Isn't this Versace-esque just futuristically sexy and fun?
An exchange of FB messages, SMS and e-mails followed; with me sending questions for a feature on her fabulous shoes in my Manila Bulletin column. Below is my article that came out last Saturday :)
The Smartest Steps
A winning online formula, plus fabulous shoes
MAE SERGIO, a DLSU graduate at the tender age of 18, inadvertently got into the shoe business. "Little did I know that my brief vacation abroad with my mom was going to be the start of a new-found career," she recounts. "I posted my new purchases to show off to friends. Then, they offered (or let me rephrase that, they begged) to buy them. Only those with the same shoe size as mine were lucky. Then, upon announcement of my next vacation, orders from friends started pouring in."
Such became the business model of sorts for VIRTUAL MAE, her online shoe store, which started out with a Multiply site in August 2009 and has become the shoe source for a good number of fashionistas quite taken by her fabulously appealing statement footwear. The site has become so popular and credible that it has garnered a "Trusted Business" status from the popular online commerce platform.
Her success is a combination of aesthetic acuity, resourcefulness and online business savvy. Through her many travels conducted as part of running a fashion boutique, she has accumulated a network of creative and dependable suppliers overseas, who collaborate with her in coming up with shoe designs. Images of prototypes are then posted on the Multiply website for one to two months for potential customers to place orders. Only when orders are placed, with a 50% downpayment, will the pair of shoes go into production. ( "A few extra pairs are manufactured for spot buyers," adds Sergio.)
VIRTUAL MAE has been in the shoe business for more than a year and a half and has proven its worth amidst so many competing online retail stores. Sergio credits her success to, among other things, "an unquenchable enthusiasm and industry in everything I endeavor." "In concrete terms, these include sheer business-sense, innovation, variety, high quality of products, fashion-forward designs, reasonable prices, an order-lite system, service plus: beyond customer expectations." "These make up for a proven formula," she adds.
The Multiply site has also been very supportive of Sergio's new-found venture. She adds, "Online shopping puts customers at a high risk of fraud, given the lack of ability to inspect the items before they can purchase it. A "Trusted Business" status on Multiply guarantees that, aside from having complete and legitimate documents, the company has a solid and verifiable track record as a leading seller. It is a 'quality seal' of sorts. It implies a stronger ground for buyer's assurance; connotes a merchant's confidence and trustful commitment to serve and deliver. It has actually encouraged my market to purchase freely without much wavering. I am extremely grateful to David Hersh, Multiply.com's vice president for business development, for this honor. I had the privilege of meeting him personally last year, as he discussed special features in the works to make the Multiply Marketplace a better platform for businesses like mine."
Says Jack Madrid, Multiply's Philippines country manager: "VIRTUAL MAE is one of the entrepreneurial success stories that define what Multiply's mission is in the Philippines, helping Filipinos build online businesses. Virtual Mae is a birlliant example of that."
Advertising in all forms helped create wonders for Sergio as well, with customers sharing their latest shoe purchases from VIRTUAL MAE by word-of-mouth or through cyberspace. Stylish personalities such as Mikaela Lagdameo-Martinez, Rocio Olbes, Mai Kaufman, Ornusa Cadness and Tweetie de Leon-Gonzales, and fashion bloggers such as Tin Iglesias are loyal customers of Virtual Mae.
My experience was really fun! One of my bestfriends MIKA LAGDAMEO knew I was looking for the perfect pair of black wedge boots for my fall trip to Italy. I was really specific with what I wanted. I searched everywhere and still couldn't find that "perfect pair." That was when Mika stepped in and insisted I go with her to Mae's house. And what do you know? I found exactly what I was looking for almost instantly.—Rocio Olbes
I absolutely love VIRTUAL MAE! The selection of shoes are so much more stylish and up to date as compared to others and customer assistance is outstanding! Website easy to navigate and the speedy deliveries are a pleasure! Shopping online has never been this easy. Thank you MAE SERGIO for your good taste and excellent service! =)—Mai Kaufman
And why wouldn't they be? Sergio's shoe collection is on-trend: "VIRTUAL MAE styles are "high fashion," of imported genuine materials and complex construction; with more colors and/or interesting details, in platforms, wedges, stilettos or architectural heels, (Inspiration: Nicholas Kirkwood), or pump stilettos or pin-ups that are suitable for work and evenings without the overt sexiness (Inspiration: Salvatore Ferragamo) or classy and evening-appropriate peep-toes with crystal-studded heels that remind me of styles from Stuart Weitzman. Constant research, fashion trade publications and travels abroad help keep me up to speed."
For its latest collection, VIRTUAL MAE offers an explosion of bright-hued power soles Sergio dubbed as the COLOR SPLASH series. "This was actually inspired by the movie "Sin City, based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same title. Here, they used a technique similar to what they use in a software application called "Color Splash," converting photos to black and white while letting you leave behind colors in some detail, thus adding a dramatic pop to it--the same type of attention I want drawn into the shoe designs. They're whimsical, fanciful and unpredictable," explains Sergio.
When asked what she'd be if she were a shoe, her answer is as interesting as her shoe collection:
Hmmm... Let me rephrase that. If I were a type of footwear, I'd be BOOTS! High-heeled ones! Why? Because they're HOT! Hahaha..
Seriously though, boots, particularly those worn as protective footwear by workers (work boots) have a reputation for being as hard-wearing as their owners, hence the commonly used simile "tough as old boots."
To "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" means to sustain oneself without external help. I dip my hands into the dirty work, and by myself as much as possible.
Wearing "seven-league boots" references a classic children's fairy tale and indicates that a person or company can cover great distances, figuratively or literally, in a single stride...which is exactly my approach. Furthermore, I am a risk-taker. My actions are guided not so much by reason but by intuition.
Boots have become my "proper shoes." I don't follow norms, and I could wear heeled boots even during the summer season (Talk about HOT, literally!) So I guess in this respect you can call me deviant, haha! Designer Henry Lawson leaped to fame after being spotted in a newspaper wearing boots. Referring to them as 'Proper Shoes', this led to him being 'booted out' of the cool footwear elite of the late nought-ies.
Why high heels in particular? ...because I "walk tall, aim high"...wink, wink!
Being in heeled boots is a total, wholesome experience! It "soars" spirits to "greater heights!" Who knows what the future holds, but equipped with stylish heeled boots, I am confident I can cope with anything.
"Elevate"...rule the world!
Visit virtualmae.multiply.com to checkout more styles. I suggest you stop thinking about what to order and just follow your heart. By the time I confirmed my orders, most of them have already been sold out :o Manufacturing and shipping will take about 6-8 weeks. I know, it's a bit long, but I'm sure I will be swept away when I see MY shoes by May ;)
Good luck and happy shopping :)