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The Laws of Style hosted by Douglas Hand Episode 19 – Ryan Babenzian

“The guys in suits look really important until you realize they work for the guys in T-shirts.”


On this episode of The Laws of Style, Douglas Hand is joined by Ryan Babenzian, the founder of a men’s footwear phenomenon GREATS. They discuss the DTC, vertically integrated business model, the GREATS Steve Madden merger they completed this year, and why white sneakers with a suit is sartorial suicide..



Shoes – GREATS (unreleased)

Pants – somewhere in Europe

T-shirt – Josh Vides

Watch – Rolex




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To stay up to date on the fashion industry, follow Douglas on Instagram and Twitter at @HandoftheLaw, and Douglas’ firm, Hand Baldachin & Associates at @hbafashion




Intro: Welcome to The Laws of Style, featuring conversations on creativity, fashion and the law from the leading edge of our economy and culture, hosted by noted fashion lawyer, Douglas Hand.

Douglas HAND: Welcome to The Laws of Style, downloading to you from the offices of HBA, high above Bryant Park in the garment district of New York City. I’m your host Douglas Hand, fashion lawyer, fashion law professor and self-styled, well-dressed man. And I’m here today with the founder of the footwear phenomenon direct to consumer vertically integrated brand, GREATS, Ryan Babenzian. Ryan, thanks for joining.

Ryan BABENZIAN: Thanks for having me, Doug.

HAND: So a little background on you just to get out. You started as a talent agent. And then started through that association working with some brands, I guess to put talent in touch with certain brands. Tell us about those days because that’s somewhat adjacent to what a lawyer does. And so for this segment of our listeners that are in the legal profession that might be interesting.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, I mean, it was a long time ago. And it was the early days of the internet, actually. And what became clear, like, talent was always a brand to me, like developing acting talent was like building a brand. Even though I had never built a brand, that was my filter of how I viewed it. And from there, I actually you know, when I was at ICM, I remember pitching an idea, “We should represent brands and build like, a world around brands and cross pollinate with our talent. And there’s this internet thing that’s going to create this giant pipe of…”

HAND: Personal brands and…

BABENZIAN: Right. And I remember the guys looking at me like, “You are fucking crazy.” And they thought it was just really…It didn’t resonate back then. But then I became a manager. So I left being an agent and actually became a manager. And that gave me a lot more creative freedom to do things with clients. And I started consulting brands. So I was working with some of the street wear brands of the day: Mecca, Enyce, those types of…

HAND: And they were clients of the firm or…?

BABENZIAN: They were clients of me.

HAND: Okay.

BABENZIAN: So they were not officially on the client list. But I was consulting on the side, you know, I was mid-20s, late 20s, hustling just to make more money, frankly. And it was a space that I knew really well. So it was fun. And there was a need for it because they, it was uncharted territory.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: And I remember, you know, they wanted to get like this jersey on Ice Cube, who was about to do this new movie. And they were like, “We’ve got to get this Mecca Jersey. Can we do it in colors he wants?”

HAND: Just in the public or in some sort of a he was doing a step and repeat.

BABENZIAN: No, there was a scene in the movie—The movie hadn’t started shooting yet, and the movie was Friday. And there was this moment where there was a scene where like, we felt like this would be a great place to get like, Mecca branding. And ultimately, the deal didn’t work. But that was the way we were thinking about, like, how do we use these vehicles that were youth powered vehicles, a lot of music videos as well, and get these brands into the stream of what you was watching? Because, you know, that movie became something and MTV was something really important. It was like the Instagram and the day, if you will.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: And that’s how I always kind of merging those two.

HAND: Got it. So also Echo, and then two more institutional brands Puma and then K-Swiss.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, I mean Puma, K-Swiss was I became—I had left the talent world all together and you know, I was the head of entertainment marketing at Puma, and that was a legitimate, meaningful role.

HAND: That was your real job.

BABENZIAN: That was a real job with real responsibility and budget and managing a P&L, marketing. And we did really progressive stuff there as well. I mean, taking what I knew from entertainment, understanding who I thought was going to be a meaningful talent and trying to marry them before they became huge.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN:  And you know, I did a deal at Puma. The first deal I ever did at Puma was with Estelle. She had a record coming out. She wasn’t quite there yet. And I did a deal where Christian Siriano, who had won the first year of…

HAND: And is still a very relevant designer today. Probably more so just given that…

BABENZIAN: The career.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: Christian, he took anything from Puma he wanted from the apparel collection, cut it up and made unique pieces for Estelle. And Estelle did three in store concerts for free and wore these things and we got, you know, it was like how do we create earned media around these things?

HAND: Around essentially bartered deals, which is such a great way to do it because really…

BABENZIAN: I paid her $10,000. Sorry, Estelle. That was a long time ago.

HAND: So, more institutional settings, maybe a little bit more hoops to jump through. But then you were given, in a sense kind of the keys to an old tennis brand, Boast.


HAND: Maybe describe that and then, you know, then we’ll get into the good stuff.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, Boast, I really thought I was going to spend the better part of 10 years of my career at that point with Boast and reimagining…Boast is a, for lack of a better word, history wear brand and we were going to take this, what was once a very conservative tennis brand, even though it had a maple leaf, and it had edge, it was still a tennis brand. And we were going to reimagine it and make it more relevant for youth and street wear. And I felt like, you know, we had a really good plan on doing that. Sadly, you know, I learned pretty early that the owner of the brand just didn’t have the same vision that they had hired me to execute. And some other things that caused me to not stay very long. But what I’m very proud of, Tommy Hilfiger bought that brand.

HAND: Yeah. And they have rebooted at once again, and I’m sure you know.

BABENZIAN: I met with Tommy about eight months ago and he said, “We’re just going to do what you were going to do,” right, pretty much. And then he showed me how the collection. And that was flattering because like, you know, life is about timing and I think I could have done something amazing with that brand, we didn’t have the right mix of people or partnership. But that was a fun learning experience, even though it was a year.

HAND: So you probably have always had an entrepreneurial gene to you, but post-Boast, you then decided I’m going to start my own brand.


HAND: You know, emotionally, sort of financially, how did you come to that determination? Who was in it with you? And what were your first steps? Because we have a lot of entrepreneurs and students of entrepreneurial theory.


HAND: And I think that moment is a very critical moment that very few people actually execute on. A lot go to the diving board, some come down midway up the steps, some walk all the way to the end; you jumped in.

BABENZIAN: I’m a jumper.

HAND: Yeah, with a double sukkah hora twitch.

