These days, Argentine couple Gastón Frydlewski and Mariquel Waingarten work tirelessly day in and day out on Hickies, a set of adjustable straps that replaces the strings of shoelaces, revamping the look and feel.
Fully immersed in a “life without laces,” there was a time when Frydlewski’s futuristic shoe accessory seemed far from a reality—as did getting Waingarten to think of him romantically. Now, he’s not only living one dream, but two.
“I thought he was crazy”
Waingarten met Frydlewski in Argentina when she was 21. She had her mind set on her career in the hotel business, but Frydlewski had his mind set on her. He mustered the courage to ask her out and brought along sketches of the futuristic shoelace design that he’d been working on.
As a college student, Frydlewski says he was “one of those kids that would never tie his laces, and leave the tips hanging, or tuck them inside the shoes (very uncomfortable).” And he wasn’t the only one. “I realized that everyone has an issue with laces,” he says.
But Waingarten didn’t care for the sketches. In fact, she laughed.
“I thought he was crazy and thought it was a stupid idea,” she admit. “He thought, ‘She’s gonna be so impressed. I’m gonna get her.’ But it had the opposite effect. I told him to get a job.”
After getting rejected, Frydlewski continued refining the prototype. He spent six years drafting his ideas, hoping one day his startup would win the way to Waingarten’s heart.
His persistence paid off. After Waingarten had broken up with her ex boyfriend, Frydlewski had asked her out. This was six years after they had their first date.
“When I said, ‘yes’ to another date, we had an amazing time,” Waingarten says. “Three months after, we were living together and six months later, we were getting married. We were talking about how we want our lives to be. We didn’t want to work on separate jobs and be apart. He brought up the idea of Hickies. I couldn’t believe he still had that idea.”
It was then that Waingarten had a change of heart about Hickies. “If you’re still thinking about it six to eight years later, you have to try this,” says Waingarten. “So then I thought, ‘We need to do this.’”
Improving other people’s lives
Hickies drew national and international interest from shoemakers to manufacturers. Topper, a Brazil-based sports brand, and Adidas reached out about incorporating Hickies into their products. Brookstone showcased Hickies as a novelty item in stores across the U.S. Hickies is sold in independent shops and in all the Equinox gym stores.
Based at WeWork Williamsburg, the company has also received a lot of support online—Hickies’ Kickstarter campaign has exceeded more than six times its initial goal of $25,000. On its recent Indiegogo campaign, Hickies exceeded its initial goal of $25,000 in just over a week.
Not only is Hickies making a fashion statement with its lace-free, snap-on straps, but it’s also serving an important role in the community of parents with autistic children.
“The shoelace can expose disabilities to other people, so by eliminating that, people can feel more independent,” Waingarten says.
This month, Hickies plans to partner with an autism organization and create a video campaign to support the cause. Proceeds will go to the partnering autism organization, which has yet to be announced.
“It feels good to do something outside of our own personal objective and to see how it improves other people’s lives,” says Waingarten.