Q&A With Dan Sullivan 2

Last month we gave you the opportunity to ask Irregular Choice owner, Dan Sullivan ANY question and we were inundated with nearly 200 responses from fans, eager to find out the inner workings of the man behind the brand.

With topics ranging from his favourite chocolate bar, to collaboration requests, design questions to pricing; no stone has been left unturned.

We have collated all of the questions and over the next few weeks will post as many answers as possible. We hope you enjoy finding out more about us!

q &A

 


Q: how come the price of shoes has increased but the quality has gone down older shoes last much longer than ones made in the last 3-4 years what's changed?? - Holly Lister

A: It is extremely important to us that our high standards of quality are maintained, this area is given high priority and corners cannot be cut. We invest more each year in new manufacturing techniques which ensure our quality levels are one of the best in the industry. Indeed, our returns levels are well below the industry average, which we are very proud of given the high degree of detail and components used in each of our designs.

One of the appealing features of Irregular Choice is that there is so much going on! we rarely make easily manufactured shoes – it’s just not in our DNA. To ensure everything comes together properly at the manufacturing stage we only work with the best people and factories who mostly work exclusively for us and are regularly audited by internationally recognised testing houses. I believe that fair practice is our responsibility and thus a good reason not to cut costs on manufacturing standards.

I believe that Irregular Choice are one of the hardest shoes to produce, especially at the price points we aim for. We push the design and manufacturing boundaries while keeping our returns rates very low.  I am very lucky to have an excellent quality control team headed up by a Gentleman called Colin Browning, who has worked with my family for over 30 years. Colin is more like a member of our family than a colleague, and I am proud to say is rated as one of the best technicians in the shoe industry and the best for our type of product. He oversees a great team of quality controllers in China who work in the factories ensuring products coming off the track are made to the highest standard.

DO things slip through the net? I’ll hold my hands up and be honest, yes they do. Do we do everything we can to try and prevent this happening? Yes we do.

We have manufactured thousands of designs and don’t want a single customer to be disappointed with any one of our products. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, but how we react to an issue when it happens is just as important to me as the fault itself. We are always trying to improve, to minimise problems, to learn, to listen and to strive for the impossible .. Perfection!

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Q: Any chance the Irregular Choice exhibition that is on in Horsham will travel? Need it in Northern Ireland!!!!! Also will there ever be a shop in Ireland, north or south? Belfast or Dublin or both. - Laura Pynappels

A: Now that we have put together the exhibition it could be fun to take it on tour. Who knows, if we can find suitable venues then it would be great. Belfast is one of the places I would really like to have a store. Next to Scotland, and a store or two in the North of England, I think Belfast would be great.


Q: Are there any plans to open a shop in Holland! - Sarah Dekker Flynn

A: Not at present I am afraid. But I would love to, so if you ever hear of the right partner who we could work with, then please let us know.


Q: Would really like to know if there are any plans to recreate a Marie Antionette collection? Would really like to see something a little baroque in style, I think us ladies would love it! ❤ - Samantha Hinchcliffe

A: Funny enough I have developed a couple of shoes, which are based on Marie Antionette for SS18, I hope you like them.


Q: I would like to ask him if he ever considered doing another partnership/collaboration with Disney to make their mini character shoes collectables into a real size shoes collection? Because they definitely rock! - Anne-Cécile Ichigo

A: This is a great idea. I'll have to pitch it to them.


Q: Why oh why have you never made any more Mary Piper shoes? I NEED AN ENTIRE COLLECTION OF THEM and I would buy them all of my life because they are perfect and they are long and pointy and they look amazing on me. If you make any more I must be the first to know. Thank you. - Gill Bloor

A: The Mary Piper shoes were great and as you say, very pointed, but they looked amazing on. We are trying to develop more and more flat shoes and this could be one to reinvent.