BABENZIAN: I’m an indie. Just my nature, I have a high tolerance for risk or pain, maybe. And the process was like—There was other digitally native brands, D2C at the time as what was the moniker? And I thought, you know, the model really works for footwear. People have been buying footwear online for a decade more. Zappos was a monster.

HAND: Right. So there was a familiarity with the customer like, “Hey, I am okay buying shoes online.” But nobody had started a digitally native sneaker or footwear brand at that time. So I thought the category made a lot of sense.

HAND: Yeah. And you’d seen Warby succeed. You’d seen other examples in other categories.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, Warby’s been on the way, Bonobos was doing it, Everlane was doing it. And I just thought the business model was the only model for brands that were going to succeed from that point onwards, because wholesale was waning, if you will, pretty fast. And you know, the thing about the wholesale business as it was when it was healthy, you could start a business with very little money and if you got in that right retail store, let’s say, Barney’s and they paid you on time, you could fund your growth without raising a lot of capital. You could make things and sell them and keep going. And that was your financing source.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: But once that started to stop, and it really did, you couldn’t really build the company through the wholesale channel first, you needed another way. And digital provided that. Now, you still needed capital. You actually needed more capital…

HAND: More capital!

BABENZIAN: …That way. And we raised a little bit of money.

HAND: So pre-launch you raise money?

BABENZIAN: We raised a half a million dollars pre-launch in a convertible note for you–For you listeners out there if you want to be specific. Today I think a safe is what people are using these days. But seed funding for brands by the way, today is not very easy.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN:  And we’ll talk about the venture stuff later. But that’s how we launched it. Johnny [inaudible 10:23] was my co-founder. And we had been friends and we’re both in the industry and we launched it together. It was very, you know, raw. We raised this money and then it was…

HAND: But you bring up an interesting point that usually I bring up in a question, which is the fact that in the traditional model, maybe even less so for footwear, but certainly for apparel and some areas of accessories, the barriers to entry were much lower because wholesale accounts would not only finance you, but also in effect, promote you because they had so many channels of distribution that you were kind of everywhere. You know, if you were with four big wholesale accounts, you were national, if not gaining international reputation as a brand, and season to season you at least, if you were hot enough, could get covered, your production costs, and the rest was gravy.


HAND: Today, you’ve got to build out that website. But you also have to get the customers to come to it.


HAND: And that’s the real—The customer acquisition cost is massive where it wasn’t. So I’ll pause you here and sort of ask the further question, do you think it’s the barriers to entry are now higher, even though you’re closer to the customer? Because of the cost of customer acquisition these days, it’s not just a great idea, or a snazzy website that’s going to draw them in today.

HAND: Yeah. It’s a really good point. Because when D2C first started, you could arbitrage Facebook traffic for pennies, pennies per customer. Now I know brands that are paying $100 for a customer. You’re literally giving away $100.

HAND:  And that may not be a loyal customer.

BABENZIAN: Right. So the barrier to entry to start a brand and build a website is low, the cost to operate is high, like from the get go. Unless you can have some magic, magic that just happens from a celebrity wearing your overnight and…

HAND: Or you yourself.


HAND: Or a celebrity.

BABENZIAN: That’s right. And we’re seeing that with influencers.

HAND: Exactly, exactly. Okay. Well, we’ll touch on some of those topics as we go through, but I didn’t want to break your flow.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, I know.

HAND: In terms of, okay, so you decided to do it. What other challenges? I mean, so now you had to make shoes, right? I mean, you had to build out a website. You had to market it. You had to make shoes. I mean, who did what? What were the special powers that the founders brought to the table?

BABENZIAN: There was just two of us. So we both did everything. But I’d say John was managing the factory on a day to day basis, and I was doing everything else. Like, John didn’t come to one fundraising meeting.

HAND: Right. He was busy making trains run on time.

BABENZIAN: He’s out in California, and we were just dividing and conquering.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: You know, I did the site, I worked design team. He did the shoes. We only had two, and we made three colors each. But he built us those. And then we launched.

HAND: Okay, well, so for the one listener, perhaps who is not familiar with the product, from a design perspective, from a brand ethos, just tell us about GREATS

BABENZIAN: Yeah, I mean, the thesis was the name GREATS is derived from what we thought our design thesis, I mean, our thesis was, we’re going to pick the greatest silhouettes in men’s footwear sneakers and work with those. Now, at any given time, there might be three or four in the market and there might be 12 in total that come in and out in time: runner, court shoe, high top, but the silhouettes that dominate the space are pretty tried and true.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: It’s very rare that anybody invents a silhouette that has never been done before. And it becomes a classic. Now there are brands that invent silhouettes, and they become a very fast trend, but they’re very short lived, especially in digital world, like in today’s world fashion trend is, you know, its light speed.

HAND: Would you worry if one of your designs came out of the gates smoking hot in terms of its long term viability?

BABENZIAN: I wouldn’t say I’d worry, but we want hoping for, right? And look, I’m all for tailwinds. So if you design something, and it becomes really hot, great, just be prepared that that will end one day. And what does that look like?

HAND: Right.

BABENZIAN: Because if you’re raising money on some growth curve that’s driven by a hyper trend, and the hyper trend ends, and it will, and nobody knows if it will end in a week or a year, then reality hits you.

HAND: And you’re not a technology company, so to speak.


HAND: In terms of the product and so therefore, I would posit humankind’s been designing for the human foot.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, forever.

HAND: Exactly. So what are you really going to come out with, that unless it’s got a technological element, is going to be that hot and that lasting?


HAND: Okay, so, a little bit for our listeners just on the size of the footwear industry, by some reports 125 billion industry so obviously, been in the menswear space in particular, a huge growth industry and a huge source of revenues and traffic for retailers. Of that if you agree with 125 billion or not, but of that amount, what would you say the percentage of athletic versus casual versus dress shoes would comprise the overall market?

BABENZIAN: I think that casual athletic is like 60 billion, I think, the last I looked, and they’re blended together.

HAND: So would that include a loafer, like a leather loafer or…?

BABENZIAN: No, I think that sits in a shoe.

HAND: Okay.

BABENZIAN: For me, it does, at least by definition buying it for me. I’m not sure how…

HAND: Loafer is what your lawyer wears.

BABENZIAN: Right. You’re wearing a double monk today.

HAND: I am wearing a Double monk.

BABENZIAN: So that’s a proper shoe. Probably bench made in London by his guy, Giuseppe, who came over from Italy.

