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Thinking Big

New shopping aggregator is curated for women who wear extended sizes.

Where there is a need, there is a will. So is the premise behind Style for Style Noire, an online shopping aggregator that offers women’s extended shoe sizes (10-14) for a market estimated to be north of 40 million people in the U.S., alone.

Historically, finding shoes in that size range at retail is a longshot. Style for Style Noire Founder/CEO Leslie Cleaver, a size 10.5, was one such frustrated customer, as was her dear friend, Crystal Erwin, a 11.5 wide. In fact, the idea all started when Erwin lamented about her shoe shopping frustrations, in 2020, and told Cleaver of plans to launch her own Inch Buy Inch brand of extended sizes. Unfortunately, Erwin passed away that year, so to honor her memory, Cleaver moved forward with the concept, but with one major modification: a shoe aggregator site instead of a brand.

The decision required several life-altering changes—like Cleaver taking on a second career to her law practice that specializes in workplace discrimination. She even moved to Milan, Italy, to attend the Arsutoria School, where she completed a one-year program. “I felt that it was important to educate myself about the shoe industry,” she says, adding, “The curriculum was extremely demanding, especially for someone who doesn’t have a creative background, which meant that I was regularly spending 12-plus hours working on assignments. But I learned the nuts and bolts of shoe making and design.”

Cleaver’s market research revealed that the largest size carried in stores is usually 11, and only a handful of those sizes are kept in stock. Thus, they sell out fast. “Women in need of those sizes generally have to purchase shoes online, but that shopping experience can be fragmented because many women aren’t aware of the brands and retailers that carry shoes in their size, resulting in countless hours searching for shoes,” she explains. “It’s very difficult and frustrating.”

In contrast, the Style for Style Noire platform offers a frictionless, repeatable shopping experience. The platform aggregates shoes available in sizes 10 and above from participating brands and retailers for a one-stop shopping experience. As for the selection, Cleaver says it’s a range of styles. “We place a high priority on curating, and we look for a rich variety of fashion-forward styles,” she says. Currently that includes 975 styles by Chinese Laundry, CL by Laundry, 42 Gold, and Vaila Shoes.

So far, so good for the Houston start-up. Cleaver reports a positive response and growing interest. “The general feedback is our website is very well presented with a great initial selection,” she says. “Many have also said there’s an immediate need for the platform.” Now the goal is to create awareness, build a community for “our Sole Sisters,” and add more brands/styles. Looking three years out, Cleaver envisions a premier shopping platform. “I’d like to triple the amount of styles we currently offer,” she says. “I’d also like to provide our partners with data to help support decisions that lead to expanded offerings for our customers.”

The July 2024 Issue

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