Auri Inc., an upscale shoemaker once touted as one of America's most promising companies by Forbes, has shuttered its line of shoes to focus on licensing its technology to established luxury footwear brands.
The company closed its North Laguna showroom and headquarters earlier this year as part of the move.
"The costs associated with being a footwear brand are exorbitant," said founder Ori Rosenbaum. "It's overwhelming."
Rosenbaum, a Laguna Beach resident, cited the high costs associated with trade shows, samples, marketing materials, factories, inventory and being a public company.
He said the decision to move away from manufacturing and branding to licensing cut overhead costs by approximately 80%.
Auri's luxury shoes, which were sold online at http://www.aurifootwear.com and in high-end department stores and boutiques, featured patented technology that limited the pain by 50% to 80%, he said.
Rosenbaum got the idea for the company while watching a group of beautifully-dressed women leave a Las Vegas nightclub, designer shoes in hand — not on foot.
It made him wonder what women would do if five-inch heels were actually comfortable.
"Why wouldn't you want fashion shoes that don't hurt?" he said. "It's just so obvious."
It may be obvious, but it's definitely not easy to brand. Fashion and comfort are like oil and vinegar when it comes to footwear, Rosenbaum said.
"The minute you say 'comfort shoes' you think Grandma," he said.
His goal was to change that. When he first started his company, he paired technical designers with fashion designers. He admits the collaboration wasn't easy but eventually they found common footing, no pun intended.
Now he believes the change can happen on a large scale, he said, and he can help.
"When you buy a luxury brand shoe like a Louboutin — it just hurts like hell," he said. "That's not true luxury. That's not. We want to offer true luxury brands."
He compared it to a five-star resort, complete with the most comfortable bed, softest sheets and pillows. What if the bed was hard as a rock? He said people don't stand for that when they pay for a luxury hotel room, and they shouldn't stand for it with luxury shoes either.
Rosenbaum hopes to partner with brands, like Prada, that have a loyal following and brand recognition that could use his technology in some of their shoes.
He said 9 out of 10 women notice the comfort in their shoes almost immediately. Pair that with iconic shoe brands, which he noted coincidently make the most uncomfortable shoes, and it would be hard for women to say no.
"You can imagine if Prada or Gucci launched a fall collection with this kind of technology…," he said. "It gives them a competitive advantage over other brands."
You just need the girl to put them on and the shoe would be sold, he said.
With a footwear brand, you're competing with hundreds of others; however, he says they're unmatched when it comes to their technology.
Vibrams, an Italian company that makes outer soles, has partnered with companies such as Ferragamo. The companies have similar business models, he said, but different products.
"I don't know one brand that's a technology integration brand that [is] specifically for women's heels," he said. "None. Never been done before."
In the YouTube video below, Rosenbaum explains the technology behind Auri Inc.