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Q: I would love to know if Dan helped design the Shoes for The Monster High dolls? I loved buying them for my daughter just for the shoes because they reminded me of IC so much. XxX - Andrea Dockerty-byrne

A: No I didn't but I can see why you'd think I might have. It would have been a fun project to do but sadly it is not something we have ventured into - yet?!


Q: Would Irregular Choice consider making half sizes. I'm a 4.5 so I can wear the boots but the heels I can't unless they have a strap. - Kim Warren

I am a UK10.5, so I understand your frustrations. I am constantly told to go up or down a size, and that half a size doesn't matter. But, unless you have a half size foot, I don't think anyone can understand. I would like to do half sizes, but we have limitations within our factories. Every size, or half size, means new moulds, new knives, sometimes new heels, etc., and sadly this all adds to costs and the minimum order quantities we need to reach before we can go into production. And therefore it becomes a business decision of whether one outweighs the other. In the past, we had half sizes (I believe it was around 2009/2010) and unfortunately it wasn't cost effective. Which is a shame, and as I say, I would love to do them, but I also have to sometimes, regrettably, have a practical business head on.


Q: I love the soles but is there any way that the prettiness can stay but more grip can be managed, please? - Clair Miranda

A: Unfortunately not. This is something we have looked into in considerable depth and we haven't yet found any coating for the outsole prints that wouldn't distort the image. As I am sure you are aware, we sell outsole protectors and they have grip on them, but they also affect the image slightly and stop it from being quite so prominent. It would be a shame if that was the permanent finish of the outsole and you couldn't remove the sole protector to see the true image. Hopefully one day there will be a coating we could put over the top of the print that protected it during wear without distorting it.

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Q: You inspire myself and my daughter (as well as many others) to be our wonderful selves that we are, with your shoes you inspire us to let our creative sides show.......but I would love to know what inspires you? Or who inspires you? What influences your creative mind that we all love? - Kay Bre

A: I realise it may sound a cliché, but I do get inspired by the fans of the brand. I am constantly studying what I think the customers would like, and what they are buying into. I have to admit that I get excited when some design or other comes to mind, and I then think 'will the customer love it as much as me?', and the fact that we sell the more Irregular products inspire me to be more creative and to develop more and more creative products.

To be honest, if a merchandiser or accountant looked at what we sell in depth, and where we should be putting more resources, they would probably tell us that we should cut back on the more creative side of our business and spend more time looking at the more commercial end of the collections. But that doesn't inspire or excite me, nor is it what the brand stands for.

I would rather keep being creative and service the more Irregular aspect of the collection. So as long as we are selling that creative product then it inspires me to create more of it, and push more and more boundaries.

 

Q: I’d like to ask Dan which is his favourite collection? -Jessica Shipman

It is always next season’s collection. It is the one I am presently creating in my mind and that is what gets me excited, the thought that anything is possible.

I know some people think that some of my shoes are a bit OTT but I love imagining and seeing what can be done. Even if they are not the most commercial shoes, I don't want to stop imagining what could be done, in the hope that even a small percentage of fans will enjoy them.

 

Q: I love Irregular Choice they are my only high heels I wear and it’s a sad week if I don’t manage to get at least one pair worn to work, they truly fit fabulously and I am certain my No Place Like Home red glitter Ban Joes actually make me feel better too. My question for Dan - does he think that his shoes manage to make an emotional attachment for the buyer and that’s why they are so popular. That is do we buy them because of an emotional link rather than a purely aesthetic link. - Caroline Hallett

A: My hope is that by wearing Irregular Choice shoes you get that feel good feeling, you feel that you have something special and amazing that sets off your senses, and in doing so it gives you that emotional adrenaline and exciting link to the shoes.

I know for me, that there is nothing better than buying something amazing that you just can't wait to get home and try on, and all the way home you have the excitement of what you have bought, wanting to put it on, there and then on the tube!

I would love to think that buying a pair of shoes, I have designed, would make people happy and excited and therefore an emotional link is made.

