SwitchFlops a Hit on the Web

By Claudine Zap

FitFlops? So last year. The new "it" flop is the SwitchFlop. The thong sandal has a removable, interchangeable strap - and it is creating a stir on the Web. As creator Lindsay Phillips puts it, "Change your look, not your sole."

Word of the clever design sent fashionistas running to the Web to look up "switchflops," which stepped up 3,200% in one day alone. Lookups on Yahoo! also included "switchflops.com," "switchflops ballet flats," and "lindsay phillips switchflops." In fact, the SwitchFlops site, promoted on AOL, seems to have been unable to handle all the added foot traffic.

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The brains behind the operation, Lindsay Phillips, dreamed up the concept at the tender age of 16 in art class. The prototype was a ceramic shoe with straps that were interchangeable. When guests in her parents' house started trying them on, the Florida native thought she could make an actual sandal. Relatives advised her to seek out a patent attorney, who agreed to take on her project when research showed no similar product existed on the market.

In the meantime, the savvy entrepreneur attended college and apprenticed with Ralph Lauren in the summers, while keeping her shoe vision quietly underfoot. Four years later, when the patent was approved, Phillips was open for business.

The concept is simple - and simply genius. The sandals' three basic designs include a flip-flop, a wedge, and a kitten heel that go for about $35. But one pair of shoes can mean multiple looks: For an extra $12 a pair, customers can choose from dozens of decorative Velcro strips, which can be switched out on the shoes, from casual polka dots to frou-frou flowers. You can check out a demo here.

Switchflops Ad @ Yahoo! Video

While a new shoe company is risky business in any economic climate, and especially now, the idea is actually a shoo-in for recessionistas. It's a budget-friendly way to make one pair of shoes turn into many looks - which could explain their sudden popularity.

The sandal seller says the typical customer owns three pairs of shoes and 10 pairs of straps. Just in time for cooler weather, the designer has also added "snap" ballet flats with decorative buttons that can be clipped on to change the look of the shoe.

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The idea has definitely caught on, as the business will bring in $30 million this year. Not bad for a 25-year-old with a high-school art project.

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