Hello all my fashion divas and Gurus! I love shoes. I also love changing my look at a whim. Yes I am a bit indecisive when to comes to my shoes. Especially when it comes to my shoes. So when I heard about Hugrz, I was in fashion heaven. Hugrz allows you to change your ordinary boots and booties into anything style on the planet. Best part is that Hugrz is made in the U.S.A! So without further ado, here is Heavy on Fashion Talks to Deb Miller of Hugz
Deb was previously a PR director and not- for-profit fundraiser who then discovered her true passion was for design. She had no experience building a company, but she threw herself into it and learned everything she could. By the fall of 2010, she was ready to introduce Hugrz™ to the market. She started in metro-Detroit and online, and then branched out to the rest of the nation in the fall of 2011. In 4 short months, Hugrz™ could be found in over 100 retailers in the USA as well as Austria and Canada. This year, you will find Hugrz™ in more than 160 stores in the USA, as well as an expanding number overseas.
Heavy on Fashion: How Did Hugrz Come to Be?
Deb Miller: My love for fashion and my fiercely practical nature led to the creation of Hugrz® boot wraps and accessories. Freezing in a hockey rink, I realized my pretty leather boots were not going to cut it. I searched online for some of the very warm sheepskin boots, but did not like the plain ones and the ones with fur or knit were limiting - and expensive! It was then that my idea for convertible fashion for boots was born. There was nothing like it on the market, so I set to work on patterns, materials, and accessories to create something that would look like part of the boot. I made the first 1,000 pair in my basement. We started selling in a few boutiques and by the end of the second season, could be found in over 200 stores, including a department store, and in 4 other countries. I hope to find strategic partners to enable us to expand the line and increase our presence online and in retailers, thus creating more American jobs and boosting the manufacturing sector here.
Heavy on Fashion: What makes your business unique?
Deb Miller: I am dedicated to manufacturing in the USA and trying to use alternative work forces to provide meaningful work and income for individuals. In our first season we created 30 new jobs in the hard hit manufacturing sector of Detroit and Fall River, MA. Displaced autoworkers did the sewing and some of the accessories were made by folks who could not leave the house to work. 2 families were able to pull their homes out of foreclosure. We used a vocational service non-profit to do tasks like packaging, providing work for those with physical and mental disabilities. While our manufacturing is here, sadly we must import most of the raw materials, like faux fur, faux suede and beads. As we grow, Hugrz® hopes to collaborate with other companies that use these materials and re-build a manufacturing base in America.
Heavy on Fashion: Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of Hugrz?
Deb Miller: Because I designed Hugrz® to allow customers to take plain boots and transform them to imitate the latest fashion trends, I keep a close eye on what the boot manufacturers are doing, and trends in clothing like Masoni patterns. I first come up with drawings and then seek out the raw materials. With the knits, I have complete control over colors and patterns. With the fur, I have to work with what is available on the market. Eventually, I would like to be able to custom design the faux fur colors, patterns and textures.
Heavy on Fashion: What are some of your proudest accomplishments as a designer?
Deb Miller: As a designer, I am most proud of the well known fashion experts, like Jene Luciani, recognizing Hugrz as a hot fashion trend and a unique product on the market and the many celebrities who love them as well. As an entrepreneur, I am humbled to have received a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year, to have been featured in the Huffington Post, Marlo Thomas’s blog, the LA Times, World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, and numerous TV news programs.
Heavy on Fashion: What matters to you most as a designer?
Deb Miller: I work to offer customers the ability to create their own looks! I love having a signature style, and with more than 20 boot wraps and 20 accessories PLUS the customer’s own boots, the looks are limitless.
Heavy on Fashion: What would you tell anyone who wanted to break into the field?
Deb Miller: Fashion is fickle and the competition is steep, but there is plenty of room in the market for unique products and talented designers. Don't be afraid to fail. Go for it! Why? Because if you don't you will kick yourself later. If you are starting a business, eek out others who have built a business and listen. Ask what they did wrong - the answers to that question may teach you the most. Listen to yourself, your inner voice, and move with your goals, dreams and vision. Start small and don't worry about running out of product! Better to create demand than sit on excess inventory. Cash is king. It always takes more than you think to get up and running, and takes longer to get up and running than you think. And, finally, if someone else has learned to do it, so can you.
What are some of your favorite fashion websites, magazines, or books?
Deb Miller: I read InStyle, Lucky, Vogue and follow many bloggers
Heavy on Fashion: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Deb Miller: My story is at Hugrz.com and you will see articles about me on our press page.
Heavy on Fashion: Finally, What does fashion mean to you?
Deb Miller: Fashion is an outward expression of your personality, mood, and lifestyle.
I would like to thank Deb Miller for the interview!