Reinventing Madison as “One of the Best Shoe Stores in the World”

David Assil started his career in fashion working in a stock room at age 15. Today he owns Madison in Beverly Hills, a boutique that was named “one of the best shoe stores in the world” by Vogue Italia and Footwear News. These are just two of many accolades Assil has accumulated over a 30 year career introducing Americans to bold new styles from fiercely independent designers. Madison is famous for introducing Miu Miu, Marni and Balenciaga to Los Angeles when they were relatively unknown in the US. Looking ahead, Assil sees a new generation of designers in need of similar support to establish a groundbreaking start of fresh looks that will define the future of high end women’s footwear.

Assil received his first business lesson while studying Economics at UCLA and working full-time at a shoe store. “I showed up for work one day to find the store had been shut down because they had failed to pay their bills. Just like that. The business was gone and I was out of a job.” This minor setback pushed Assil to find an opening at the iconic Fred Segal store on Melrose Avenue, where he worked his way up to Assistant Buyer before deciding it was time to venture out on his own.

New Wave of Designers

Assil sensed a wave of change coming for women’s shoes, led by a new group of designers. Within the first 6 months of his new business, Assil made multiple trips to Europe to pick up collections from new designers who were virtually unknown in the US. Today, Chloé, Dolce & Gabbana and Marc Jacobs are sold in department stores across the nation, but when he started featuring these designers you had to drive to Madison to find their shoes. He and his partner (and ex-wife) Bridget have a knack for discovering artisanal talent who are unafraid to produce original looks with plenty of edge without being overly trendy.

Assil has seen his business grow and evolve over the years. His retail stores across Los Angeles were hit hard by the Great Recession and 2008 was an exceptionally tough year. But from this adversity came the fruitful decision to bring Madison online, opening himself to new international markets seeking fresh, modern designs. Since 2013, he has committed himself to growing both the in-store and online businesses and he’s learned a great deal about ecommerce and the changing world of media, namely social media.

Reaching New Audiences

Assil applies his fine-tuned selection skills for his Madison Muses, a small group of social media ambassadors who feature brands represented by Madison in distinctive looks they share with millions of Instagram followers. “It’s important to feature each item within a well-assembled look, not just by itself on the shelf,” explains Assil. “Today’s woman is interested in how the shoe will look on her, how it suits her look. She is defining her look instead of following a trend.” Much like previous generations would flip through fashion magazines, today’s generation is judging high end fashion through influencers on Instagram presenting compelling options for different occasions and moods. And just like magazines, quality photography has been key for Madison’s success on social media where Assil insists on “imagery that is consistent but not the same.”

For a brand built on quality, style and international recognition, online fraud was a concern from day one. “Given the high end nature of our products and the global demand for these designers, we have seen fraud since we launched online,” says Assil. “There are always people who are shady, but you can’t always tell unless they ask for something like overnight shipping.” Assil knew he needed protection as soon as he received his first online order for a $1,000 pair of boots. Not knowing his online customer, he needed to ensure he would be paid for the exclusive products he was shipping out. This led Assil to Signifyd’s Guaranteed Fraud Protection, which allows him to accept many more orders and ship them out immediately without the fear of fraud losses. This has been especially helpful when accepting orders from overseas.

International Growth Without Fraud

Signifyd uses real-time machine learning and the world’s leading 3rd party data sources, as well as their own database of billions of transactions across 5,000 merchants, to determine instantly which orders are genuine and which are fraudulent. Every approved order is backed with a 100% financial guarantee against fraud and chargebacks, allowing retailers to focus on their customers and ship orders without concern. “We have customers across the world, I want to be able to ship to them without worrying about it. Thank god we have a company like you guys, so everything is covered for us.” says Assil.

Assil’s focus is on the future of high end fashion and how it is changing women’s preferences for footwear. A new generation of Madison’s customers, both in-store and online are seeking more practical options like boots they can wear daily, rather than footwear solely for evening galas or social events. But there remains a timeless quality for the designs he chooses to feature in his stores. “One of the best compliments I receive from customers is that they’re still wearing the shoes they bought from us 15 years ago.”

Sourabh Kothari

Sourabh is the Director of Merchant Advocacy at Signifyd, where he brings over 18 years of experience defining, designing and delivering content through stories, events and video.

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