V3 Oxfords: Ship Dates, Improvements, and Colors
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I'm going to start with the big, bad news. The Version 3 Oxfords will not be delivered in Fall, as originally promised. I'm truly sorry.
In this email, I'm going to explain why they're late, what we've learned, and when to expect the shoes.
Businessman vs. Craftsman
In January 2014, there were a few small (or, what I thought were small) changes I wanted to make to the upper. Small changes that I thought we'd be done with by February. We didn't finish until August.
From a business standpoint (and with the benefit of hindsight) I should have ordered more V2 shoes while developing V3 shoes. But from a craft standpoint, I didn't want to make any more shoes that were less than perfect. Despite high overall customer satisfaction, I knew exactly what could make our shoes even better from reading your survey responses, emails, and messages. And the finish line for the V3 always seemed so close, damn it.
The Planning Fallacy
After a successful run of the Version 2 that we received and delivered in December 2013, I thought we had a good handle on development and production. I remember feeling pretty confident at the beginning of the year. You can see the naivety in this newsletter.
What I didn't realize was that this on-time delivery was the exception, not the rule. We were able to accomplish it, NOT because of skill, experience, or hustle (although there was a good deal of hustle here during the holidays!)...but because we got LUCKY that things mostly went right.
I was first introduced to the Planning Fallacy in Nick Winter's The Motivation Hacker (one of my all-time favorite books now). The Planning Fallacy is our human tendency to think that everything will go according to plan, when in reality it almost never does. A famous example is the Sydney Opera House, "originally estimated to be completed in 1963 for $7 million, and finally completed in 1973 for $102 million."
The Research Explains It
" Newby-Clark et. al. (2000)...found that:
- Asking subjects for their predictions based on realistic "best guess" scenarios; or
- Asking subjects for their hoped-for "best case" scenarios...
...produced indistinguishable results.
When people are asked for a "realistic" scenario, they envision everything going exactly as planned, with no unexpected delays or unforeseen catastrophes - the same vision as their "best case".
Reality, it turns out, usually delivers results somewhat worse than the "worst case". "(Eliezer Yudkowsky, Less Wrong)
We know that, if everything goes right, we have a 10-week production cycle.
We also know, now, that everything going right is unlikely.
Taking the Planning Fallacy in stride, a realistic delivery date will be between January and May.
This takes into account that there could be an issue that isn't noticed until I've received and inspected the shoes, forcing us to start a second 10-week cycle to finish up the order.
It sounds nuts, but it happens. In fact, it happened to our first production last year.
More Improvements in V3
Alright, now some good news! Since our last newsletter, we've added another improvement to the Version 3 Oxfords: superior shoelaces. These are THE best dress laces I've ever come across. Our original waxed cotton laces were flat. This made them stay tied and tight really well, but could be snaggy in the eyelets. Our new waxed cotton laces are round, which offers the following benefits:
- They're easier to lace through the eyelets
- They stay tied just as well as the old ones
- They will resist fraying even longer than the old ones
- They catch more light and look dressier
It really is all in the details, isn't it?
Left: original, flat laces. Right: new, round laces.
Here's a recap of all the improvements in V3 so far...
- More precise cutting
- Finer stitching
- Improved fit
- Improved comfort
And now, with...
- Nicer-looking laces that are more durable and easier to use.
Comparison of upper cut-and-sew quality
Left: Version 2
Right: Version 3
Black: Version 2
Red: Version 3
Oxford Colors x Styles, Survey Result
Last month, I asked you guys for help in choosing what styles to make in what colorways. Here are the results below.
16% Wouldn't buy either.
30% Wouldn't buy either.
48% Wouldn't buy either.
The first thing I noticed is that you guys favored the Cap-Toe over the Plain-Toe across all colors. Not too surprising, as the Cap-Toe in Black has always outsold the Plain-Toe in Black.
The second thing was the order of color popularity: Oxblood, Cognac, and Chocolate. Also not too surprising, as the Oxblood is the most versatile, and the Cognac great for standing out.
As a result of the survey, we will most likely start with 1) the Cap-Toe in Oxblood and 2) the Cap-Toe in Cognac, then adjusting accordingly if there's a change in demand.
I don't want to write another "your shoes are delayed" email, ever again. It takes a hell of a toll on my mental and physical health, for days before, and for days after.
From now on, we will...
- Keep production running even while we're in development, because the latest version is still awesome, and we don't know how long development will take.
- Acknowledge the Planning Fallacy, and give estimates that account for the fact that an entire production run can go awry.
I know I'm going to see fewer pre-orders on our website because of the longer wait. But if that's what it takes to avoid letting you guys down again, so be it.
Again, I apologize for the delay and thank you for your continued support and patience. These are one-of-a-kind shoes, the highest intersection of style and comfort, made even better. They will be well worth the wait.
Please feel free to hit reply and shoot me any questions or comments. As before, I personally read and answer all emails.
Mountain Evan Chang