Braided rasta, furry sandals and big silver rings are some of the things that instantly catch the eye while meeting Mary Alice Malone and Roy Luwolt. The quirky American duo is the force behind Malone Souliers, a London-based shoe brand that offers statement shoes for women. Malone is the creative director of the brand, while Luwolt is the managing director.
Their shoes sport solid colours with fun accents like fur and straps, while the shapes are architectural. Maureen, one of their classics, is a combination between ankle boots and slip-on shoes. The brand, that mainly uses leather and suede in their collections, is inspired by the whimsical aesthetic of women's shoes in the 50s and 70s.
As much as it is about aesthetics, Malone Souliers pays a lot of attention to the wearability of the shoes. "There's no fancy gimmicks. Our shoes are just well-made," Malone says.
Malone Souliers new to the Indonesian market. How would you describe the brand?
I think we've now reached maturity as a brand, and we have a proper infrastructure as we do seasonal collections. We also have enough variety of styles to go into different markets with different needs.
With that, we decided that we were ready to expand to Asia, including Indonesia. It takes a while for a brand to develop, to the point that it could have a local sensitivity about each region it goes to. If we had only launched the first season in London and New York, and went straight to Jakarta, you'd be insulted because we hadn't taken time to understand the local culture before going in. Also, we believe that we have a fair pricing of luxury goods to suit the market here.
What kind of features do you use to ensure comfort in the shoes?
We use old school shoemaking techniques that have been around for over 400 years. I think the technology is more about the understanding of body dynamics and how the shoes should be constructed in relations to it. But there's no fancy gimmick, the shoes are just well made.
The comfort of shoes really depend on the shoe last, whether there is enough room for the foot to be a foot, also where the heels are placed. Let's face it, 4-inch heels are never going to feel like sneakers. Also, 4-inch heels would be comfortable for some people, but not for others. It depends on the women's built.
How is Malone Souliers different from other shoe brands?
There is nothing wrong with how other brands do their shoes. Let's take Michael Kors, for instance. Their strategy is to make as many trendy things as possible in demi-high quality, with mass quantity. That's what we call affordable luxury. As consumers, you can always choose to go for it, or choose other brands that resonate better with you. You may pick The Row for their individuality instead. That's a lifestyle choice.
What we do with Malone Souliers is spending a lot of effort at the back end, to make the front looks and feels better. It means we can't produce 100,000 shoes per season. It's impossible for us to do that and keep the quality we have. In every business, there's a tipping point that you can't go past if you were to maintain the quality.
How do you define luxury?
At Malone Souliers, it means good and pretty things. Many people make pretty things, but not everyone creates good things. We want to do both. That's why all of our shoes come with a lifetime warranty. If your shoes tear or break, you can bring them to us and we'll fix them for you. Now that's luxury.
Could you go through your debut collection in Indonesia?
These are a collection of our classics, they really epitomise our design DNA. We work primarily with leather and suede, and every season we use different materials to refresh our classics. The fall/winter collection is inspired by the works of a German artist Rebecca Horn. She explores the juxtaposition between sexual availability and intimacy, tenderness and aggression in her works.
What kind of women would love Malone Souliers?
The choice to put on a shoe is one of confidence. It shows your experience and personality. Our customers have already bought Louboutin, Manolo and Kirkwood. They've had all the Gucci and Fendi, and they want something different. That's why they pick Malone Souliers. I think the world wants something new, not just a new brand. Even in politics, people want change.
Does the rise of athleisure affect the demand on high heels?
I don't think so, because sneakers and heels serve a different purpose at different times. There are women who choose to spend their days in sneakers, and it's a personal choice.
But in the next 100 years, there will be no single Grammy Awards or the Oscars where everyone is in sneakers. There are situations in life where casual dressing is considered rude. That's why we do flats, high heels and lower heels (below 100mm). The point is, we don't aim for everyone to wear heels, but we want everyone to wear beautiful shoes.