Picture a colour palette worthy of a Kandinsky masterpiece, add a smattering of elegant silhouettes and sumptuous fabrics and there you have it – fashion’s most talked about shoe label, Malone Souliers.
The brainchild of founder Mary Alice Malone, a Pennsylvania-born shoe designer who studied at Cordwainers and her business partner Roy Luwolt, the London-based label is now in its fourth season and already plans are afoot to open their first store in New York early next year. Today though, we meet in London at the brand’s showroom-cum-atelier perched high above Albemarle Street. Here beautiful shoes – mostly signature shapes such as mules, Mary Janes and T-bar sandals are artfully arranged on coffee tables, like brightly coloured bonbons ripe for the picking. The room is divided with a large folding screen. Later, I discover that behind it, the real magic happens. It veils a workroom where Malone and her assistant cut patterns, make prototypes and work on made-to-order pieces and special requests.
“London is an incredible place to start something like this,” says Malone of her rapidly growing shoe business. “You want to be in a city that understands what craft is all about. We are in love with the craft and heritage you find on Savile Row or Jermyn Street. London is so disciplined and focused and unapologetically what it is. Savile Row make suits and they do that well so of course we want to be right down the road from it.”
As is the case with a beautifully crafted suit, Malone prides herself on understanding the inner workings of a shoe. I pick up a colourful T-Bar and push lightly down on the centre of the insole to understand just what she means when she talks of the “springulator”. It turns out to be a small piece of elastic, first designed in the 1950’. This unique piece of engineering stops the shoe from slipping off the foot.
It’s clear from the off that Malone and Luwolt are the best of friends. They live, work and know each other’s likes and dislike, personality traits and foibles to a tee. “Mary Alice has serious OCD problems,” jokes Luwolt adding that she thinks in millimetres.
Whatever the case, Malone is fearless when it comes to colour. Often she mixes hues one wouldn’t normally mix -yellow, coral and violet for example. “I see colour as neutral and like to push the boundaries,” says Malone. “In my mind, any particular colour combination will work – period. I do the same with materials and even though it may all sound really bad on paper, the beauty of it all comes together as a whole.”
This is true. Even a brightly coloured platform shoe suddenly seems elegant and instantly draws my attention. “Shoes are the one thing that women put on their body that changes their entire being – their stature, their height the way they move, how the world interacts with them and how they interact with the world…. Heels make us feel more powerful, sexy and beautiful.”
Images © Alice Lubbock
As for the new Autumn/Winter collection, Malone fuses a rich mix of materials including butter soft nappa, snakeskin and suede, with touches of mink. The ankle booties with fluted trims are so beautiful you could stand them on a plinth and admire them as a work of art. But with London Fashion Week around the corner, I’d rather be seen hot-footing it around town in these.