HAND: Well, this is a little where I’m going with it. So okay, so 60 million is essentially hybrids of tennis shoes, running shoes but on a casual platform, not intended for performance.

BABENZIAN: Non-sport use.

HAND: Right. So give me the other breakdown, so the other you know, roughly 60.

BABENZIAN: I don’t know actually, I really don’t.

HAND: Because you don’t play in those spaces?

BABENZIAN: Well, no, it’s not like market size. The market’s gotten bigger by the way since we started GREATS like in the sneaker casual space, that market’s grown.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: We just like, that’s a big enough market, like whatever the number was like, it’s big enough. And we don’t know what the actual number is.

HAND: And you don’t know Giuseppe.

BABENZIAN: I do know Giuseppe. I think Guiseppe actually still lives in Italy. But the bigger point was, and market growth was what I was interested in. I said, “Look, the casualization of the workplace is going to continue to drive casual footwear. And in order for casual footwear, which I would, you know, like classic shoes, leather soled shoes, whether they’re monks or slip ons, doesn’t matter. Those shoes will have a harder time and becoming the dominant shoe style again, as workplaces remain casual, and I haven’t seen the reversal of the workplace becoming more formal.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: And as that continues, we stay there.

HAND: Yeah. Well, that’s it, I mean…

BABENZIAN: You’re the only guy I know that wears a suit and tie every day.

HAND: Well, this is what I write about in The Laws of Style. I talk about this shift in workplace norms that have also hit law firms and accounting firms and investment banks. And yeah, I mean, most firms are casual all week unless you got to go to court or you’ve got a big client meeting. That being said, we have seen returns to more conservative dress codes with financial crises, so, you know, we may be due for one in a year or two.

BABENZIAN: I know but that’s all bullshit because the way they dress to “invoke confidence,” I mean, that is the reason, right? We all have been taught. I used to wear a suit every day too, “your client needs to look at you as a professional.” And that’s it. It’s a uniform that represents responsibility and intelligence.

HAND: Well, and I’m going to give you that because I think that that is right.


HAND: Well, and it works because there’s a legacy attached to it, for sure, but I will say and I’ll speak now just about men because I can’t speak with authority about women and how they present themselves in the workplace. I think it’s a very interesting topic and you know, I’ll cover it on one of these podcasts, but it also has the added benefit, I will say as a guy who does wear the suit, the suit is a wonderful vehicle for looking good and hiding bodily flaws and kind of having this you diamond kind of shoulders to waist ratio and put togetherness that is hard to replicate in more casual clothing, unless you, yourself, are physically fit.

BABENZIAN:  100% agree with you, and I would even say it’s really hard for a person who doesn’t have the suit to actually be seen as a stylist person because now when you lose this—Arm is not the right word but it does represent something well. And if you have a decent fitting suit anywhere in the world, people are going to just take a little notice. If you walk in like a slob like me in a T shirt and a pair of pants…Didn’t Pesco do the show?

HAND:  He has not done it yet. He keeps bouncing around.

BABENZIAN: These are from his store.

HAND: Okay, Magasome?


HAND: Which, by the way, I said it right.

BABENZIAN: You did. But like, it’s harder to be perceived to be stylish when you don’t have what is more traditional like, you get style points by being together like that.

HAND: I also feel that for a lot of clients, and again, my clients are all in fashion and retail. And you know my rate.


HAND: It goes to $1,000 an hour, right. So, if you’re spending on me, yeah, you want to see also, I think that there is almost like a genuflection to the seriousness of the work. And if you think that I’m being irreverent about that, or casual about that, or dressing the same way I might if I was lounging poolside, it just would rub you the wrong way. So there are a number of reasons for a service professional that in particular, you know, like a lawyer who’s not necessarily adding to revenue is just hopefully, you know, protecting things and getting a deal done, to look the part.

BABENZIAN: Look, I understand it well and you know, what is the saying? Like, dress for the role you want to be?

HAND: Right. Or job you want.

BABENZIAN: Right. Understood, I just think the world has shifted a lot.

HAND: The world has indeed shifted. That is undeniable.

BABENZIAN: There’s a saying that I like, and it comes from the startup land. It’s like, “Hey, the guys in suits look really important until you realize they work for the guys in T-shirts.” And like there are billionaire startup guys, not that I’m one of them, but those are the guys that they’re talking about.

HAND: For sure, a thousand percent. And that has become a little bit of a uniform, which kind of looks on some who are faking it, who you know aren’t billionaires a little silly, honestly. But I do think you know, we communicate a lot about how we present ourselves and I think, again, for a service provider who is charging, it definitely makes sense to make sure you’re not ruffling any feathers in that regard.

BABENZIAN: I think that’s fair.

HAND: Yeah. So back to sort of its impact on the market; for sure, dress shoes as a market must be in a roading category.


HAND: While you make casual shoes, you make them very well, and you make them in Italy. And you do that for a reason. Do you have any concerns that certain craftsmanship may be leaking away from the system? Because the grandson of the battle Rhea, in Spain or the, you know, is no longer drawn to that craft.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, I do. I think I mean, the country that saw it the most was America.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: On every piece of clothing, including shoes. And we actually tried to make shoes here in Maine three years ago. And it was frustrating, because it wasn’t about price. I said, “I don’t care what this cost. Just make me this. I need this.” And these guys were great hand sellers—That’s the section of main that still exists, like a hand sewn moccasin. And I wanted to do something, the upper was traditional, but the bottom was going to be a running soul. And they just couldn’t figure out how to marry these two.

HAND: Wow. Where is that region in Maine? I’m curious. That section of Maine, where does that expertise reside?

BABENZIAN: It’s just outside of…

HAND: Because I know there’s Quoddy and…

BABENZIAN: Yes. It’s just outside of the big city. Not the…

HAND: Portland?

BABENZIAN: Yeah, Portland.

HAND: Okay.

BABENZIAN: Exactly, kind of the burbs of Portland. And it was really frustrating to me because I was like, “Guys, I’m willing to pay the premium, put this on the map in a young new company brand. Like we were, you know, we get a lot of press and awareness.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: And they wouldn’t…

HAND: More than Quoddy.

BABENZIAN: More than Quoddy, which I know well, I wore them as a kid. And they couldn’t do it, and I wound up making that show in the Dominican Republic. And in one week—By the way, DR has probably the best hand sellers. That’s where most of you know, Timberlands leather is coming from and Sperrys boat shoes are made. And the reason they left Maine is because they’re more innovative. Anyway, I had that shoe in a week.

HAND: Wow.

