Q + A with Vision Quest Shoes
Vision Quest Shoes
After a spiritual experience with a Ouija board, Ce Ce was inspired to create Vision Quest Shoes. Her shoes are upgraded versions of the Moroccan babouche slipper, otherwise known as the “Aladdin shoe” worn by desert nomads in the past. These traditional slippers often offer little to no support, making it difficult to wear outside for long hours. Made from leather salvaged from dead-stock inventory and lined with pigskin, Ce Ce’s trendy shoes offer comfort and wearability while being sophisticated, eco-conscious, and elegant. Her logo is a seeing eye, with a “Yes or No” reminding people to be open, ask questions, and move confidently forward.
What inspired you to start your company/brand?
The journey of Vision Quest shoes started with my first spiritual experience with a Ouija board at a slumber party when I was eight years old. No joke, the seeds were planted right there, as me and five other girls tried to summon the spirit guides. My shoe is inspired by the Ouija board reader, known as a planchette- the shape is similar. I designed the logo with a seeing eye, and “Yes or No” above the brow- to remind us to be open, ask questions and move confidently forward.
What inspired you to start your company/brand?
The journey of Vision Quest shoes started with my first spiritual experience with a Ouija board at a slumber party when I was eight years old. No joke, the seeds, choices, and action steps.
Why did you choose the specific industry your brand is in?
I’ve always been inspired by the way shoes can carry you across the room, and from one state to another. I used to live in New York City, where your shoes are like your car. Your choice of footwear can make or break your day. Here in LA, we drive a lot more, but shoes are equally important. The days can be hot and the evenings quite cool- another change of “state”, which keeps me on my toes.
I love shoes so much I’m willing to jump through hoops to design and produce them. Honestly, the footwear industry is such a challenge for an independent designer because you have to design for a left and right foot, and then there’s all of the sizes.
What did you do before starting your business?
I moved to Southern California in 2014 for a job as VP of Design for a mass market Handbag company. What a great professional experience! But I was mainly managing people and projects, and I missed the hands on experience of actually designing. Before that, I was living in NYC and I had a different collection called 8020 shoes. Footwear has always been my a passion. During childhood I used to try on my older sisters’ shoes and clomp around in them.
Describe a memory or an a-ha moment you had and how you felt?
In high school I took apart a pair of shoes and was fascinated. And with another pair, I added those inner components you can buy at a shoe repair place, and tested all of them to see how they changed the fit or comfort. I always loved the way shoes look, of course, but at this moment I understood that the interiors are also part of the design process.
What does your typical work day look like?
Breakfast, email and social media. Followed by shipping orders and then maybe a trip to a warehouse to salvage leather for the new small batches of shoes! If I can fit it in, yoga or swim at the end of the day. Then maybe an evening out with my fiancé or friends, and back to the computer for a bit before bedtime.
What’s the most important thing you attribute to your success?
First and foremost, I’m committed to the shoes and the customer’s feet. I love talking with people and learning about their shoes- what they like, what they don’t like. Why is it that they always wear this shoe, and not that one? I listen, and then I try to improve my product with each new small production batch. I also understand that all feet are very different, and there are so many nuances. I took an anatomy class a few years ago and I’m fascinated with the muscles and bones.
What is the hardest thing about being a business owner?
Turning the work mode off. I am energized and I can multitask quite well in the evening. Perhaps it’s because I’m not usually receiving many emails at night, so during this time I can focus. However I’ll be active on my computer until midnight and then it’s hard to wind down and go to sleep. Also, the financial uncertainty can be a challenge. You need to invest in inventory in advance, and be very aware of how much you need to sell to break even, and then how to make enough profit that will fuel the next collection. And you need to put money away for taxes and those slower times. This journey really tests your tolerance for risk.
What do you wish you knew when you were first starting your company?
I know that most successful fashion businesses have the two heads, one for creative and another for business. I wish I had begun with a business partner who can focus on sales. Someone with strategy skills so that we could navigate this retail world that is changing so quickly from wholesale to direct to consumer. And technology is so important now, with algorithms and data, so it would be great to have a business partner with a mind for that. I’m learning, however, that I can take action on my own, without waiting for that perfect partnership. And perhaps the journey with Vision Quest shoes will lead me to that partner!
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
My vision is to grow the business to be like Allbirds, Rotes and Toms- to be a primarily direct to consumer shoe brand, but with a focus on salvaged and sustainable leather. And I’d love to have a small fleet of refurbished mini vans that function as mobile boutiques. The Mini vans can roam to different neighborhoods in the major US cities, and also discover new resources of remnant leather along the way.
Any advice to someone wanting to take a leap of faith to start their own business?
Save money in advance and begin while you are still working! And understand that the road is not linear, and mistakes are part of the journey. The key is not to self criticize- instead learn quickly and move forward with gusto!
Your biggest inspiration?
Marina Abramovic’s Shoes For Departure
Favorite “Get Sh*t done” Song:
“Comeback Kid” by Sharon Van Etten
Dream Brand Collab?
Miranda July, the artist and film maker! There’s a scene in her first film “Me and You and Everyone We Know"