Ruelala founder raises $14 million to launch the Warby Parker of beautiful Italian shoes, M.Gemi

Ben Fischman, founder of flash sale fashion site Ruelala, has raised a $US14 million seed and series A round for a new startup, M.Gemi.

M.Gemi launched Tuesday to make beautiful Italian shoes more affordable for international markets — like American shoppers. Fishman says hand-crafted shoes made in Italian factories often cost $US500 to $US2,000. M.Gemi’s cost between $US98 and $US300.

Investors include General Catalyst, which also invested in Ruelala, Forerunner Ventures and Breakaway Ventures.

M.Gemi sells items from small Italian specialty factories straight to consumers. Cutitng out traditional retailers like Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus keeps the price of the shoes down.

Ben fischman m.gemiLinkedInBen Fischman

“Rather than being a wholesaler, we’re more efficient from an expense perspective [than other shoe companies] so a factory sells products to us and they can make their margin, yet we’re still able to sell at a lower price point,” Fischman tells Business Insider.

Another selling point Fischman promotes is that his shoes are crafted so that fit and comfort are consistant. M.Gemi sent two pairs of pumps over to Business Insider to try on. They were 3- to 4-inch heels and even though the styles were totally different, they felt similar to wear. A size 37 strappy sandle fit roughly the same as a size 37 bootie.

“Built on ‘formas’ that shape the toe, heel and pitch of each shoe, M.Gemi footwear is consistent from shoe-to-shoe,” M.Gemi boasts. “Once a client finds a fit she likes, she can shop for more styles in the same forma, and not think twice about size. While styles will constantly change, fit will not.”

M.gemi shoesBusiness Insider/Alyson ShontellTwo pairs of M.Gemi shoes in the launch collection. They retail for $US250-300.

Fast-fashion is also something M.Gemi will capitalise on. Stores like H&M and Zara have made big businesses out of noting what’s in style now and getting similar items in stores quickly. M.Gemi will note what’s on trend and produce the shoes rapidly; Fischman says it takes his team 60 to 90 days from concept to online retail. If a shoe sells out on the site, more pairs can be ordered and live again within 30 days. Only a few shoes will be available on M.Gemi at a time. Every week, new shoe styles will be released.

Fischman left Ruelala two years ago, following a $US350 million sale to GSI Communications, then another later sale to eBay. Fischman spent a year travelling across Italy closing factory partnerships for M.Gemi and launching an Italy office.

“It’s quite similar to a Warby Parker model,” Fischman says. Only he thinks shoes will be a better business than glasses. “We’re selling a product we believe will lead to a lot of repeat purchasing versus products you need occasionally.”

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