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For Mary Alice Malone’s luxury footwear brand, Malone Souliers, making shoes the “hard way” is what has set the company apart since its inception in 2014.
Launched in London, Malone Souliers has become a sought-after brand due to its extremely high level of craftsmanship. Malone got her experience as a shoemaker at the famous Cordwainers shoemaking school in East London. After graduating, she began her journey of building a footwear company that has since evolved into a premium brand.
Though Malone Souliers does sell an assortment of footwear, including sneakers and flats, its signature style is a high heel named Maureen. When Malone created the now-bestselling shoe in 2015, she knew the intentional design and engineering would win over consumers. After some hesitation from buyers due to the unique silhouette, Maureen debuted as part of Malone Souliers’ spring-summer 2015 collection and became a hero product.
“Creating the Maureen was a feat of engineering. It is a really supportive shoe, and it’s beautiful,” Malone said on the latest episode of The Glossy Podcast. “Trying to get people to buy Maureen took a bit of convincing, at first. But then she had her arrival moment, and it’s never been the same.”
Now that Malone Souliers has established itself in the industry, its founder is looking at the bigger picture. Aside from building up the brand’s e-commerce site, she recently expanded it to new product categories and new international markets. “I think of [Malone Soulier] as a lightweight boxer. … It’s important to be able to move, adjust and take an opportunity where you see it,” Malone said.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Obstacles as a global brand during the pandemic
“A lot of [our obstacles were around] shipping. Shipping especially is one of those things that most people don’t realize how hard it’s been. Most people are used to having beautiful products just arrive, whether it’s from an Amazon package or it’s to your store. Getting products when fuel prices are skyrocketing and there aren’t as many planes — and you can’t do shipping overseas because … ships just can’t go that fast — [adds a layer of challenges]. But I have a really phenomenal team, and we have fantastic partners in Italy — both our manufacturing and our warehousing [partners]. For the most part, we have been early in all of our shipping throughout the whole pandemic, which is something I’m very proud of.”
Getting real-time feedback from consumers
“We did something crazy during the pandemic: We opened up a store on Mount Street In London, which has been an amazing window [to customer feedback]. Retail is a completely different business than wholesale, which is kind of scary sometimes, but it also provides a lot of learnings, which is great. It gives us that direct-to-consumer [connection], and it’s amazing to be able to actually talk to people and listen and learn and [see them] try things on. Before we had this wonderful window, we would talk to sales reps [for that information] — the people who are on the floor, as well as buyers.”
Importance of impactful collaborations
“I love collaborations, because they give you the chance to play where your consumer doesn’t necessarily expect you to be. You can kind of color outside the lines a little bit. … Part of the fun reason why we do collaborations is so that we get to branch out into new products [and experiment with new designs]. … It’s not every day that you get to do that kind of thing. So, yes, it brings a new customer, but it also hopefully yells to everybody, ‘Hey, it’s time to have fun now.’ Your shoes don’t always have to be so serious.”