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If the Shoe Fits

If the Shoe Fits

axel arigato

Axel Arigato is reinventing footwear—one step at a time.


Photography by Axel Arigato

This week, it might be a pair of cap-toe, python-embossed gray leather sneakers; next week, a pair of emerald green pony hair chukkhas. You never know what kind of shoes Axel Arigato will drop, and that's half the fun.

Launched last July, the Swedish-based company (Axel is the name of its French designer; Arigato, Japanese for "thank you") eschews brick-and-mortar outlets, drawing on its soaring social media fan base to sell the shoes it releases at weekly intervals. The strategy has resulted in a fiercely loyal customer base.

"Within three days of launching, we'd sold to 14 countries," says Albin Johansson, the company's 28-year-old CEO. "Now we are up to 76."

Johansson met creative director Max Svardh, also 28, in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2013, and, along with Axel, they've parlayed their love of footwear into a line that feels fresh, relevant, and highly viral.

Eight months after debuting, the brand has more than 100,000 Instagram followers, and its biggest challenge is keeping up with demand. Using high-end materials (the soles are the same as Balenciaga's), Axel Arigato has a simple mission.

"Sometimes you wake up and don't feel good," Svardh explains. "We want to create the feeling that once you put on our shoes, your self-confidence goes up."

Asserting their confidence, the trio are looking for a third factory, then perhaps starting a woman's line. Little by little, step by step.

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