Recently, The Swish Company sat down with Mirele Rittel-Metz, the former Marketing Director at the well-known Brazilian Shoe Brand, “Petite Jolie”. She gave us a rare, behind-the-scenes look into the world of shoe branding as she has participated in everything from designing, to manufacturing, to marketing all types of shoes across Brazil. It was an honor to speak with her about her journey through the fashion world since she graduated with a BA in Fashion from The University of Feevale.
Her passion for fashion design, however, was evident early on at the age of thirteen.
Mirele: “I used to draw when I was younger, like early teenager, pre-teenager. I started to draw dresses. I started drawing what I imagined creating, and later I would buy fashion magazines and try to copy the outfit, copy the look. I really drew, a lot. I have lots of sketchbooks from those years. When I was 13 I attended my first first course which was a fashion course for designing collections. I had to be accepted in because I was too young, but I wanted to be in it so badly that they accepted me. That was my first contact. It was really good because at that moment I learned all about the method. It was really good, but after I knew the method, I was stuck in the method. Before the course I would draw a whole notebook in a week. After the course, I probably finished one notebook in a month. I stopped designing from scratch because I felt like I needed to have all this structure, which is something good, but also bad because I think I lost a little of the pleasure of creating freely. I should have done that course when I was older, but I was so excited to start.
When I was 16, I attended a technical course. I was studying school in the morning and in the afternoon I did this course. It was really cool because we learned everything about shoes. We learned everything from designing the shoes to actually sewing them myself. I made shoes there, complete shoes there. I think I still have one pair, not sure. It was nice to have that contact with the industry. On the professional side, that really enriched my experience. When I started working I had a much better understanding than most of my co-workers because I really knew how the shoe was built, and what was involved. I even knew how to work all the machines that made shoes.
Working can be more important for your career than studying in Brazil. It has always been in my mind to work and have more experience, rather than have a good certificate. Although it can be too stressful to work and study at the same time.”
After much hard work and commitment to her passions, Mirele gained the trust of her superiors and moved up the ranks to Marketing Director. Much of this job involved analyzing data from campaigns and figuring out the direction for new promotions and advertisements. She has also traveled around the country, speaking about the latest trends and lines of Petite Jolie. She also found it important to build strong relationships with both types of her clients- retailers and direct customers. She worked hard to gain first-hand knowledge of the way customers were responding to Petite Jolie. Mirele worked to ensure the best quality in her products and relationships.
Swish: What would you say is a tell-tale sign of a quality shoe company?
Mirele: “Usually when you are investing in a brand, look for the external part or even the internal part of the shoe. [Good quality brands] will usually have little brand details like stamps, or the insole will have some unique detail that reminds you of the brand. That was something that we were really concerned about in our shoes- that every little metal detail would have our brand in it- really caring for the details of the shoe and adding things that would make people say, ‘Oh, this is Petite Jolie, this is not a Chinese brand or any other brand, this is Petite Jolie.’ Its all in the details. If you see a shoe that has no brand in it, like any mark in any place, you can imagine that that was probably produced in mass production, and a whole lot of people will have that exact shoe.”
At Swish we like to say that “elegance is in the details”, so Mirelle’s definition of quality is the exact perspective we like!
Mirele has been on both sides of the shoe industry as both a buyer and a marketer. We were curious as to how working behind-the-scenes has changed her perspective as a buyer.
Swish: What changed for you when you stepped behind the scenes in the fashion marketing world?
Mirele: “As you make strategies for other people to buy your item, you lose a bit of the innocence. You reach for an advertisement, and you see it with other eyes. For me, the impact was not so big after I started working because I knew the will of that Ad was for me to buy that thing. You don’t see a beautiful advertisement anymore, you are more rational. I know the colors and the message are purposeful. I think it makes you a little more conscious.
I remember looking at one brand’s advertisement and recognizing that it was not true. Some brands try to use trends too much, more than being constant and not staying true to their brand. I really don’t like that. I prefer brands that have a good statement and have consistency. For example, there’s a very popular Beer brand I know of that has always advertised sexy women, really appealing to sex and women. When they started to see the rise of Feminism and that they were losing a big amount of their public, they started rolling out a whole new line that was all about equality and defending women. It was kind of schizophrenic and they were not true to their brand, be it good or bad. When they change it too fast like that, it is not true. Look for fast flips in the brands pitch.”
Swish: The fashion world can be a difficult place that can potentially be morally challenging in such a high position like Marketing Director. How did you handle that?
Mirele“Most women’s shoe brands appeal to an image of women being sexy and too powerful. Most of the brands in our region were on this path, and I believed it was important to not go there. Sometimes it's funny the way that other companies have unrealistic pictures of women in the sand at the beach… like what’s that? That doesn’t exist. I was really thankful to be in a brand where I could have space to try to have a brand that can be real and transparent and truly communicate with people. One thing we really tried to do at Petite Jolie was make the accessories create the real difference in the outfit, in your look. We worked a lot with colors and make bright and fun accessories that would hopefully have a fun impact in the customers daily life.”
Swish: What would you tell someone who has an interest in fashion and design about where to begin?
Mirele: “Recently I met a girl who wanted to be a designer. She had never studied fashion, but she really had it in her. She decided to study production engineering, and was so fashionable and creative. I was really impressed by her, for having chosen that course. That was the best choice she could have made in widening her view and giving herself options. The fashion world is so broad, get to know what part you want to do.”
This year Mirele and her husband of four years, Arthur, have entered into ministry work in Norway. This meant stepping down from their jobs in Brazil and pursuing this calling whole-heartedly. One day, she hopes, she just might return to the fashion world.