Sofia Jansson never thought she’d be in the slipper business. But now that she’s here, there’s nowhere else she can imagine being. Along with her partner, Jansson launched house shoe brand Inabo in Stockholm in December of 2018, and the brand has quickly become a favorite of the fashion-crowd and those who want a high-quality house shoe that will last for years.
Born in Sweden, Jansson moved to the US to pursue a degree in fashion merchandising, after earning a business degree at the University of Lund. “I always loved fashion, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do within the industry. When I found out about Parsons in NYC, I knew that was the right place for me,” she explains. After graduating, she worked briefly a Vogue, then in merchandising at Alexander Wang.
In 2014, she moved back to Sweden. “I went straight to Stockholm,” she says, “even though I had never lived there, it was where all my friends and connections had moved. So that’s where I thought I should be too.” Sofia began working as the Marketing Coordinator for rainwear brand, Stutterheim.
“Working at Stutterheim was a wonderful education for me,” Jansson says. “Not only was the job very-hands on, but I also learned how powerful it can be to only work with one product and do it really well. I found that really inspiring.”
In 2016, an idea for a brand that made indoor shoes, or slippers, began percolating. In Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, it’s customary to take off your shoes when entering the home, and many people keep slippers by the door so that they can slide into them as they take off their outdoor shoes. “I wanted to create something that looked as good as it felt,” Jansoon says. “I just wasn’t seeing what I wanted available in stores.”
She continues, “I made a business plan. My boyfriend, who is a lawyer, helped with the more technical details. I thought, okay, this will just be a thought-exercise for now.” But six months later, the idea still felt urgent.
“I couldn’t really dedicate myself to anything else until I had tried this out! So in 2017, she quit her job at Stutterheim and began working on Inabo, her house-shoe brand, in earnest.
“I think if I had really understood how hard starting a brand was, I would have kept my job on a part-time basis,” Jansson laughs. “But in a way, it was good to be naive about the process. I mean, how do you get in contact with a factory? How do you actually produce shoes? I had no idea! I just had to feel my way along, but because I didn’t know what I was in for, I just kind of jumped in! It ended up taking 18 months to get it right, and we launched in December of 2018.”
And how did they find that factory? Sofia says it’s all about meeting that one person who can be your connector. “We wanted to produce in the EU so we could be sure about working conditions, and we met this incredible agent in Portugal. He ended up being the catalyst for us, introducing us to suppliers, factories, the whole thing.” Inabo sources their material from Spain, and the outer sole material from Italy. Production takes place in Portugal.
“We spent a lot of time developing the sole, especially the inner sole,” Jansson says. “I now have such respect for shoemakers, because beforehand I did not realize what a craft it is to make shoes. We wanted our slippers to be comfortable but still elegant, so we developed a built-up sole that has a metal shank in it, the way that men’s dress shoes do. Once we had that down, it was easier to build the rest of the shoe.”
While Inabo was originally intended to be an online-only business, Jansson soon saw that she needed to work with wholesale. “People want to feel and try-on the shoes before they buy them,” she explains. “Doing shoes – especially ones that are entirely based around the idea of comfort in the home – are really hard to sell online only. So we had to change that part of the business plan. It’s all about learning as you go.”
Then, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the business plan had to adjust. “As so many physical stores have struggled this year, we had to shift focus back to online, including larger online retailers. We were picked up by Matchesfashion (for men) this fall,” Jansson says.
“We have seen how people have become even more oriented towards online shopping, even in our niche category. This winter sales have really taken off for us, as people are working from home or spending much more time at home. Our slippers seem to hit that sweet spot, where you can be really comfortable but still feel well-dressed.” Jansson explains.
Inabo has fast become a go-to house shoe brand; the kind of slippers that you want to wear when you’re having a dinner party or just lounging around the house. They’re chic and comfortable; they could be mistaken for stylish slides rather than slippers. Inabo’s success confirms the gap in the market that Jansson instinctively felt all those years ago.
“Our next goal is to experiment with vegan leather and more vegetable-tanned leather; we want to be sure that we’re being as kind to the environment as possible while still maintaining the quality of the shoes,” Jansson explains.
With a few years under her belt, Jansson is sure about one things: getting into the slipper business was the right move. And unlike her shoes, she doesn’t like to let things get too comfortable: “I think I’ll always be looking to improve, both the shoes and the business,” she says. “That’s just part of how I work.”
Find out more about Inabo.