For young, aspiring lawyers fresh out of law school, landing a job at a prestigious firm is often the next goal. But for Dallasites Ashley Ogbonna and Asya Mitchem, getting jobs as a lawyer was just half of the vision. The pair also dreamed of becoming successful boutique owners.
With their new online business, ShuEsq: the Shoe Bar, Ogbonna and Mitchem hope to promote independent shoe designers and prove that you don't have to pursue just one career path. The company's motto is:
"Dream more than one dream."
"Oftentimes, society attempts to place us in a box and have us to believe that we can only be good or passionate about one thing," Mitchem says, fresh off a trip to New York for Fashion Week, where ShuEsq's shoes were on display.
Ogbonna and Mitchem met while attending law school in Baton Rouge and bonded over their mutual love of fashion. After law school, they moved back to Texas to study for the state bar exam. During one of their regular 12-hour study sessions, they cracked a joke about starting a shoe boutique. The joke later developed it into a serious business idea.
After two years of planning, the pair launched ShuEsq in 2016. Ogbonna and Mitchem had observed that it's hard for new designers to get large retailers to carry their shoes, so they prioritized featuring the work of independent designers.
Earlier this month, their shoes were paired with Laurel DeWitt's SS18 Collection during New York Fashion Week. DeWitt's clientele includes celebrities such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. Ogbonna says they were invited to collaborate with DeWitt, who had found their boutique on Instagram, through a contact inquiry on their website sent just two weeks before the show.
"We quickly researched the designer and agency, and responded the same day. A few hours later, we hopped on a quick conference call to discuss the show and the styles they were interested in," Ogbonna says. "For us, this moment solidified that the collection of styles we curated were valid."
Their knowledge of the law came in handy while preparing for the last-minute event. "Considering the fashion show was in New York, we moved very quickly and drafted a contract," she says. "We had an advantage as attorneys to do this promptly."
The women observed a few key shoe trends during their time in New York. They say flowers and embellishments on shoes will continue to be popular and to expect darker colors like maroon and black as the leaves change. But not all of winter's fashionable colors will skew dark.
"White boots are going to be a big trend regardless, of the fact that people try to say don't wear white after Labor Day," Mitchem says. "We hope to find some super unique white boots for our customers who love to stand out in the crowd."
Interested shoppers in Dallas will soon be able to buy white boots and other ShoeEsq products in a brick-and-mortar store. Ogbonna and Mitchem won a contest to open a shop in an entrepreneur incubator in Desoto. That store will open by the end of 2017, and they plan to open a second, larger shop in Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District in 2018.
Looking toward the future, Ogbonna and Mitchem also hope to feature shoes designed by Dallas designers. "We have not yet located any local Dallas shoe designers, but if they are interested in us possibly carrying their line, we would love for them to reach out to us," Mitchem says. "We are Dallas natives, so Dallas if always our top and first priority. "
Contact ShuEsq at email@example.com.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.