Moti Ankari and Marcel Floruss are the founders of Ankari Floruss, a premium, direct-to-consumer shoe company that has disrupted the men’s shoe industry. Since 2016, the company has launched a variety of collections and, most recently, has made its debut at Nordstrom.
The duo were one of the first digital influencers to pioneer a new emerging category of brands — Influencer-to-Consumer (ITC) brands, where digital influencers are parlaying their fandom and online influence into a brand that’s sold directly to consumers.
How did two male fashion bloggers create a Nordstrom-approved brand in just three years? Built out of a passion for footwear and their own experiences as consumers and influencers in the space, Moti and Marcel created Ankari Floruss to fill a gap that they identified in the men’s shoe industry that no one else was filling: an excess supply of options that made finding the “perfect shoe” near impossible.
With well over half a billion combined followers on Instagram, as well as their own blogs, The Metro Man and One Dapper Street, both men continue to be inundated with requests from brands to collaborate. As such, it’s been important for the men to stay keenly aware of how their approaches to brand partnerships have changed after launching Ankari Floruss.
We sat down with Moti and Marcel of Ankari Floruss team and talked about their beginnings, and where they see the Influencer-to-Consumer (ITC) and Influencer Marketing spaces headed.
How did you get started?
- Marcel: The base of all of this was our mutual passion for footwear. We were already working together a lot as bloggers, and one day about 4 years ago Moti approached me with the idea of curating the perfect selection of shoes. Having had similar struggles with the market — an excess supply of options rather than refining the core — I jumped on board, and AF was born.
- Moti: echoing what Marcel said, but also since the market is extremely saturated and when men walk into a shoe department they are overwhelmed by the options– or at least that is my personal experience. we wanted to make it easier for guys to find that perfect “Chelsea boot” –the perfect “white sneaker” based on our experience of the market and what we like and what we don’t like.
Did you start with brand collaborations, then you launched your own brand?
- Marcel: Neither of us had any footwear design collars prior. I designed a three-piece capsule collection, but that was limited to a trucker jacket, a vest, and a pair of cargo pants. The entire process had little to do with the struggles we went through with our own brand.
- Moti: We’ve done a lot of brand influencer partnerships, but nothing like designing an extensive collection.
What are the biggest factors for influencers to think about when looking to launch their own brands?
- Marcel: Beyond the normal factors of anybody wanting to start their own brand, influencers in particular should know their audience and be aware of their preexisting clients. We created a shoe brand, so we don’t have any friction with partnerships outside of footwear, and even within the sector, Moti and I constantly keep in mind what we offer, and will only work on projects where we can highlight other companies’ shoe beyond what AF offers. And of course any influencer should know their audience already, but knowing why they follow, where the expertise lies, is going to be crucial in deciding what kind of brand to launch.
What are the biggest factors or piece of advice for marketers looking to launch collaborations?
- Moti: There are a lot of influencers out there with inauthentic followings and i think that’s truly unfair to other influencers, but more importantly unfair to the brand. Also, yes a collaborator that has followers is important, but also questioning and thinking “is this something Moti or Marcel would wear?” I think making sure that the collaborator and the brand have an obvious connection and selecting someone that makes sense for the brand.
What are the emerging trends you’re seeing in the space?
- Moti: I see a lot of brands doing way bigger projects with influencers like product lines and capsule collections within the brand which I think is super cool! I don’t see it as much in the men’s market, more in the female market. Also, I’ve seen this happening again more: brands are working with a large number of influencers to help launch a product, which I personally think works. I remember when Dior did the saddle bag launch and had 100s of girls post it–and i think the reason why it was so successful is because girls were saying “I want this bag because X, Y and X has it”.
If you could change anything about perceptions of influencers, what would it be?
- Marcel: Honestly, I’d just like to change the name “influencer” itself as I remember thinking it sounded incredibly pretentious when it first came around. This is a job like any other, granted, it’s more in the public eye, I just never loved the connotation that arose when we transitioned from being “bloggers” to “influencers.”
- Moti: I’m about to hit my 9 year mark of blogging, and I’ve seen how the industry has changed immensely. Like Marcel said before they coined the word influencer they called us bloggers, and before that they called us something else. There are influencers out there that feel entitled and come off as stand-off-ish and that is upsetting because they are ruining their own names, but also influencers in general. With that said, I would want people to know that we work really hard and there are hardships and struggles that aren’t reflected in an Instagram post.
Did people underestimate you because you started out as influencers?
- Marcel: I wouldn’t say so, if anything, people expected it to go well, understanding we were curating a collection geared towards already established target markets. I think naturally we had been surrounded by people that understood our business, so there was never much negative sentiment.
- Moti: I was working for GQ magazine while my blog was taking off so I remember when my peers were telling me that this bubble is going to burst and i’m wasting my time. I ended up quitting and here I am.
What’s your advice to marketers who are looking to work with you or any influencer?
- Marcel: Understand your own brand, as well as ours, look for the common denominator and highlight that. There’s no “one” way to work with an influencer, every partnership is unique and should be treated as that. Verify following and general demographics prior to entering a contract, and create guidelines that offer a direction, but don’t inhibit the influencer’s creativity.
As a brand, do you work with influencers? How is that beneficial?
- Marcel: Of course we do — if we didn’t deem that as beneficial, we wouldn’t be authentically doing our jobs in the first place. It’s extra beneficial to us, I believe, having launched as an ITC brand, to drive the point home. Influencers always had the advantage of being relatable — inspirational but not to the point that it’s unachievable. So having our friends wear our shoes is amazing: to see dozens of styling inspirations for all sorts of aesthetics and body types.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you first got started? What would you do again?
- Marcel: One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned early on was that pre-sale did not work for us. We had a huge amount of traffic the week of the launch of the brand, but the shoes were not available for another three weeks. There was a disconnect in timing when it came to the hype and the actual availability. Regardless, I’d honestly do everything the same way all over, because it got us where we are today.
For more on influencer-to-consumer brands — and how they have become deeply disruptive within their respective industries — download our Influencer-to-Consumer Brand Index report.