Zaid Arif is walking confidently on the road to success as a footwear entrepreneur.
ITALIAN luxury footwear designer Giuseppe Zanotti once said, “Never underestimate the power of a shoe”.
Zaid Arif could very well be living this philosophy, given his passion about shoes.
To him, a pair of shoes can make or break a man’s style. “I cannot stand it when someone wears horrible shoes. If they are my friends, I will tell them off,” he says matter-of factly.
Zaid likes to dress up since young, and owning the perfect shoes is important to him.
Sneakers are not in his fashionable footwear list, he says, because they are only for exercise and not meant for daily wear.
“I own about 100 pair of shoes compared to my wife who only has two pairs. Not all are high-end shoes but they must complement my attire for the day. My wife has given up on trying to iron my clothes for the day because I keep changing my mind.
“I usually will think of what to wear for the day and find the matching shoes. But then I will change my mind a few times before I settle on an outfit. Usually, both my belt and shoes will be in matching colours. I will choose a black belt if I can’t find one that matches my shoes.”
It is not a surprise then that when Zaid ventured into business, he chose to sell shoes at Uptown Danau Kota, Setapak.
Initially he ran it part-time but after three months, he decided to quit his marketing job to focus fulltime on it.
“It was making money and I have always liked doing business. I ran the stall for four years and learnt a lot about running a business. I gradually learnt what customers want.
“The experience helped when I launched my own brand of shoes.”
In 2015, Zaid set up Zeve Shoes together with his friend Muhd Azwin Afri, focusing on classic Italian leather footwear designs. Their first collection is handmade loafers.
Zaid says there is a demand for such footwear in Malaysia but the ones available are expensive.
Initially, however, it was a challenge as not a single pair was sold in the first three months.
“We realised the mistake was inpricing the shoes at RM389. Who will pay more than RM300 our shoes when we are nobodies? Once we slashed the price to RM289, sales improved.”
Zeve Shoes is now the talk of the town.
What attracts people to the brand, says Zaid, is that it offers the same quality and design as renowned Italian brands but at affordable prices.
“Targeting men from 25 to 35 years old, Zeve is filling the gap for those who want affordable but classic Italian footwear.
“Most 25-year-olds would have been working for a few years and are thus willing to spend more than RM200 on a pair of shoes.
Our footwear is for the fashion-conscious, regardless of age.”
Zaid wants men to be more attentive when choosing their shoes — from design and colours to the cutting.
“Most men buy shoes because they have to. I want to change that perception. I want men to get excited about wearing Zeve shoes.”
Made from calf leather including nubuck, suede and calf cracking oil leather, the Zeve Shoes range include tasseled, slippers, penny loafers, fringed loafers, Belgian loafer with tassel, Belgian loafer with ribbon, half loafer Belgian and half loafer tassel.
There is also a small collection of Oxford cap toe lace up, brogue wingtip lace up, double monk strap and Chelsea boots.
Zaid says the brand’s business philosophy is that “We exist to serve our customers”.
“As such, we aim to make the most visually appealing and the most comfortable shoes.
Every part of the shoes, from the tassel and leather to the shoe box, are carefully crafted to ensure customer satisfaction.
“That is the reason we don’t accept customised orders because we will lose our core identity. We foresee that most of our customers will want us to copy other branded designs.”
Due to increasing demand, the shoes are no longer handmade but are produced at a manufacturing facility in Gombak.
“But we don’t compromise on quality. We have a quality control team that will check the shoes carefully for defects. If there’s any customer who is not happy with the quality, we will replace the shoes free of charge.”
Every month, Zeve comes up with 918 pairs of shoes in a variety of colours including green, blue, black, light brown, dark brown and maroon. As orders increase from other countries as well, Zaid says he may have to look for a manufacturing facility abroad.
“We cannot ignore the orders. We have to fulfil online orders as well as the in-store stocks. So we need to expand.”
In addition to selling the shoes online, Zaid has set up a store in Etiqa Twins with local fashion designer Taufik Hasanudin. Through this collaboration, Zeve Shoes has sponsored several artistes for photoshoots and on the red carpet. It has also sponsored Akademi Fantasia contestants.
“I am also working with Taufik for a Zeve fashion line. I will provide the capital while he designs the collection. Next year, we will have a head-to-toe of a Zeve brand fashion range.”
Zaid collaborated with Karl Shafek and Joshua Fitton at the recent KL Fashion Week Ready to Wear 2017, where Zeve streetwear designs were introduced for the first time.
“The streetwear can be styled casually with jeans. They are the most sought-after footwear compared to our normal loafers.
“We are aware that most international footwear and luxury brands are now expanding into streetwear since it is a growing market.”
“From the beginning, my plan is to create a global brand. So it is important that we position and market Zeve Shoes on social media.
“I believe in the power of e-commerce. It is not enough to just have quality products without an effective marketing strategy. The company has spent thousands of ringgit on Facebook advertising for the past one and a half years and it has paid off,” he adds.
CARING FOR YOUR SHOES
ZAID Arif’s tips on handling leather shoes:
* Do not wear the same pair every day. It will wear out very fast even though it’s of premium quality.
* Polish your leather shoes once a month to keep them shiny. Shoe polish is cheap.
* For suede leather shoes, start with a silicone-based suede protector spray (make sure the colour matches with your shoes) to the suede-covered areas of the upper and then leave them overnight for better absorption.
* Don’t leave your shoes under direct sunlight.
* Wear socks when wearing a new pair of leather shoes for the first week. It will protect your feet from blisters. Once the leather is soft, you don’t need to wear socks anymore.
* Buy shoes made of genuine leather. If you love the design so much, it is worth it.