New Vancouver shoe brand tiptoes into business

It's not an ideal time for a launch, but Taffystep is staying positive

Credit: Taffystep

Taffysteps Smarty Mules in black and white

It’s not an ideal time for a launch, but Taffystep is staying positive

Lorraine Ng’s family has been in the shoe business for 30 years, but no amount of experience could have prepared her for the COVID-19 outbreak in B.C.—which coincided perfectly with her company’s kickoff. While her family’s business is factory-based, Ng’s new brand of vegan leather shoes focuses on design, with versatility, comfort and affordability top-of-mind. 

Ng launched Taffystep online at the beginning of March. “This situation definitely adds quite an interesting challenge for us,” she says. Hanging out around the house is great for limiting the spread of the virus, but not so wonderful when your marketing focuses on shoes you can wear “at home, to work and out at night.” Most of us are hardly using the footwear we have now—why buy more?

Credit: Taffystep

Taffysteps The Gummy Wide Fit Ballet Flats in cherry red

But according to Ng, it hasn’t been all bad. “People are spending less, for sure,” she says, “but a lot of people are also searching for a sense of normalcy in their day.” For some, retail therapy provides a bit of ease and a move toward business as usual. Also, we‘re all spending more time than usual on the web, buying things online that we might typically purchase in person. This puts online-only shoemakers like Taffystep on the same playing field as brick-and-mortar retailers.  “Those who have only bought shoes in stores in the past are shopping online as well,” Ng says.

For her, the brightest of all silver linings is the community’s determination to keep afloat the companies closest to home. “People are more willing to support local businesses going through this difficult time,” she says. Planned pop-ups and other in-person activities have been cancelled for the time being, but Ng is hopeful for the future: We are all looking forward to being out of quarantine, and we’ll want to celebrate once this is over. Shes betting on some fashionable first steps out of isolation.