BABENZIAN: That was like the moment I realized like talent—People can talk about, our current administration talking about bringing jobs back to America. I’m all for it. Except if you’re going to compete on the world stage, like there is a skill set that we just don’t have, at least for this stuff.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, I worry about Italy because I think it’s all kind of, the talent is older. And…

HAND: It’s not being replenished?

BABENZIAN: Like, a little but not in a way that—At some point, it might just die.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: Now at the same time, we haven’t really commercialized no hands on a shoe, like every shoe has pants on it, they’re touching it, it’s very, a shoe is made from top to bottom. The only people that have accomplished that as far as I know are Adidas and they made like, you know, samples, not commercializing that yet.

HAND: Well, to geek out a little bit, walk us through shoe production, one of one of your classic, the Royal. Walk us through that production in you know, a minute.

BABENZIAN: From start like, before we designed it or now that it’s…

HAND: No, let’s assume it’s designed and you’ve got—But walk us through with, you know, relatively non-technical terms, but you can use the word “last” and you can use the word “upper.”

BABENZIAN: Well, now that shoes was really one of our best sellers, it is the best seller. The pattern’s been made, the last have been made to where they’ve been commercialized, we have hundreds of them, multiple sizes. So the process now goes faster. And for us now, it’s just about we have this core business around these core colors. And then we update them every quarter, every season, every year. And that’s where like the material selection and the color selection gets—that’s the art of like, what colors are going to matter? But to be perfectly honest, like the process now on that shoe is quite simple. We’re not reengineering it. We did some update on comfort because we felt like we could improve the way it felt, through an improvement on the insole, but it wasn’t a redesign, we just went to OrthoLite and picked up a really great memory foam. And so it’s not complicated. The complication is in designing it, assembling it, the developing and then getting it right, getting it fit right. Once that’s done—But I’ve simplified that, but that’s the hard part.

HAND: Yeah. Well, so you have competitors. I mean, you’d probably list a lot of brands as competitors. But I think for our listeners, you know, maybe, maybe Rothys or Allbirds. They have what distinguishes greats from those propositions, whether it’s product or the retail experience.

BABENZIAN: Yeah. Well, you know, I don’t consider Rothys or Allbirds a competitor. Our similarity ends when like the digital part, but they’re really very unique things. Veja on the other hand, I would say is a competitor, and the founder and I sat on a panel together. He’s a great guy, and his passion…

HAND: You guys are only splitting $60 billion so yeah, you should be friends.

BABENZIAN: There’s plenty to go around. But you know, our position on what GREATS IS, is like, we make premium quality essentials. We play in fashion. But we’re not a fashion brand. We’re not going to set the world on fire of developing a silhouette that a fashion house might try to. And we provide value in the category of premium, but we will go into other categories of price. I mean, we had started in multiple price categories. We scaled that back. But now we’re going to go back into it now that we have, you know, the resources that you really need to kind of play in multiple prices, aka customer segmentation, but Royal? Premium quality essential.

HAND: Yeah. Well, so pivoting a little bit to recent events. Congratulations on completing a M&A transaction.

BABENZIAN: Congratulations to you.

HAND: With my help; with my firms help—With the brand, Steve Madden, the company, Steve Madden. I guess what was the logic behind the transaction? And I know there’s a great deal of logic behind it. And after we go through that, let’s also talk about the process to the extent we can without, you know, broaching any confidentiality of just engaging in an M&A transaction. But first and foremost the business logic behind it.

BABENZIAN: So in our life, we realize that—And I know said this in the very beginning, even though we raised venture capital, that it became pretty clear to me that venture capital and brand doesn’t really mix. They’re looking for 10 x returns on an entire fund size, which is impossible to do in a fashion. You need more time. You can do it. You can’t do it in the window…

BABENZIAN: Five to seven.

BABENZIAN: …With LPs electronic exit in their funding. So I learned that very early on and I was like, okay, venture is going to be probably not me.

HAND: And how many rounds of venture financing had you done before the transaction.

BABENZIAN: We had done two seed rounds and then we did a bigger round.

HAND: 10 million?

BABENZIAN: A little less with basically, was a private equity shop that function like a VC fund. And again, we learned you know, PE mentality is also very unique. And there’s a kind of a method. And for a small growing digital brand, probably not… Like, there’s probably a misalignment on how to. So here I was now I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to go raise my last round. Where am I going to get it?” I didn’t think either of those buckets were going to meet a lot of sense. And I had met Steve in 2016. They asked me to just come over. They were like, “Hey, we think what you’re doing is really amazing. You know, what’s your vision? How do you see the world?” We just talked about that. And I really liked him; him and Ed Rosenfeld, the CEO. Steve’s, an entrepreneur like, he built this thing from zero.

HAND: For sure, and similar background in a way, I think. You know, you guys are simpatico.

BABENZIAN: Very much.

HAND: I think we have a lot of similarities. I just had dinner with him Monday and it’s like, I just liked him, like we have fun together. And I thought, you know, we can raise capital, but capital alone doesn’t solve the complexities of our business. It doesn’t give us the scale we would get right away. I could hire the greatest people in every role. They’re not going to get leverage on supply chain, tanneries, factories, freight rates, logistics, all of the things, the nuts and bolts behind the scene. You’ve just got to grow into that.

HAND: Yeah, you’ve just got to grow better.

BABENZIAN: With this, we could plug right in. So I really started to think like, maybe we should merge and just like, we’re really good at brand, we can build brand and community and marketing that we’re really good at that. And you guys are incredible at supply chain and development and production so what if we partnered? And that’s how that happened.

HAND: Right. Now to the process, which…

BABENZIAN: Oh boy, do you have a tissue?

HAND: Relatively smooth, but not without, you know, the typical—There are always things that come up. Yu know, what was it like working through that process? And did you ever feel that with lawyers involved that sometimes messages or lines got crossed?

BABENZIAN: Yeah. Well, one, thank you because you were part of that process on the—Not on the brand side but on the personal side.

HAND: On the Ryan side.

BABENZIAN: On the Ryan side. You know, we had corporate counsel that we had had for years, and they had their corporate counsel and I think we saw miscommunications at times when—There wasn’t a lot, by the way, but what would happen then it’s like, Ed and I would just have a conversation of like, “Hey, what do you want here? What do we want here? The lawyers, we can do whatever language they need to do, but what are we trying to fix. And that’s how we would get through those. But to be honest, they weren’t a lot.

HAND: Yeah. There weren’t in my experience, but they do happen there. They’re almost inevitable.


