If you own a independent menswear brand, getting your products on high-profile celebrities can sometimes be the difference between a good or bad year. But while most brands simply have to rely on luck—or a big celebrity wrangling budget—if they want an A-lister to be spotted in their gear, Del Toro's Matthew Chevellard turned it into his label's central marketing strategy. Back in 2010, LeBron James was taking his talents to South Beach, and Del Toro was a scrappy start-up footwear brand making velvet slippers that were then peaking in popularity. The difference with Del Toro's, though, was that the slippers came in anything-but-old-man colors and fabrics (plus the brand's signature red satin heel stripe) that made them must-haves for any guy looking for the chance to peacock—style-savvy NBA players included.
Over time, Matt built relationships with the Big 3's stylists, and thus the Big 3 themselves. As the NBA's interest in fashion exploded, so did the amount of styles Del Toro offered, soon evolving into a full-service footwear label with something for everyone. Today, you're just as likely to see a pair of DT's on your favorite athlete's Instagram as you are on your stylishly-inclined coworkers.
Del Toro has now expanded beyond Miami to open its first store in New York City (at 170 Mercer Street in SoHo to be exact). The space, like the brand itself, an eclectic mix of patterns, fabrics, and disparate ideas that get jam-packed together under one roof. There's even a bespoke shoe bar where customers can create a custom pair, choosing everything from the color of their sole to the graphic embroidery. The store has only been open for a few days, but already Matt is enjoying uncovering the differences between New York and Miami customers. "Two-thirds of the pairs we've sold so far have been these boxing sneakers," he says. "We sell these well in Miami, but they're by no means our best seller." He thinks maybe it's that the shoes are inherently more boot-like, but whatever the reason, he's beyond excited to start uncovering what he feels is a more educated NYC shopper tick.
And though it's the NBA players that helped Del Toro move $350 shoes, Chevellard knows that athletes have the potential to take his brand to the next level by tapping into a more mass market audience. "I want to sell to normal people. I don't want to sell to hypebeasts or trendy kids. Our customers are dads, prep school kids, and anyone who's into style," he says. "And I think NBA players have helped get so many regular guys into caring about style." Eventually, he says, Del Toro will offer shoes under $100, and that's when the brand will star to "bring refinement to the masses" as he puts it. Combine that with the continued support of the world's most famous athletes, and the whole thing starts to look like a slam dunk.
written by: Jake Woolf
photos by: Matt Martin