Meet The Founder: Anna Winkelmolen From Anna Van Mills
… and reveal the secrets of customized shoes!
Every woman dreams about a perfect pair of shoes, no matter if she is a fashion blogger, an inspired entrepreneur or a loving mom of two. Anna Winkelmolen (NL) made this dream come true by creating a truly unique Dutch brand of customizable shoes for women. With ANNA van MILLS you can create and buy online your perfect pair of pumps, ankle boots or shooties, choosing leather type, colors and other vital options. We met with Anna in Hotel W in Amsterdam to talk about business, dream shoes and, of course, the combination of both!
– Anna, what is for you ‘a perfect pair of shoes’?
For me it is a pair that suits the occasion perfectly. For example, one of my favorite casual combinations has a nice basic color like green, black or cognac and a nice wooden heel. If we talk about parties and going-outs, it’s a pair of stiletto: really high heels, maybe with an open toe, very elegant, very feminine, very basic.
And, of course, simplicity is very important in the perfect pair: ‘less is more’ they say. The shoe must be an addition for your outfit, or a basic part of it. You don’t want your shoes to stand out too much.
– Speaking about standing out… There is not so much well-known Dutch shoe brands. For example, United Nude is famous worldwide by it´s crazy, on-the-edge design, which is associated with Dutch design in general. Is ANNA van MILLS truly Dutch design shoes?
I would say, it’s more Italian style: very feminine and very elegant. I give the customer some basic elements to create a pair of really sophisticated shoes.
– How it happened that the idea of customizable shoes crossed your mind?
Four years ago I moved to Amsterdam from Roermond and started to work at G-Star. When I went for shopping to the main streets I couldn’t find a proper pair of shoes. So I was thinking then: ‘Nike ID makes customizable sneakers, so why can’t I start with women shoes?’ That was the idea, but how to make it happen?
After researching for competitors I found a couple of them, in Australia and England. After visiting their sites with customizable shoes I was sure I could do better. And now it actually is better: while creating a 3D model of your shoes you can see a clear picture of what you will get, almost like a photo. So even you create your shoes online, the experience becomes more real right away.
– What was your biggest struggle in the beginning?
The choice of a good supplier! First I really wanted to have my production in Italy. But then I thought it would be too expensive, and the final price would be too high. So I found a company that connects factories in Istanbul with foreigners. I went to Turkey, saw a lot of production factories and found one with a very good quality that fits my brand well.
It was a major step forward, and when you make this kind of step you can’t stop or quit any more, you are already on the way. I had 40 people ordered shoes already, and then suddenly my supplier in Istanbul got lost and didn’t come back to me at all. I had the toughest choice: to quit this idea after loosing a big sum of money and production option and come back to office job, or to start it all over again, with production in Italy.
I’ve chosen the second one. I went to Italy and met an amazing Dutch guy who lived there for 20 years, had his own advisory company and was eager to help me. And I made great connections, met the right people and started all over again there, as it meant to be from the beginning. So yes, switching the production from Turkey to Italy costed me a lot of sleepless nights!
– And what is the major goal right now?
ANNA van MILLS is an online concept, and now I’m trying to get it to retailers. It’s very important to have your brand offline also, especially with women’s shoes. So now I’m working on creating points of sales in the Netherlands, to integrate offline and online. I’m looking for a way to build a good business model profitable for retailer and for me as well. I already have a store in Pijp, and we start in around 2 weeks! So then the customers can really try it on and see how it feels.
– How did you make ANNA van MILLS shoes not only attractive, but also comfortable to wear? It’s nearly impossible to create a pair of shoes that fits 100% of the customers.
Oh, you need to spend a lot of time as a manufacturer to make the shoe fit right! The secret is to find a shoe lasts that fit 95% Dutch women perfectly, and I should say it was a challenge. I tested a lot. We started about a year ago working with Italian suppliers, and in the beginning they constantly sent me the samples which I gave to my female friends to test. Sometimes it was a matter of expanding the shoes just for 1 mm, and it made a significant difference!
– As an expert in creating a ‘best fit’, what advices you will give to women who look for their perfect pair of shoes?
In general, it’s very important to choose the right width of the shoe. For example, when you see a really really tiny pair of shoes, it probably will fit Italian girls better. The same shoes most likely won’t be wide enough for Dutch girls. The width will influence the comfort.
Secondly, there should be an extra cushion on the bottom of the shoe, in the front part. I added extra pads in ANNA van MILLS to make it more soft and comfortable to wear.
Thirdly, the heels of the shoes should be exactly under the centre of the heel. On some of the shoes heels are very far, almost on the outside of the shoe, so it becomes really unstable.
Finally, it’s also important for shoes to have shoe taps. It gives you more grip and it makes a big difference!
ANNA’S FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOP
- 9 streets area, especially Second Female store with Scandinavian designers.
- Haarlemmerstraat – there are also a lot of nice concept stores and boutiques to check-out!
- Home of brands, concept store in De Pijp area. The owner is an interior designer, so everything there – the floors, the walls – you can buy.
ANNA’S FAVORITE DUTCH BRANDS
- Anecdote clothing! It’s very simple and basic, they use really good materials and the quality is high. So their clothes you can wear it for the couple of seasons.
- Vanilia, it fits really good with my brand. They have very nice elegant pieces, and they are a bit more standing out with prints and colours than Anecdote, for example.
- LoveStories. When it comes to Dutch lingerie, I’m a big fan of this brand – they have a very nice boutique in the 9 streets.
- Goosecraft. I really love Amsterdam-based brand for leather jackets. You should check it out!
Customize your perfect pair of shoes on annavanmills.com.