Fashion / Shopping

10 Years of Hari Mari, the Biggest Little Flip-Flop Company in Texas

What Started as a Socially Conscious Flip-Flop Business is Now a Celeb-Loved Lifestyle Brand With Intent: To Blend Comfort, Durability, and Effortless Style

BY // 03.24.22

A little over 10 years ago, Hari Mari started with a social mission before ever settling on a product. Following the lead of popular 2009 brands like Toms and Warby Parker, Lila and Jeremy Stewart decided to donate a portion of their future proceeds to children battling pediatric cancer. As to what they would sell, they ultimately landed on flip-flops, the couple’s footwear of choice while living in Jakarta for Jeremy’s job. After wearing out one flimsy sandal after another (and failing to find a more suitable option when they moved back to their hometown of Dallas, Texas), their more commerce-focused mission became clear: to give flip-flops the premium upgrade they deserved, and offer the most comfortable, durable option in the game.

But unlike coastally headquartered Warby Parker and Toms, Hari Mari decided to make its home in Dallas, launching in 2012 (after two years of R&D) as a bit of an entrepreneurial anomaly in the Lone Star State. 10 years later, it’s safe to say the gamble paid off.

The only major flip-flop company in Texas quickly made waves for its patented memory foam toe piece (break-ins are far more pleasant), fine leather, and arch support crafted with 100 percent natural rubber. Soon, Joanna Gaines and Bradley Cooper took a well-documented liking to Hari Mari (a pleasant surprise to Lila and Jeremy, who don’t like to target celebrities with free product). Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Zappos sell the footwear across the country (Orvis and Urban Outfitters joined the retailer list this year), while partnerships with luxury brands like Peter Millar helped solidify the sandals’ premium status. The 2021 hiring of former Billy Reid CEO and co-founder Jake Szczepanski further added to the brand’s elevated reputation — and has helped navigate Hari Mari’s expansion into apparel.

Stair Display
Hari Mari’s “Flops Fighting Cancer” initiative has been a part of the brand since its beginnings. This year, Cook Children’s Medical Center announced they would rename their infusion center after the Dallas brand.

Eventually, Hari Mari began applying their magic footwear touch beyond the flip-flop realm. In 2019, men’s boots were introduced for closed-toe affairs, followed by chic leather slides for women. In keeping with the post-pandemic comfort-is-key mindset, slippers lined with genuine Texas shearling debuted in 2021. That diversification extended to flip-flops — Hari Mari recently launched its unique Sonoros sandal made with vegan leather and sustainable cactus fiber, with sneakers, boat shoes, strappy sandals, and more just on the horizon.

“This wasn’t in our business plan,” Lila says. “We didn’t know we had created a lifestyle brand when we started Hari Mari, but we did.”

A colorful mural by Dallas artist Kyle Steed covers a wall at Hari Mari’s Haskell Street headquarters in Dallas.

After their Haskell Street offices turned — quite unexpectedly — into a popular storefront, Jeremy and Lila set their sights on sought-after Knox Street, opening their first brick-and-mortar flagship (armed with complimentary Topo Chicos) last spring. “The numbers [we did in Deep Ellum] were pretty astronomical, so we started imagining what we could do with a beautiful build-out and intent,” Lila adds. 

Discover De Beers

Swipe
  • De Beers June 2022
  • De Beers June 2022
  • De Beers June 2022
  • De Beers June 2022
  • De Beers June 2022
  • De Beers June 2022
  • De Beers June 2022
  • De Beers June 2022
  • De Beers June 2022

PaperCity caught up with Lila to discuss her programming dreams for the Knox Street store’s future, as well as look back at some of Hari Mari’s most pivotal moments over the last decade.

A Look Back at 10 Years of Hari Mari

san miguel manufacturing trip
“All of our leather products are now made in Mexico, right outside of León. Fortunately for us, we’ve been able to finagle some San Miguel trips out of it.” — Lila Stewart

PaperCity: Was there one pivotal moment for you… one where you felt Hari Mari had really made it?

Lila Stewart: You know the saying, Death by a thousand cuts. I feel like Hari Mari has been Success by a thousand wins. But there was one big moment that I felt put Hari Mari on the map. In 2015, when the brand was only three-years-old, we were still grinding and had so much to learn. Despite all of our optimism, we were still having a lot of worries about whether or not Hari Mari would work. A girlfriend gave me Joanna Gaines’ book. I had never watched Fixer Upper, but I read the book and fell in love with it — the relatability of seeing a husband-and-wife team, raising a family while starting a business… just to name a few. 

I finished the book on a Saturday morning and walked out into the living room to tell Jeremy I was mad the book was over. At that exact point in time, he had Fixer Upper on for the first time in our home and started shushing me to point to the screen. Joanna was wearing a pair of Hari Maris.

