by Hilary Milnes

M.Gemi president Cheryl Kaplan: ‘You need to move as quickly as your data tells you’

M. Gemi is hoping to get as close to on-demand retail as possible.

The two-year-old brand, known for handmade Italian shoes, promises high quality without the middleman markups and launches new styles of women’s and men’s shoes (the latter of which it launched in 2016) every Monday. Thanks to a closely monitored production network of workshops in Italy, M.Gemi is nimble enough to act on customer response that same day, deciding which styles to invest in further and which to scale back.

This data-driven insight and swift response to customer feedback ripples through the decisions M.Gemi makes at every point in its production cycle. The brand consistently gathers new inspiration and incorporates that into its launches, whether it be based on a trade show that happened months before an item release or an Instagram trend that just took off.

“We’re buy-now-wear-now,” said Cheryl Kaplan, M.Gemi’s president and co-founder. “That’s a big advantage. If a style isn’t working and we have something similar coming next month, we can change that. We don’t have to wait till next season to react.”

Kaplan joined us for an episode of the Glossy Podcast to discuss on-demand retail at scale, how to respond to customer reactions in real time and moving into brick-and-mortar. Edited highlights below.

A hole in the market
M. Gemi, a direct-to-consumer brand, saw an opportunity in the market to apply retail’s trend of cutting out the middleman for high-quality products to Italian leather shoes. Working with a chain of workshops in Italy — and with offices on the ground in Florence, as well as in Manhattan and Boston — M.Gemi has scaled its business through control over the production process from start to finish.

“The biggest opportunity is for us to have that direct line of communication and touch points with our client, so that, end-to-end, we’re involved in that transaction,” said Kaplan. “It’s about the entire experience, not just buying the shoe.”

Using customer feedback to work faster
With weekly product launches, flexibility is key. Each new set of releases is informed by what M.Gemi heard from its customers the week before — sometimes, as soon as that same day. The design team uses data science to see what performed well and what didn’t, and uses that insight on a new set of shoes.

As a result, M.Gemi product releases are being informed by data in real time.

“You need a very flexible supply chain, because you need to move as quickly as your data tells you,” said Kaplan. “If and when we want to make a change, we can, and that’s a big differentiator for us.”

Moving an online experience into stores
Initially, M.Gemi had no plans to be in a physical retail space. But last year, the brand started to see the value in getting face time with customers. They opened a temporary space in New York’s Soho neighborhood and have since extended the lease.

Kaplan said M. Gemi found that customers who have shopped both online and in store are more likely to spend more in the future.

“We use technology to make sure we recognize the people who are shopping in the store,” she said. “If you try on a pair of shoes and decide to buy them later, they’ll be in your cart. When the experience is the same throughout, no doubt you see the effects.”