HAND: I mean, it really is, especially with that many chains of sort of the game of telephone, you know, you say cat, and what comes out at the end is a cop. And there’s a big difference, right?

BABENZIAN: It’s like Siri. It’s like, “No, that’s not what I meant.”

HAND: And then, you know, there are certain, I would say most deal lawyers can be collaborative. I think that’s very important element because it is not the other side. It is two sides that are hopefully going to meet and merge. But you’re an advocate for your client. And so you are sort of, if not jumping at shadows, you’re the one that has to look into the dark corners for your client to make sure there’s just no boogeyman in there, because there quite possibly can be. So sometimes with the first communications of sort of, well, what are my—You’re proposing hypos, or what ifs that are undoubtedly more nefarious than what might, you know, actually happen in practice, if you yourself don’t know the industry very well. And this is where I find there can be a value when you do know the industry, in terms of what the reality is. Because, yes, in theory, with a certain provision that’s got a certain wiggle room in it, someone who wanted to fuck you might take the position that this reads a certain way and therefore I’m going to do that. You have to look at the incentives around what circumstances would they do that in, and are those addressed elsewhere? Before kind of alerting the client or maybe even freaking the client out about holes in the deal, so to speak.

BABENZIAN: I mean I think, again, this process was an educational one for me. As an agent and manager, I’d been on the deal side of things hundreds of times, and when a studio and an actor want to do a deal, that has to be mutual. Then there’s contract stuff right? But the deal is not going to be engineered by a lawyer if the sides don’t want to make a deal. Lawyers don’t kill deals, they don’t, they shouldn’t.

HAND: They shouldn’t. Sometimes they do.


HAND: But they shouldn’t, you’re right.

BABENZIAN: That’s a service now that’s being now, like who wins? Like, who benefits? And look, I haven’t been on monster M&A deal. So I can understand how they fall apart. We have two interested parties that want to do something together, that’s the most important, right?

HAND: Part of the difficulty as well, I find, you know, even from someone as educated as you are in terms of deal making process, because not only had you performed as an agent, sort of with smaller, but no less important deals for individuals and studios media content, but you’re around some financing, I mean, you know, you’ve seen the process, but a change of control transaction, an M&A transaction, it is kind of brain surgery in so far as you’re doing a deal, but all the neurons need to line up afterwards. And there’s so much risk associated with a living, breathing thing like a business, that for the non-initiated, it’s kind of like, why is this taking so long? Why are there so many issues? Well, you know, if Steve’s taken over, you know, some of your employees, well, what’s been going on with those employees? How have they been documented? Are they exempt, non-exempt? Oh, how is he treating them? You know, they’re just are a lot of things.

BABENZIAN: I’m having flashback.

HAND: Yeah, exactly. Well, that was nothing about employee.

BABENZIAN: But because what’s interesting is we’re in this now three weeks from like, closing. So now there’s like a whole nother sequence of like, getting…

HAND: Integration.

BABENZIAN: …Systems, payments and process and taking our kind of URP and shifting, like it is, we’re doing more work now than we’ve ever done as a brand just getting ready to continue to grow.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: Because we’re going to take on—But I knew that. That’s kind of what like, in order to get access to all that stuff. We have to be on the same, literally that same system.

HAND: Yeah.

BABENZIAN: From an accounting standpoint, you know, payables receivables, how we place orders with the factory, that all has to mesh. And that’s work.

HAND: Yeah. Well, in a way the brain’s surgery involved in in the deal itself in some ways, but all really compressed time wise.


HAND: So again, congrats, fantastic, you know, looking forward to seeing what you can achieve next.


HAND: You know, we talked about how you named GREATS. And by the way, it’s got such legs in terms of you know, beyond just footwear, right? GREATS is just a fantastic, it’s one of those you know, I’m sure a lot of other people just hit their head like, wow!

BABENZIAN: Everybody’s like, “How did you do that.” I mean, we think there’s a lot of plasticity to the word, it’s applications, how we use it for categories.

HAND: For sure. You didn’t name the brand after yourself. Was there any desire to do that? I mean, you came from a different background.

BABENZIAN: Never! Yeah, actually, John and I split as partners almost immediately, not from any bad blood, just life. And we’re still very close. John was meant to be the face of the brand because you know John’s a colorful guy and like well-known and loves that role. I was just meant to be the guy that ran it. And so no, for me, that thought of my name being on it, had never even crossed my mind.

HAND: Have you ever had conversations with Steve about his name being on his brand?

BABENZIAN: No, but it’s good. I will actually because you know, you give up. I like being anonymous. I truly do. Now you would not know that by the things I’ve had to do to become the front of the brand. Like, I talked about the brand, I go on stage when asked, I’ll do things.

HAND: You’ll do podcast.

BABENZIAN: I’ll do podcast. And I would have done this podcast no matter what, but no, my desire to this day is not to be recognized. I don’t mind if people know I’m the guy that started GREATS and built a brand, I don’t really want to be, “That’s him,” like being able to see me. I’m not crazy about that.

HAND: Well, it’s interesting. And, you know, you should chat with Steve about it. And, you know, they’re no short: Stuart Weitzman, I mean, the list could go on and on, Jimmy Choo, I mean. And for a lot of designers, I think what’s behind that is some sense of just the authenticity of it, you know, I’m putting my name on this product. But what comes with it, and you’ve now lived it, you know, in the context of the sale of the business or rounds of financing, you’re giving up control to a certain degree over your own legacy, which is very fraught with issues.

BABENZIAN: I never thought of it that way.

HAND: Right.

BABENZIAN: But I’m glad, like now I know what that really means, because I have friends that have done things after their name, and they really don’t even own their name, they just have it on their licence, you know, it’s that kind of thing.

HAND: Yeah. So, I often ask a fairly hackney question, what’s the difference to you between fashion and style? But I think more focused on footwear, what’s the difference to you between a product which has a fashion moment and one that it sounds like you strive for through GREATS that has some lasting style?

BABENZIAN: I would summarize it by saying the classic is where the longevity comes from.

HAND: Is that a way of saying it kind of looks like a lot of other things?

BABENZIAN: I think that’s the same for white t-shirt. How many big brands make a white t-shirt? Thousands. How many brands make a pair of jeans? How many brands make a penny loafer? How many brands make a double monk? Okay.

HAND: Look at my double monk here, it’s really good stuff.

BABENZIAN: Are they bench made?

HAND: No, they’re not. They’re [inaudible 44:20] New York.

BABENZIAN: Off the shelf?

HAND: Yeah, they’re off the shelf.

BABENZIAN: You better race your rates.