That same week, all these women were going online to these fashion forums asking what flip-flops Joanna wears. People, Real Simple, and InStyle all did a story saying it was Hari Mari. Sales literally skyrocketed on Hari Mari.com, Nordstrom.com, and Zappos.com. That was a huge moment for us. We didn’t even give her the pair… all of it was organic.

Joanna wore the Lakes, which we had let run off but we’re bringing back. We still get asked about it.

New York Theater Speech
“We were at a Consensus Group event in 2017. It was a special moment for us just to speak at the New York Theater and be included among such great national brands.” — Lila Stewart

What other pinch-me moments have you been reflecting on during Hari Mari’s 10-year anniversary?

I love when I’m in a city far away from Dallas and I see someone wearing Hari Mari. I just get so tickled and I have so much pride.

There have been several other celebrity moments, and those are so important. Bradley Cooper was spotted in two different styles and a Hari Mari t-shirt at three different points throughout last summer. Maybe three or four years ago, Zac Efron was spotted at a triathlon holding his pair of Dunes.  Obviously, that’s so important for us and cool to see, but I love seeing random strangers in the product.

Indonesia (bali) 2007
“This was taken in Bali in 2007, right before we moved back to Dallas to start Hari Mari.” — Lila Stewart

What’s your favorite feedback you ever received about the flip-flops?

People telling me how incredibly comfortable they are. That was one of the goals when we set out to start the brand: to create the most comfortable flip-flop. Just last week I was at a luncheon and met a woman that bought a pair four years ago who said she wears them all the time and they’ve lasted. I know that sounds so nominal, but that’s what we wanted, to create a comfortable, durable sandal. Some of my favorite feedback is just recognition of the quality of the product.

Indonesia (countryside)
“We were in the Indonesian countryside working on one of Jeremy’s film projects. We look like babies.” – Lila Stewart

What are some of the coolest ways you’ve seen Hari Mari products styled?

I love seeing all of the rewardStyle influencers and how they wear them. I can’t remember this one influencer’s name, but she had this really cute long skirt and was actually going out. Obviously, I expect to see people wear them going to the pool or the beach — just for really casual needs — so it’s fun to watch people, women especially, styling them with their going-out outfits. Because you can dress Hari Maris up. They’re premium. Covid also definitely made it OK to wear your pajamas and flip-flops out in public.

Byron Nelson (sponsors)
“That was 2018 at the Byron Nelson and one of the first big sponsorships we did as a company.” – Lila Stewart

How do you feel like Dallas has helped Hari Mari succeed?

Dallas has absolutely helped Hari Mari become what it is. Jeremy and I are both born and raised in Dallas, so the amount of support we’ve received from everyone we’ve grown up with has been overwhelming in the most positive way. I don’t know if we would have had that support in any other city besides Dallas.

When we started Hari Mari 10 years ago, we were an anomaly. We’re still a little bit unique today, but we’re seeing more and more brands come out of Dallas.

QVC 2018
“QVC was looking to bring on some more youthful brands, so we really flattered that they reached out in 2018.” — Lila Stewart

Speaking of Dallas startups, you surely must be a resource for up-and-coming Dallas brands.

Sometimes it’s not necessarily founders, but just other women in the workforce looking for a mentor. I never thought that was something I would do or be, but I love it. I think it’s pretty special as a woman. I don’t pretend to know it all though; I’m still learning after all these years, but I think that honesty is helpful.

Zappos HQ – trisha, head of products – 2016 bought the brand for the first time
“This was at Zappos’ headquarters in Vegas. I’m with Trisha Hegg, our head of product management. This was back in 2016 right after they picked us up. Zappos has been such an incredible partner over the years.” — Lila Stewart

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in the past 10 years?

The importance of our team. Something that’s important to me, and I think creates a company culture that we strive for, is fostering everyone’s growth. We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re put in a box. So instead of hiring and bringing someone in over everyone here, we allow people the opportunity for promotions from within. Culture is number one.

4 View from Front
“People want to connect with the brands they’re buying now,” Hari Mari co-founder Lila Stewart explains about opening their first brick-and-mortar. “We want to take back control of the brand’s narrative, and that’s a lot easier in your own store.”

With so much development in the Knox area, what future do you envision for the Dallas flagship store? 

We just had our first concert with an up-and-coming artist named Jake Scott. He lives in LA but was looking for a cool spot to host a concert. We had 150 people upstairs partying, dancing, and enjoying this private concert. Afterward, we went around the corner and ate at Ziziki’s, and I just thought to myself, what a cool area to be right in the middle of.

Showcase of Homes

Swipe
X
X