When the summer heat threatens to fry your soles, there’s nothing better than slipping on an airy pair of flip-flops. The flip-flop speaks: Hey, I dig my life, don’t sweat the little things, and I’m ready if a pool party breaks out. But flip-flops can be horrible, too, when the plastic thong cuts through toes or the flips flop too loudly, drawing attention to the fact that you are donning the world’s most casual shoe at the office. Not good. A Lakewood couple recently launched Hari Mari, a footwear company offering uber-comfy (and quiet) flip-flops. Lila and Jeremy Stewart were both hardworking professionals, she in the music business and he in politics, who were ready to shift gears and stay put in our neighborhood. Fashioning, producing and marketing their own piece of clothing, they agreed, would be fun, Lila says. They were both interested in footwear, specifically casual wear, because Jeremy had spent his working life in a suit, tie and dress shoes, Lila says. They made a few Hari Mari prototypes and hired an agency to get feedback from focus groups. “We wanted people to tell us the truth about the product, not just our family and friends trying to be nice to us and saying they liked it,” Lila says. The result was a simple design featuring a variety of tropical colors — oranges, blues and greens — a memory foam-lined toe support; firm, mid-sole arches; a durable hemp foot bed; and dense, rubber-tread soles. At press time, it’s been 10 weeks since the Stewarts, along with Lila’s brother Garrett Horton, launched their Parks line of Hari Mari footwear, and their jaunty product already is selling in 20 stores in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky and at Luke’s Locker and Original Octane (near Knox-Henderson) here in Dallas. The shoes are $60 a set, and $5 from each sale go to Cook Children’s hospital to fund treatment of pediatric cancer. Lila and Jeremy, relatively new parents, say they wanted to build philanthropy into the business model, and they had friends with a child who recently needed treatment at Cook. Their friends had a great experience there, so that became the charity, Lila says. The Stewarts hope to release a second line in fall 2013 and, eventually, a children’s line.
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