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Q: I would like to know....the Ground Control flats were an amazing tribute to David Bowie. Are there any other musicians/genres that Dan is inspired by - secretly hoping for a pair of creepers ?? - Jemma L Welsh

A: I love all types of music and I have a very wide mix of tastes. I love 50s music right through to present day sounds. I have my favourites on my playlist and it amazes me sometimes what I seem to listen to the most but I could never really choose one song or a genre as my favourite as there are just too many across the decades to choose from.  They all inspire my designs.

Creepers are something we have done in the past and could definitely be something we could bring back!


Q: If we lived in a world where shoes were banned, what would be on your drawing board and in your shops instead? - Alison Louise Lloyd

A: Probably stories. I am frustrated writer at heart. I love creating and imagining stories and I wish I had more time to sit down and put pen to paper.

Q: As a designer, Dan has often broken the limits of regular shoes and created crazy, wonderful and irregular shoes. Has there ever been a moment where he wondered if people would actually wear a design or whether his design had gone too far? If so has he found himself simplifying the design or have you put it out there anyway and was your customers reaction one that you expected or surprised you? Thanks! Absolutely in love with character heels! - Charna Cole

A: I think most people in some way or another question themselves, especially if you are being creative, as you are breaking new ground and that can be scary.

Every season I question what I have done, is it too fast, is it too crazy, is it too simple, have I covered all the bases of what the customers want? But every season I just have to put it out there and hope that someone will like it and buy it.

What I love the most are the ‘Marmite’ shoes, those are the true Irregular Choice, and you either love them or hate them. They create discussion and conflicts, and not everyone is meant to understand them, but the people that don't understand some shoes, will understand other styles, and visa versa.

This is one of the main reasons I hide away from things like Facebook, as I think it is important to try to not to be influenced too much by others as you can get directed in lots of different conflicting ways, which can end up in you losing what you believe in.

I have learnt that the best way is for me to do what I love, is to take a deep breath, bury my head in the sand like an ostrich and pray!


Q: I'd like to ask if there are any plans to make more items other than shoes and handbags, I know a long time ago this was tried and was not successful but now with the big following if this was a plan. For example, umbrellas, wellies, clothes, slippers, colouring books, calendars/diaries, mugs etc. Things that would sell just as well. - Jamie Giddings

A: Absolutely, I have always believed that Irregular Choice is a lifestyle brand based around shoes rather than just a shoe brand.

I would love to see the brand develop more into other areas and there are a few things in the pipeline that you have mentioned in your question. For example we have recently released a slipper, which has a rubber outsole so you can wear them indoors and outdoors.

We are also working on other items such as diaries for next year. This whole area is definitely something I would like to see us develop further. The brand is not about becoming bigger and wider, but rather trying to develop and responding to what our true fans want. And hopefully those core supporters of the brand would rather have an Irregular Choice fun version of stationery, slippers, etc!?!

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Q: Many years ago I visited a little Irregular Choice shop in Brighton that had “the shoes that never made it” which were being sold off. I found the most beautiful pair ever but there were only 2 left shoes (I thought about plastic surgery but then how would I wear all my other Irregular Choice shoes) Has Dan got any plans to open another shop like that, selling off some of the styles that were never made?- Jez'n'Hev Cheesman

A: We have a massive pile of old products that never made it, but they are all half pairs or samples that can't be worn because they are not up to the correct standard for wear.

We were thinking about having a big clearance of all the old samples and half pairs at some point, if this was of interest to our fans. But as there is not much you can do with the shoes, apart from just looking at them, I wasn't sure if there would be enough demand.

Q: Could we have a horror/gothic theme? I love the theme shoes but I'm not a girly girl lol -  Lisa Adams

A: This is not a theme we have explored to date, but definitely something we should be looking at. As I know so many people are fans and I think we could put a fun twist on it. We would have to put our thinking caps on and see what we could do.

Q: What’s your favourite flavour Angel Delight? - Kristina Hann

A: Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate - covered in Cadburys chocolate buttons and in a chocolate bowl that I can then eat!