/ By Yuk Lun Chan, Nocamels /
Fashion buffs will tell you that most shoes have a shelf life of about a year. After that, they go out of style and might as well go into the bin. Do your wallets object? So does Funkkit, an Israeli startup that has come up with customizable and removable stickers that allow you to change the design of your shoes – so that their fashion credit never expires!
The customizable FunkKit skins or Stickers4Sneakers are in a custom-made durable material and can be changed every day. “Nike and Adidas let you customize your designs online, but the designs you order are permanent, ” CEO Moran Nir tells NoCamels. Users need to trace and then cut the sticker to fit the area of the shoe to be customized. Finally, they apply it to the shoe. A video tutorial on Funkkit’s website shows the process:
Easy on – easy off
Nir says that the major innovation is in the material used: “You need domain expertise. At the first stage we had to research, examine, and combine material products with adhesives, ” says Nir, who had previously worked at other Israeli startups after her army stint, but had no background in materials engineering. She had to learn about the technical aspects on the fly. The true technical challenge was in creating the “combination of a strong adhesive that stays on the shoe but at the same time comes off without ruining the shoe.”
The stickers are designed by designers worldwide and anyone familiar with Adobe Illustrator software can submit their own artwork. Each accepted design is uploaded to the Stickers for Sneakers online gallery, with the designer’s bio, contact details and design inspiration. The public can then share or buy the designs online, and Funkkit produces them.
The development of Funkkit was facilitated by the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at the IDC university in Herzliya, Israel. According to Nir, the market research, prototype, product development and business plan for the stickers started during the program, where she also received valuable mentorship. She had received a scholarship to study computer science at IDC. A few months after graduation, she raised money and started operations in large scale.
First Japan – then the world!
“T-shirts, there are a lot of people doing them, but stickers for sneakers, there is no one, ” Nir tells NoCamels. In contrast to most startups which begin in their home market, Funkkit has plunged into the world market from the beginning.
“Japanese fashion style has evolved to be creative and influential, and fascinates many all over the world. Today, Japan is not only a leader in technology but also a leader in some of the most innovative fashion trends and cutting edge styles, ” explains Nir. Interest from other Asian countries such as Taiwan, Korea and Malaysia was aroused after penetrating the Japanese market.
Funkkit boasts more sales in these Asian countries than in Israel. However, manufacturing remains firmly in Israel as the product material, printing and technology used is the adhesive’s “secret sauce”. Besides being on the online store, Funkkit products can also be found in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) stores and department stores.
Currently, Funkkit has an agreement to be represented by a company in Japan in order to sidestep the complications of being an Israeli company. For example, one of the complications is not being able to export directly into the Malaysian market.
A sticker for all purposes
Nir says she aspires to make Funkkit about more than just shoes: “Although Funkkit’s Stickers4Sneakers are made exclusively for customizing shoes, I use them to customize just about anything I want! Laptop, cellphone, memory-stick, note-book, etc.”
In the long-term, Funkkit is working towards creating a large online community around the sneaker designs. You may also have seen Funkkit stickers at music events. That is because Funkkit produces customized stickers for promotional purposes. Past clients include Coca-Cola Japan, the Israeli Comic Museum and Chiyoda Co, one of Japan’s biggest shoe stores.