HAND: I’m a shoe 11 so it just a very…

BABENZIAN: But my point is like, I think that’s the world, where a white button down, like a white popping button down. So then you get into the, those are the classics, they’re tried and true, they’re always going to be there and that’s the Royal for us. And then every once in a while you might wear printed shirt, not at work, never at work, but that’s the fashion version of Doug. The classics last and they survive trend, and they’re generally what’s used for people with style. Fashion does not make you stylish. You can have the latest fashion on, whatever it is, but you could still look like a fucking buffoon, and many times they do. There is lack of comfort; you see it, but they’re trending, and like they bought that thing and most of the time, I look at people that are like minimal in their styling, rooted in classics and just pull it off, to me, they’re just more stylish. But style is really personal.

HAND: It is a personal question. I mean, I think it is important to be framed. You don’t want someone to remember clothes, in my case, the suit; I want them to remember me.

BABENZIAN: And they will because you really carry this well.

HAND: Well, and I—not that we’re talking about me—and I try not to overpower it either. It should be muted. I think you hit on it. It’s almost arresting enough to see somebody in a suit, at least at a lot of the places that we find ourselves. I mean our offices are here on Bryant Park. We’re not at 52nd and Park, you know there still are these bastions of white collar world where this is not uncommon, but focusing on the fashion industry, it is pretty uncommon to dress this way. I would say like, Tommy, Tommy is always in a blue blazer.

BABENZIAN: And he crushes it.

HAND: And he owns it.

BABENZIAN: He owns it. 90 degrees out, still looks great. But, that’s his style so like, it would almost be weird if you didn’t see him in it. And a blue blazer is not in fashion. So that’s the thing, he looks so good in 1990, 2000, 2010, 2019 in basically the same outfit.

HAND: Yep.

BABENZIAN: That’s style.

HAND: So I will ask, I don’t know if I warned you or not, but for our listeners who are just listening to the download, what are you wearing today? And to the extent, and I want accessories, I want the whole ensemble. And to the extent you know what season it is, tell me what season it is.

BABENZIAN: Okay. So I’m wearing an unreleased pair of GREATS with a hand-painted floral canvas that I designed in 2016.

HAND: Okay. It reads a little—It’s like Hawaiian kind of. It’ also looks a little like wall paper.

BABENZIAN: Right, and it’s a beautiful canvas that I found in Italy that…

HAND: It spoke to you.

BABENZIAN: I’ll bring this out next year. We’re a little early. The pants, I can’t remember their name. They’re a carrot cut…

HAND: Well, if they’re a megazon, they’re probably obscure.

BABENZIAN: They are. They’re obscure. Well selected from Europe. Personally Josh was like, “You need to…”

HAND: And sort of cropped. You like to show ankle.

BABENZIAN: I do like to wear a crop pant. The T-shirt is from an artist named Josh VD who has really become quite famous actually. He does these amazing black and white rooms. He started with rooms. And this pocket is all hand-painted.

HAND: And he paints what? Like, the furniture in the room but on the walls?

BABENZIAN: Everything black and white in the room. So imagine this is just painted black and white. And now everything is just become…So this shirt, I should probably not wear it anymore, I should probably like put it away. But that’s not my style, either I wear things.

HAND: Yeah, your style is to wear those things that others might collect.

BABENZIAN: And I’ve got a few pieces of art from him and that’s the shirt and I’m wearing a Rolex Daytona that I’ve had for 12 years, and I don’t change my watches. I have watches but I’ll wear one for like, a year.

HAND: Got it. Do you have one of those cases that wine automatically?

BABENZIAN:  I don’t, but I need one. I know because I have…

HAND: I don’t need one but I should, you know, a little mini one.

BABENZIAN:  Yeah, I only need like a fiver, but yeah, an automatic watch should be rotated, keep in gears and oil.

HAND: Or just put it on your dog.

BABENZIAN: Well, mine just sit in the closet. Yeah, put it on your dog just as a collar.

HAND: Right.

BABENZIAN: So that’s what I’m wearing.

HAND: Okay, and the why? You probably had a full day or the afternoon. Were there any meetings other than the podcast that you know, or are you one of those guys who sort of grab it and go?

BABENZIAN: I had a full day of; some of them with like some of the team at Madden, some of them in my office. This is how I dress in the summer.

HAND: We’re right at that transition today; it’s rather warm but we’re almost fall, we’re just about fall.

BABENZIAN: Yesterday I wore a long sleeve button down and jeans, but my style is pretty consistent for like most of my life and it’s rooted in my…

HAND: Look. You’re, you know, and I am not blowing smoke up your ass, you’re guy I would stop.

BABENZIAN: Thank you.

HAND: Yeah, no, but you are just because you have a consistency. So I have a style question for you. I struggle when wearing tailored clothing wearing sneakers, casual sneakers with them. How do you advise guys who are going to wear a suit or a sports coat to wear GREATS, or, you know, if they’re—But to wear GREATS with that ensemble?

BABENZIAN: Well, and I’m not saying this because it’s my brand and the Royal’s a number one seller. The Royal is a suit wearing sneakers, not in white, don’t wear white, white just reads athletics all the time.

HAND: Plus, what belt do you wear with white?

BABENZIAN: Exactly, but we do a black, we do an all back, meaning the sole is black as well. We do a grey, we do a cuyo, which is like a tan, which basically could read like a tan loafer. And if you pick one of those colors…

HAND: Just wear it the way you would wear…

BABENZIAN: Just wear it like, a black Royal would wear like a black shoe. And you mind not feel comfortable with it. That’s the thing.

HAND: Well, and that’s the reason, I don’t do it because to me, part of my personal style is to be comfortable, not necessarily comfortable from an objective stand point of, “Oh, he’s in sweats,” but comfortable that I am dressed for the day. And back to that, how should a lawyer dress? You know, an athletic sole on a shoe to me is not, you know, I’m not going to be getting rebounds for you, I’m going to be closing your deal, right?

BABENZIAN: But when you say athletic sole, the Royal is not—I would not consider it an athletic sole. Technically, it’s a cup sole. It’s got on one thing, one height, one silhouette. Athletic soles have lots of technical shit in there with different cushioning pods and areas, and there’s usually a running shoe sticker in the back and so in the front. So a basketball shoes now, like they have a fatter back. Ours is flat so it’s a total—I wouldn’t consider it an athletic sole.

HAND: No, this is my thing to get over if I ever get over it and I’m in ever and that’s perfectly fine.

BABENZIAN: And that’s okay. I’m getting married in a pair of GREATS.

