my life. It took a long time to put together.”
Snobette: When you set up the site, how familiar were you with the back end up and importance of SEO and things like that?
Murata PJs: “I have a pretty good understanding of how the major brands work, and setting up all the web stuff I learned as I launched the business. When I first had the idea I started six months before by giving my business plan to the brands. I had begun to build up an online following and by the time I launched I had an understanding what people were after.”
Snobette: Did you hire a back-end team?
Murata PJs: “I have a team that does marketing and advertising. My partner, who is a game developer, has helped me a lot with my website. He’s been a big help.”
Snobette: As an online vendor, what is the biggest challenge to stay competitive online?
Murata PJs: “Obviously if you’re going to Google you will find so many retailers selling the same thing so the difference is creating a store the customer can connect with. You can buy a Superstar anywhere so we’re trying to connect a brand around it so it’s for the girls, for the honeys. We have give-aways with customers and we provide a high level of customer service, a lot of that really stands out.”
Snobette: From a work perspective, where do you excel?
Murata PJs: “Planning, analyzing buying, I know I’m very good at that and a bit of a perfectionist. On our blog, we have section called “For the Honeys,”and we do a lot of interviews with girls who love sneakers and are doing cool things and I really enjoy conducting the interviews and meeting the girls.”
Snobette: What’s something you’re working on improving?
Murata PJs: “I don’t like to be in the spotlight and to some degree that’s something people want, to see the people behind the site so that’s something I work on. I won’t say I don’t like it, but I’m getting used to it.”
Snobette: What is coming up for the site?
Murata PJs: “We’re getting a few more brands on board next year and expanding the range, plus adding apparel and accessories.”
Snobette: I have to ask, what do you guys think about Iggy Azealia?
Murata PJs: “I think she’s kind of seen as mainstream. She’s on those music TV shows where she’s a judge. Like Australia’s got talent or one of those.”
Snobette: What’s one or two things athletic footwear companies could do to better speak to a female customer?
Murata PJs: “The brands have a better understanding of what women want in the market place which has been a long time coming, but in my opinion, if more men’s styles were made available in women’s sizing, it would be an absolute revolution and I think most women would agree.”
Snobette: Is there a generation of young women who grew up on sneakers who will never wear heels?
Murata PJs: “Time will tell, but personally none of my friends where heels anymore. I don’t wear a pair of heels unless it’s a wedding. A lot of girls are like that, too, especially in Melbourne. You see more girls wearing sneakers.”
Check out a Jess Brohier-shot Sole Finess lookbook featuring model and singer Maya Hirasedo plus the mixtape below.