If the Shoe Fits
Texas fair-trade shoe company finds new home at Anthropologie
When founder Evan Streusand, 34, decided to name his shoe company Fortress of Inca, he wanted to emphasize the importance of protecting its integrity, principles and Peruvian roots. Now preparing for the brand’s August debut in retail powerhouse Anthropologie, Streusand is ready to make the leap from local with the same good intentions in mind.
“I think Anthropologie came at the right time. This is a really big step for us,” Streusand says. “They have the perfect customer for us. And it’s really cool that we are selling to them.”
“The principle of using high-quality materials and providing fair wages is always going to be there for us,” says Fortress of Inca Founder Evan Streusand.
Until now, Fortress of Inca has sold to small boutiques in its hometown of Austin and around the country, including Gypsy Wagon in Dallas. Streusand says the move to big-name retail is ideal for the brand’s new design direction, which includes a men’s collection set to debut this fall. The men’s collection, funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, will feature boots inspired by a pair Streusand bought during a trip to Peru a decade ago.
“We’ll now be able to make shoes for the rest of the population,” Streusand says. “It’s especially cool for me because I’ll actually get to wear them. It’s exciting and it’ll be really different for us, and it means that we’re growing.”
Fortress of Inca’s growth can be largely attributed to the gorgeous products — heels, flats, boots — the brand produces. The attention to detail is obvious in the stitching, the butter-like smoothness of the leather and the intricacy of the hand-woven patterns.
In a market as competitive as retail, Fortress of Inca has proven to be a brand of substance through its marketing, ethical business model and beautiful designs. Expert Peruvian cobblers use quality leathers and textiles to make the shoes. All aspects of production are done in a fair-trade environment and with Peruvian artisanship at the forefront of the design process.
“We really believe in the 'teach a man to fish' mantra,” Streusand says. “We pay our shoemakers good and fair wages that enable them to support their communities and families in a productive way that showcases their talent.”
The big move to the mainstream has Streusand hopeful for the future, and he adds that the company is even beginning to explore producing accessories. Although there may be more production outside of Peru, he says he intends to stay true to protecting the spirit and essence of Peruvian shoemaking.
“The principle of using high-quality materials and providing fair wages is always going to be there for us,” Streusand says. “Whatever we make it’s going to be with those principles behind it. I just see us continuing to grow. I see us getting better at what we do.”