Last July, fellow Swedes Max Svärdh and Albin Johansson launched their men’s footwear line Axel Arigato on Instagram before they even had an e-commerce site. “Our brand couldn’t have existed five years ago, it’s so much easier to increase brand awareness now than it was then,” explains Svardh of how the social media platform enabled their direct-to-consumer brand, which has quickly become known for its assortment of styles (loafers, low-tops, slip-ons, high tops) and unusual textures and materials such as embossed ostrich, alligator, and suede. It wasn’t long before the label’s minimalist, eye-catching feed amassed high-profile followers, including Kendrick Lamar, Neil Patrick Harris, and Peter Brant.
This month, Axel Arigato launched a women’s line, starting with its two most popular silhouettes—a slip on and a classic low-top. “We found out we had all these women ordering men’s shoes,” says Johansson. “We got so many requests from women writing us on Instagram and email us asking for women’s shoes that we figured we had to do it.”