In early April, Beyoncé and Jay-Z celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana. Like most everything else the celebrity couple does, their trip drew obsessive media coverage, not least by fashion bloggers who raved about Beyoncé’s shoes, a pair of $195 woven leather flats from New York City’s GiraffeWalk.
Which was excellent news for Jordan and Jensen Adoni, the young entrepreneurs behind GiraffeWalk, Modern Vice and several other trendy shoe and accessory brands that operate under the umbrella of their family business, The Adoni Group. (GiraffeWalk was created by their partner David Siskin.) The day after Beyoncé and her shoes made the front page of Yahoo! News, the Adoni brothers showed me around their factory, a noisy, cluttered loft space in the heart of Manhattan’s Garment District. "She mentioned our shoes on her blog!" Jensen said excitedly.
We walked past elderly artisans in long white coats who were busy cutting a dizzying array of colored leather uppers and fitting them over hand-carved wooden lasts. Jensen, the more talkative younger brother, kept up a steady stream of commentary while Jordan worked his smartphone, which he used to snap pictures of new shoe models and share them with his followers via Instagram.
This blend of old-school craftsmanship and social media sizzle is the essence of the Adoni brand. The brothers have deep roots in the shoe business; their father Jay Adoni is a fashion industry elder statesman who once employed Steve Madden as a salesman and more recently launched the successful shoe brand Pour La Victoire.
Jay serves as CEO of The Adoni Group, while Jensen holds down the president role. Jordan serves as secretary and concentrates on design and marketing. All three Adonis share creative responsibilities. The company posted $5 million in revenue last year, according to Jensen, and projects $18 million in 2013 sales.
Neither brother lasted long in college. Jensen dropped out after one semester and started working for his father at 19, after his professional tennis career failed to take off. Jordan spent a couple of years as a hippie snowboarder in Vermont and Oregon and then built a successful real estate brokerage in Manhattan. He and Jensen joined forces last year to launch Modern Vice, the first of several new Adoni brands.
The Adonis are on a mission to bring shoe manufacturing back to the U.S. in general and the Garment District in particular. "More than two billion pairs of shoes are sold every year in the U.S., but fewer than two percent are made in this country," says Jensen. "This factory is our pride and joy."
The factory cranks out about 220 pairs of bespoke and off-the-rack shoes a day, along with custom ice skating boots worn by the likes of U.S. Olympian Sasha Cohen. It’s the first new shoe-making facility to launch in New York City since Jay Adoni opened his first factory in Brooklyn back in the 1970s, according to Gary Wassner, CEO of Hilldun, a fashion industry finance and factoring firm.
"In our business the major change in the last four years has been production moving back onshore because of quality and delivery issues in China," says Wassner. "The Adonis are one of a handful of U.S. shoemakers who make custom product to that extent. They can do it here, and do it very quickly."