Hari Mari, a Dallas-based footwear brand, is taking the plunge into apparel and has named its longtime board member Jake Szczepanski to the role of president to oversee the launch, which is planned for April.
Szczepanski had served as cofounder and chief executive officer of Billy Reid for 13 years and most recently has been involved in the real estate business in the Dallas area.
In this newly created role at Hari Mari, Szczepanski will help oversee the brand’s growth by managing its internal operations and supply chain and overseeing the development of the apparel collection, according to the company.
“We’ve had the incredible fortune of having Jake serve on our board for the last three years,” said Jeremy Stewart, Hari Mari’s founder. “His professionalism combined with his lifetime of consumer good and brand-building knowhow is going be an extraordinary feather in our cap as Hari Mari takes this next natural step into lifestyle and apparel categories. And with the sizable growth Hari Mari has experienced over the last few years, we look forward to adding Jake’s experienced voice and leadership to our management team to help foster its next growth chapter.”
Szczepanski added: “I believe the Hari Mari brand has established a foundation and a strategy for continued success alongside a highly talented management team. As the footwear and fashion industry evolves during these unprecedented times, Hari Mari is uniquely positioned and poised for accelerated growth in the years to come. I look forward to leveraging my experience to build on the brand’s momentum, helping to grow a premium flip-flop-maker at its core into a fulsome premium lifestyle label in the months and years to come.”
He said the apparel line, which will initially be around 70 percent men’s wear and 30 percent women’s, will include men’s pants and shorts, T-shirts, pullovers and casual shirts. The women’s assortment will be tops only and will be complementary to the men’s product. For fall, hoodies and select outerwear pieces will be added. There will also be an accessories assortment for spring with bags in a number of sizes, some of which will use the same leather as that in the brand’s shoes, he said.
“For more than a year, we’ve been concentrating on our closed-toe footwear,” he said, “but our customer has always expected us to have more than just footwear.”
He said the collection will be sold on the company’s e-commerce site initially as well as the brick-and-mortar stores the brand is planning to open in the future. It will eventually be offered through wholesale channels as well, Szczepanski said.
Asked how large he believes apparel can become for the brand, Szczepanski said, “The sky’s the limit, but out of the gate, we think it can be 15 percent of the business in the first 12 to 18 months and grow from there.” He said the plan is to slowly add categories and depth to the apparel offerings.
Hari Mari was founded in 2012 by Jeremy and Lila Stewart, a married couple who saw a white space creating premium comfortable and colorful flip-flops. They retail from $60 to $120 and feature a patented MemoryFoamToe, which cuts down on toe irritation and discomfort. The company also has a philanthropic arm, donating 1 percent of its sales to Flops Fighting Cancer, an organization that supports children battling cancer. The collection recently expanded into other types of footwear, including boots. The collection is sold on the brand’s e-commerce site as well as several hundred wholesale accounts.