5-7 August 2018, NEC Birmingham

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Q&A: Dan Sullivan


Two years on from the reintroduction of Irregular Choice to Moda Footwear, the brand has reached unprecedented levels of success across the UK and beyond. Now, as the brand plans to return for its fifth season this August, founder Dan Sullivan reveals how a small Brighton concept became big business. 

Q: What’s Irregular Choice all about? 
A: When I started Irregular Choice in 1999, I wanted to create something that wasn’t influenced by passing trends. I saw that the footwear fashion in the UK - and across the world - had become very boring; not what it used to be, and I wanted to bring that back to the market. I wanted to rekindle what my parents and their peers were creating back in the 70s and 80s. I wanted to create something Irregular, and that is where the name came from.

Q: Eighteen years on, is the name still relevant? 
A: My theory was that, if I named my brand Irregular Choice, then I always had to make an irregular product. I couldn’t deviate at any time from creating irregular designs, or the brand name just wouldn’t make sense. I also wanted to make shoes that were unique, but also at a price point that everyone could afford, be it immediately or by saving up. I want everyone to be able to have their Cinderella moment.

I have always tried to maintain that irregularity and creativity in the product throughout the years. It’s the type of footwear that I love doing, and I just don’t think I would be able to feel passion if I were working on basic boring shoes that weren’t irregular. It’s not my personality. The most irregular shoe in my collection, is the one that is plain black and boring to look at, which of course there never would be!

Q: How have you evolved the label, despite remaining true to your original ethos?
A: Irregular Choice has taken great strides over the past decade with expansions into its own retail outlets around the world. There have also been product developments including a new sports collection (ICED), a men’s collection, a bag range, accessories, clothing and, most recently, our phenomenally popular kids’ collection. We have branched out further with accessories from tights in our famous graphic prints that sold out in minutes, through to shoe care products like insoles, sole protectors and even shoe care protection to ensure customer can keep their much loved items pristine.
In 2015, we launched our first collaboration with Disney, introducing an internationally successful collection for Star Wars. This relationship has taken us to new worlds, down rabbit holes with Alice in Wonderland, swept us across glittering dance floors with Cinderella and will soon find us in another exciting world. What began in the small seaside town of Brighton is now a highly respected, international footwear brand stocked in over 50 countries worldwide. 

Q: How Moda Footwear played a part in this? 
A: We re-introduced Irregular Choice to Moda in August 2015. Much of our trade show activity had been focussed on overseas up to this point, but our position in the UK had been strengthening considerably and we wanted to show support to our retail customers. We were very encouraged by the level of business and interest in the brand. Our new stand received many compliments, and it certainly went some way to doing justice to the product! We were flat out for pretty much all of the show, so that has to be a good gauge of success.

Q: How are you facilitating continued growth for the brand? 
A: We have established a very loyal fan base because our products inspire people to love and share their passion for our brand. Our launch products sell out in minutes in our own stores and that of our wholesale customers, and the social media presence we have ensures that we keep the brand in the forefront of our fans’ minds. We are nurturing new fans all the time; we currently have 179k followers on Facebook, 143k on Instagram and 22.5k on Twitter, and that’s growing organically all the time. 
We have also continued to increase the number of wholesale stockists and own retail stores season on season. We always strive to be innovative, offering our customers something to get involved with, so we can continue to learn and grow and be inspired by them.

Q: Why should new retailers consider coming on board? 
A: Our brand is completely unique, and brings something very special to any store that stocks us. Our products create drama and draw customers in. Apart from offering customers something exciting, we also have a long proven track record for sell through. We are conscientious about where we stock, also ensuring the stores exclusivity within their area so they can be confident that fans and customers will be only purchasing from them in that area. We also have a massive, extremely loyal fan base that like to support their local stockists so they have the opportunity to interact with these fans directly via social media to push their sales and build the brand awareness in their store.

Q: You showcase Poetic Licence alongside Irregular Choice – what’s the point of difference?
A: Poetic Licence is the sister brand to Irregular Choice, but the collection has a very different feel. It was started to offer a bit of the Irregular twist onto styles that would appeal to the more vintage styled customer. The collections provide unparalleled vintage-inspired footwear’ taking its influences from British culture, vintage fabrics and vintage style. The design team incorporates its love of things past into artfully modern designs to make extraordinary, unique footwear.

Q: What can we expect to see at Moda Footwear this season? 
A: Customers are guaranteed to have their breath taken away by alluring new styles with innovative heels and intricate uppers. They will delight at a plethora of gem embellishments, detailed embroidery and stunning fabrics and, of course, have fun with more than one stunning character heel. The collection will also features classic styles reworked in new, exciting fabrics and trims and finally, our next sensational, inspirational Disney collaboration is sure to leave them beaming.

See the Irregular Choice spring collection first at Moda Footwear on 6-8 August this season. 



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