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business models, strategies and technologies

IKEA calling – the flatpack Pikkpack shoe

Flatpack doesn’t have to be restricted to furniture. The Pikkpack idea rethinks a lot of the givens about “shoe as a product” – and the most cost-effective, environmentally responsible way to get it from factory to you.

Feodor Ingvar Kamprad died on 27 January 2018. Founder of IKEA, he was the architect of a flatpack retail and logistics revolution whose real contours I reckon are still under-appreciated. It seems strange that the lessons of the IKEA ethos haven’t rippled further than they have. To the shoes market, for example.

Box or shoe?

Declaration of guilt, here: I*m a sucker for sleek, quality shoes. I’ve even penned other posts about this fashion foible. I source most of mine from Italy and Portugal – customised, of course. They come in nice boxes, swathed in delectably luxurious paper and tissue. In fact, in the world of male fashion footwear, the packaging boxes and their accompanying cloths, shoehorns, extra laces, etc. have almost become code-speak for luxury, quality and discerning good taste. Unfortunately, they are now increasingly often there to provide a smokescreen for faux product and look-like craftsmanship.

With the result that these boxes fill up countless shipping containers traversing the globe, as well as taking up a whole lot of space in my particular wardrobe. But if I throw away the boxes, I’d be relegating my expensive, carefully sourced statements to the realm of “just shoes” – why would I want to do that to myself? So has the box usurped the shoe?

Flatpacked Pikkpack

All this discussion about boxes ultimately stems from the profoundly three-dimensional nature of the shoe – its ability to encapsulate my foot (with varying degrees of style and expense) is almost its defining feature.

Hungarian-based Pikkpack seems to have delivered a refreshing new think on this conundrum, with flat-packed footwear that you assemble yourself. Their ideas seem to be attracting substantial international attention.

Apparently inspired by a traditional type of Hungarian footwear called Bocskor, Pikkpack starts out as a single flat piece of high-quality leather to which the soles are glued. The de-constructed Pikkpack shoes are shipped flat in a tote bag, and the customer assembles his/her shoes with different-coloured cotton laces. You transform the flatpack into 3D footwear with your own hands. Actually, I couldn’t quite work out how, and it took a bit of digging around the company’s website to find the info, which I also found here.

The “less damage” advantage

There are a whole lot of good “environmental impact” arguments for flatpacking, and they apply in good measure to the Pikkpack shoe idea. Strangely, these don’t seem to feature high in their sales blurb –  they’re tucked away underneath profiles/stories about the people involved.

They assert that normal footwear features seventeen different kinds of material, whereas Pikkpack reduces this to three – the leather, the rubber sole and the cotton laces. However, the biggy here is probably that a pair of Pikkpack shoes is small, light and flat enough for it to be shipped in a postal envelope. This changes the game in the logistics of footwear storage and transport, both in terms of costs and environmental impacts.

Shoes as artistic canvas, too

Because it is flat, the leather surface of Pikkpack shoes is also ideal for featuring printed designs. This opens up new opportunities for design and self-expression in fashionable shoes – which are usually kinda’ monochrome. To highlight this, Pikkpack collaborated with London-based graphic designer Rob Lowe on a special-edition wearable piece of shoe-borne art, screen printed by hand.

Nice ideas – shame the range of styles is so limited. There seems to be a bigger idea waiting to happen here …