HAND: When are you getting married?

BABENZIAN:  September 26th.

HAND: Congratulations.

BABENZIAN: Thank you.

HAND: And where is that happening.

BABENZIAN: That’s going to be in Brooklyn, I’m not going to say the venue, maybe somebody will come throw things at us, who knows?

HAND: The pop.

BABENZIAN: We made up pair of shoes for Kevin Durant.

HAND: How stokes are you that he’s a Brooklyn Net?

BABENZIAN: That was sick. Now, this is years ago now but he wanted baby crocodile, so we sourced the amez.

HAND: There’s a segment of our listeners who are now screeching.

BABENZIAN: That’s okay. The customer’s always right. So we sourced the supplier for [amez 54:00] and we bought the skin. His feet are huge, he’s an 18 so we had to buy two of them. And there was enough left over to make my own pair. So I made a pair of black, they are super, super beautiful, like when Ralph makes a gator thing, this is that, except on my sneaker.

HAND: You know, there’s a designer we also represent, Jason Stalvey, you’re familiar with his alligator bags?


HAND: And they’re sort of similarly just absolutely decadent.

BABENZIAN: And it’s super elegant like it’s just clean.

HAND: Tux?

BABENZIAN: I’m wearing a tux, yes.

HAND: Who makes the tux?

BABENZIAN: Actually, this is funny because it’s not like a fancy thing. I was going to go buy a Tom Ford one and I was like yeah, yeah, yeah. I bought a tux last year from Bonobos.

HAND: I’ve got two tuxes from Bonobos, they wear pretty well.

BABENZIAN: Then I went and had it completely engineered, I took it to my guy and I’m like I want this to fit like he made it, like totally custom, and it’s like I feel like fucking James Bond sO I’m like, I’m not buying another tux. I love tux.

HAND: Yes, mine are more, you know, sort of a very Christmassy one which is sort of like the green black plaid, and then one is white, which, you know, don’t always have occasion to wear that. Well, congratulations.

BABENZIAN: Thank you.

HAND: Big year for you.

BABENZIAN: For sure.

HAND: Well, I’ll deep dive now into maybe the apropos of crocodile skin and sustainability, means things to different people, but what does—putting that aside for the moment – what does GREATS view as it’s responsibilities with respect to, I’ll say, environmental sustainability? And for the record, I don’t think that necessarily a few baby crocodile losing their life for a pair of shoes is not environmentally sustainable.

BABENZIAN: That was 4 years ago.

HAND: I’m talking more long-term, you know, in terms of land filled, in terms of just product and it’s life and how long things last.

BABENZIAN: Well, I think you’re touching on it already. I think the first rule of sustainability, I even struggle with the word…

HAND: It’s a meaningless term these days because people in the industry use it to mean labor practices, they mean environmental sustainability in some states. Some business places hear the word sustainable and think you’re just profitable but what I’m speaking to your hearing loud and clear is it’s environmental impact.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, so the first thing most important is how long does the last? Make a thing that last a long time and you have a high degree of  sustainability because you’re not having to buy it every 6 months if it will last for years, that’s a sustainable practice. Then the second thing is what is it made of? Well, leather gets a bad rap, it’s like people are saying that cows are polluting the environment. Those cows are also grown for food so without that food, the food supply in the world is going to be challenged. And I just don’t see that changing fast.

HAND: You know, there are conflicting views on that, for sure.

BABENZIAN: But while that cow is being grown for food, let’s use all of it, and leather is the by-product of that, and that also could be argued as a sustainable practice. I understand raising cattle and it’s impact on the environment, but I’m not in the cattle business, like if they stop using it…

HAND: You’ll come up with a plant-based solution?

BABENZIAN: We’re looking at those already; those exist already, but I’m not quite like convinced or ready to say leather should be banned from the world. I just don’t know—I’m not sure of that.

BABENZIAN: What plant-based solution have you looked at? And I’m not saying to replace or replicate the entire line, but have you dipped your toe in that customer facing or is it still to come?

BABENZIAN: They’re called pineapple leather. It’s not leather but it’s…

HAND: Yeah, no, I’m familiar, I mean, we represent Stella McCartney and she uses it.

BABENZIAN: We looked that and we like it and we might use that. We did the recycled knit from plastic, and we’ll continue to do that. We’re at 20% now in recycled a rubber in our sole, but we’re elevating that number and get us as close to 100 as we can. We’re using recycled insoles. OrthoLite is taking all the soles chopping them up and remaking them. We really just started doing this about a year ago and it’s our job to continue to do more. But I never going to be comfortable saying we’re a sustainable company in terms of environment because we make stuff, and making stuff has some impact on the environment. I think the best we can do is to be as responsible as we can and make the things that leave the least amount of impact for what people are wanting, by the way. You can’t force a general customer to buy something they want. The faster they get more sustainable, we’ll be right there with them.

HAND: Well, it’s a broader polish discussion of course, I mean, you can tax new things more than old things, there definitely are brands that are looking into sort of recycling their own product. You know, few things last forever, and few things take as much of a beating, is shoes, let’s face it, they’re the one thing that’s in direct contact  with us and the planet, you know, and just the normal wear and tear is wear and tear. But it’s clearly something that a large segment of your customer base and all customer bases care about, but to date, it really doesn’t—There is no regime that one can point to or certification process yet that is sort of globally acceptable where you could say we are certified by this particular non-profit organization and therefore, that means our practices are clean in this numbers of ways.


HAND: And I think part of that for the industry is the production of everything is so desperate, you know, I mean, I don’t know how many different factors you used to, say, produce the Royal but for apparel, because there are so many different elements to every garment, you may use eight different facilities to make one suit. And it’s very difficult to impose your regime from them from a production standpoint, or even enforce it, unless you’re massive and are willing to send a representative there, you know?

BABENZIAN: And this is happening. Zara is doing it, Adidas is doing it. The big guys are doing it and demanding things so that’s great.

HAND: Right.

BABENZIAN: And we can’t demand that but we’re looking for a place that we can go which  are already doing it that provide that level of sustainability, responsibility. You talked about before, though, labor, you know ethical treatment of workers is mission critical for me personally. And I can see proudly that the factories we use have some of the best working environment I’ve ever seen in a factory, and we’ll continue to do that, even if we make product back in Asia, which we probably will. We’re probably going to make some styles that just belong to be made in Asia from a— Italy is good at some things; they’re not good at others, they just can’t make everything. The don’t have the machines.

