Until this year, you might have expected to find Malone Souliers displayed on perspex plinths in Harrods, Harvey Nichols or Liberty – worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Cameron Diaz, and Anna Kendrick.
But despite her success in designing for women, the company’s eponymous co-founder Mary Alice Malone actually started off working on traditional men’s shoes.
Now she’s come full circle and launched her first men’s collection.
We catch up with the prodigious designer to find out more about where the brand came from – and where she’s taking it next.
How did you first get into shoe design?
I have always been interested in the act of making, using my hands to create practical yet beautiful objects.
The journey that brought me to the craft of shoemaking actually started from carpentry and furniture design, rather than fashion.
I am fascinated by the idea of deconstructing an object to fully understand how it’s built. I love the exact science involved in creating something stable, balanced and eventually beautiful.
I was lucky enough to learn about the craftsmanship of shoemaking with some of the most talented Cordwainers in London.
What have been your greatest successes to date?
From a business point of view however – when I think back to when we were first starting out – one of our most exciting successes was having Bergdorf Goodman as our first ever US client, and Matchesfashion.com our big UK and international client.
The opportunities that I have had to collaborate with amazing and inspiring designers have also been highlights for me: Adam Lippes, David Koma, Roksanda, Tommy Ton for Deveaux NY and Richard Malone.
Each designer is so unique and with each collaboration, I have been able to step outside of my traditional boundaries and expand my design capabilities.
How much of an inspiration was your mother – and what have you learned from her in business?
My mother and my family have always been great sources of inspiration for me in all aspects of my life. When it comes to business, I have learned that hard work, dedication and a great team can take you far.
How has the company evolved?
We’ve come a long way since I founded Malone Souliers in 2014. Our headquarters are still located in Mayfair, just around the corner from all the great tailors and artisans of Savile Row, but our reach globally has expanded hugely with around 250 stockists worldwide.
Just this week we launched our We-chat store in China to accommodate our increasing but already high demand in the region, which is incredibly exciting.
When – and why – did you decide to move into menswear?
Launching my Men’s Collection is my proudest success in the business. When I first started studying Cordwaining, the first shoes I learnt to make were from traditional men’s patterns, so it’s come full circle back to where it all began.
It’s a category that I have always wanted to expand into, and after the success of the women’s collection, for SS20 we were fortunate enough to have our retail partners requesting for us to add a menswear line. The time felt exactly right to step into this new category.
How did you decide what types of shoes to make?
It was actually a mix of personal taste and market research. I’m not led by trends but we paid a lot of attention to what was lacking in the market.
Men are definitely looking for shoes which serve a purpose beyond functionality these days, so I wanted to take traditional shapes which I love like loafers and update them with modern materials and details.
I wanted to offer a high-quality product to the man who is in tune with what luxury feels like and wears shoes to say express his personality.
How does it differ to making women’s shoes?
Making men’s shoes is a very different process as the structures, patterns and materials are typically much more traditional than for women’s.
As men’s shoes have been predominantly functional in the past, it is an interesting challenge to explore how to balance those more traditional structures with new and exciting offerings.
The material choice in particular is really important in order to create something that extends beyond this element of practicality for a product that sets the man apart from the crowd.
Tell us about some of the more interesting materials you use?
For SS20, I really loved playing with an array of materials: from the more traditional suedes and supple calf and nappa leathers; to deeply rich velvets with a sprinkling of crystal detailing on the strap, to a bold fully Swarovski-encrusted leather, as well as more technical fabrications such an interwoven nappa.
Where are the shoes made?
Our shoes are all made in Italy, in a family-run factory. The original owner’s grandchildren now run it, still following the same industrial practices established by their grandfather and their father after him.
I consider them as an extended part of our family – they are the masters of the magic.
Does Malone Souliers have any signature style differentiators?
Yes, absolutely – signature Malone Souliers details are our original double strap, as well as our waved, sculptural lines perfectly placed to flatter the foot.
As our collections have grown and silhouettes have evolved, key styles now also feature a single strap as recognisable Malone Souliers detailing.
I consider them as an extended part of our family – they are the masters of the magic
You have lots of famous female patrons; have you enjoyed the same uptake from male celebrities? Can you name any?
I still get so excited every time I see a VIP wearing our shoes; they are definitely still pinch-me moments. We recently had Josh O’Connor wearing a pair of Malone Souliers at the Pre-BAFTA party in February – I was beyond thrilled.
Will you expand beyond the loafer – and if so, what’s next?
For AW20, you will see new silhouettes including lace-up boots with unexpected monk strap detailing, elegant slip-ons, as well as a casual and contemporary slipper with a collapsible back.
I have also introduced new iterations of the loafer in relaxed shapes – one with double monk straps and another with more classic tassels.
Our debut original loafer still sits within the collection, but I reimagined it with new fabrics and colours.
Would luxury sneakers ever be on the cards?
I personally love sneakers; I train everyday so working out in a good pair is important to me. Therefore, sneakers remain very much in the sportswear category for me; I have never really been too sold on the luxury sneaker.
So, there is no immediate plan to add sneakers to the Malone Souliers product offering – but I never say never…
See more at malonesouliers.com