|Jo Lam, left, and Somang Yang sit together at their office. / Courtesy of KADA:KUDU|
By Hallie Bradley
"Shoes have one of the highest return rates across all categories in e-commerce," KADA:KUDU co-founder Jo Lam began as she explained their new virtual fitting concept, which not only seeks to make fitting easier, but also specific to each foot individually. Along with co-founder Somang Yang, the two, who first met while colleagues for a consultancy in Singapore in 2013, are changing the way women shop for heels.
KADA:KUDU is a brand that specializes in heels that can take women from the workplace to the dancefloor. Working with artisans in Seoul's Seongsu-dong neighborhood, an area known for shoe production, the designs are classic and are in line with KADA:KUDU's goal to promote purchasing less and buying better. The first line of shoes that Lam and Yang have introduced is the "Perfect Pump," a seven-centimeter heel that features a contoured memory foam insole lined with 360 Degree Air Cushion. The cushion provides all-day support and the soles are anti-slip rubber for shock absorption.
An interesting aspect of the company is their virtual fitting solution which allows women to snap a photo of their feet for instant sizing. Should each foot be different sizes, then the customer will receive shoes that fit each foot perfectly.
Though the idea for virtual fittings was a pre-COVID-19 concept, Somang explained that they "certainly have benefited from COVID as people who previously didn't like to shop for shoes online were suddenly much more receptive to the idea."
|A guide to using KADA:KUDU's virtual shoe fitting online. / Courtesy of KADA:KUDU|
In early 2020, Somang, originally from Korea, was in Berlin coming up with the tech behind virtually fittings for shoes and Jo, from the U.S., was working in California as a brand consultant. The idea was to move to Korea not only because K-fashion was opening up but because Europe and the U.S. were in the middle of pandemic lockdowns and the women needed to work with small-batch manufacturers and artisans who were difficult to access due to border closures and lockdowns.
"K-Startup Grand Challenge was a great way to help us move to Korea, speed-track the paperwork and get plugged into the Korean startup ecosystem," Jo explained.
Somang added, "I think the K-Startup Program itself is perhaps better suited to companies who already have a product that they want to introduce to a new market. However, it definitely provided the structure needed for us to progress very quickly in building out the tech and designing and producing our shoes."
Connected to their shoe manufacturer by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Somang said, "It was a great match as our manufacturer is a second-generation shoemaker in his 30s who was born into the craft, but also interested in e-commerce and selling online."
|Somang Yang, left, and Jo Lam fulfill orders. / Courtesy of KADA:KUDU|
While the pair have found challenges in starting a business in Korea because of the bureaucracy and the tax and labor regulations, Somang said, "there is a concerted effort by the government to help startups, and we certainly benefited from that through KSGC 2020."
Learn more about KADA:KUDU on their website kadakudu.com, Instagram @kada_kudu or by searching YouTube for KADA:KUDU.
Hallie Bradley is a writer based in Seoul and runs the popular site thesoulofseoul.net.