HAND: The world is learning that, I feel, you know, and that’s a good thing, just in terms of general globalization, and you know, workers right globally because I think for a long time Asia has just been associated with cheap labor but as you know it’s not all cheap.

BABENZIAN: No, there is factories that have, they are less than America for sure, but for China they are well paid, and I think they should all be well paid, I really do. I have a funny story. We used to make stuff in Asia. About 30% of our business was Asia styles were 59 to 89 bucks. A I went once and I sat down with the factory owner, “Look, I would like to buy lunch every time our stuff is on the line, like I want to kind of have a group of people that work on the GREATS stuff, we can lower the quality control failure. If they’re more focused on it, you will say waste, they’ll feel better, and I want to buy them lunch.” And he translated back he said, “Well, if you’re willing to do that, just give me the money and I’ll make them work on it.” I swear to God. And it freaked me out because he was missing the point, like the factory owner doesn’t need to make more money; the employees need to be treated better. And I left that factory.

HAND: Well, that’s one of the great benefits of being an entrepreneur, starting your own business, being able to make to meet those kinds of decisions. Pivoting back to influencers, and our mutual friend and client of this firm Nick Wooster, he was one of first, not one of the first, but I remember doing the deal across from you guys—Thank God for conflict waivers—to do his Capsule Collection with you. What do you think about the rise of the influencer as a marketing component of brand? And what do you think it messages to consumers?

BABENZIAN: You know, influencers have become the celebrity of the day. That doesn’t make them good designers. I’m not talking about Nick. Nick is really talented at—But he’s also worked in the industry before he became an influencer.

HAND: Well, and this was ages ago really at this point, I mean, it was early days.

BABENZIAN: But there are influences now that are building brands but they’re not designers, and that’s okay, but they are selling lots of stuff and it’s a really interesting time, it’s a transitional time, and they think they matter. I think they’re going to continue to matter. The days of kind of the actor, musician, only or sportster are gone. Those people still matter to, but there’s this new—Influencers is like a catch all, it’s better if you have a skill. Having a million followers because you show your ass is probably not really an influencer but having a million followers and taking beautiful photos or making cakes or cooking, whatever there’s a skill associated with the audience, that’s when you can make something.

HAND: No, I think there is a degree of influencers that really they’re just good at curating their feeds, but most of them to have some skill or some…

BABENZIAN: I’m not sure. I don’t know that.

HAND: By most I mean more than 50%.

BABENZIAN: Sure, if say so.

HAND: You know, and I also probably lump into that people who you know, in your way back agency days would have called…In a way a Kevin Durant is an influencer as well as an athlete but he’s moving the needle outside of just the court.

BABENZIAN: Yeah, what really changed is technology. There is a platform now for these guys to talk on all the time, show what they want to talk about, whether, Instagram, Twitter, Big Talk, Facebook, whatever their channel is. Before those channels, you couldn’t moneytize the way you can today. You did a big TV deal, you did a car deal, a liquor, a shoe deal, and that ran on TV and in print. Today, you can do a deal like that for a day, $1 million in one post, and that platform allowed them to do that. It also gave an opportunity for more people to do it.

HAND: For sure, and I think the sway that mega influences like that have is perhaps dissipating a little bit because the engagement if you have millions of followers, it’s got to be I mean, you just can’t write them all thank you notes. I have seen, again, more emerging brands, but focus brands what we term micro influences, which really means they just have below a million followers, usually below a hundred thousand but they have proven engagement with a core consumer group. And we see a lot of fashion proposition that are built around road biking or deep sea fishing or the perfect leather flip flop, and they can really hit a very, very focused market outreach by curation.

But I do think—Oddly, we’re back to agencies but I think some of the agencies that are popping up to manage the account of even micro influencers may have a real future.

BABENZIAN: Yes, and ultimately, it is about engagement because like, a million followers is not impressive when there is really low engagement, right? It’s got to have efficacy to kind of talk about, “Hey, I discovered this brand through this woman or man that I really, really like and I engage in it,” it’s not just like, I follow it. And that’s being smoked out and continues to.

HAND: It is.

BABENZIAN: And it will.

HAND: Feeds that look like catalogs are catalogs.


HAND: So get me real.

BABENZIAN: But there’s a business there, and it’s a meaningful one and I think it will continue.

HAND: And as far as now embedded within Steven Madden, is there a pivot or change to the GREATS story? Or is it going to remain the same and kind of have that mission statement that you had?

Nm, Yeah, the mission isn’t changing, the brand isn’t changing. What’s changing is we now have resources to do more than this like, we built the business basically on one silhouette but I want more like, it wasn’t like I only wanted to do is that, it’s just when you’re allocating….

HAND: Dress shoes.

BABENZIAN: I’ll make you one dress shoes.

HAND: All right, if it’s not alligator.

BABENZIAN: I made a hiking boot

HAND: That’s great. Was it a full style?

BABENZIAN: Two seasons worth. Made in Italy [inaudible 1:10:05] sole.

HAND: Well, you’ll get more at best with things like that undoubtedly, which would be great and I think will be great, you know, really for consumers.

BABENZIAN: I mean, look, we’re going to add some silhouettes to the collection, maybe even deep in some other stuff here and there, but we have a big opportunity a head of us moving forward.

HAND: For sure. Well, Brian, time’s up. That’s a wrap.

BABENZIAN: Thank you.

K;l. Thanks for coming in. For your troubles, you’ll get a copy of The Laws of Style, which I think you may have one already.


HAND: Well, read the footwear section with great interest.

BABENZIAN: Thank you.

HAND: You give me note back. And you, our listeners can get a copy of The Laws of Style by searching on Amazon, The Laws of Style: Sartorial Excellence for the Professional Gentleman or go to my publisher, The American Bar Association’s website where you can purchase it as well.

Ryan, any last shout out? I know people know where to go for your product but any capsules you’re doing or other pro bono elements to…?

BABENZIAN: Look, for those of you who don’t know, it’s Pro bono work? Yeah, look, anybody that has an interest in starting a business, hit me up on Instagram, email me. Actually, I don’t know if email is a good idea. Find me on Instagram and shoot me a direct message because I really do like to..

HAND:  You do give back. You provided mentorship. We didn’t get into any of that, but maybe around two. But that’s always, and I think people have a lot to learn. Hopefully, this episode got some of those points out and thanks again for coming in.

BABENZIAN: Thank you. All right.

HAND: Bye now.

OUTRO: You’ve been listening to The Laws of Style with Douglas Hand. For more information, go to our, and you can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @handofthelaw. Thank you for tuning in. And stay stylish.