About two weeks ago, shoe designer Oded Arama stood outside his new store in Tel Aviv's Masaryk Square and looked happily at the display window. It took him three years after establishing his eponymous shoe brand until he opened his own store, and he was happy he had waited. The waiting allowed him to mature his designs, increase the volume of his collection and expand his customer base.
His designs had previously been sold in an online store he ran and in several boutiques, and he even made several attempts to market them overseas. These efforts bore fruit: His brand was mentioned in prominent magazines, and boutique owners placed orders.
Nevertheless, he realized that he first had to establish himself in the local market. Arama explained that even building a good sales system on the Internet requires established points of sale.
In the store, he looked content. "We chose a clean industrial appearance to put the focus on the shoes themselves," he said.
Behind him was a wall covered with shoeboxes from floor to ceiling, and in front of him, in the center of the space, was a wooden platform in warm tones on which stood pairs of shoes he has designed over the last several years. At night, white lighting comes from the platform, making it look like an altar, and the store like a shoe shrine.
On this altar are 30 pairs of shoes. Half of them are from Arama's current spring-summer collection. They include women's moccasins and sneakers and men's leather shoes in various colors. The rocker-bottom Oxfords, whose images appeared on the store's Facebook page about two weeks ago, caught the eye of a German customer who ordered them right away. There are also sandals tied with colorful leather laces; Arama created them together with accessories designer Adva Bruner.
The other half is comprised of models from his previous collections. These include Oxfords in velvety suede in gray and brown, and sandals in black, chocolate brown or royal blue nubuck leather.
"I felt it was important that the space convey simplicity," Arama said. "I even like this yellow wooden ladder I bought to use in the store."
The yellow color is also visible among the shoes, in a model called Magnum, though Arama calls it "Sunrise" because of its egg-yolk color. It was designed two years ago specifically for a video of the artist Sigalit Landau, which was shown at the Israeli pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Landau asked Arama to create a shoe that looked slightly worn, and from that request came the idea of brushing the leather in certain spots to give it a scuffed look.
"Truthfully, I was convinced that anyone who went into stores where they were sold would go wild over the yellow color but would prefer to buy the model in solid black. I was surprised that in the end, lots of people actually chose the yellow ones. It almost became the identifying symbol of the brand, for men and women alike."
He's happy to see that there are still surprises out there. "Now, for example, as the store was about to open, I designed this model of suede Oxfords in saturated pink and blue. To a certain extent I did it to add a bit of color to what was available in the store. I never believed they'd sell so easily or so quickly, but they're actually the first pairs that were sold here," he said. Both customers were men.
Arama said the fact that the store only sells his own designs is "part of the store's added value."
"Usually, when you go into a shoe store, you know that what's there is what's in stock," he explained. "Here, since we manufacture most of the models in Israel, customers can order a model in a special size if it's not in stock at the moment."
For the next collection, Arama wants to try some models of men's and women's boots, and maybe expand the selection to leather accessories or socks - of his own design, of course. He said he has already thought of two models for a unisex knit shirt, and he intends to create them together with Bruner.
"But don't worry," he added, smiling. "I don't think I'll go too deeply into fashion design."
Prices: Sandals: NIS 550-850. Shoes: NIS 750-1,000. Oded Arama, 19 Masaryk Street, Tel Aviv