Feet at the runway-ready: we meet the co-founders of e-commerce shoe retailer Martha Louisa
It’s a great time for people who love to get their feet runway-ready. KIM BUI KOLLAR meets the founders of e-commerce luxury shoe retailer MARTHA LOUISA
LET’S GET DOWN to business – the shoe business. I’m meeting Christoph and Susanne Botschen at the Crillon before their first press event for their new online shoe emporium, Martha Louisa. The husband-and-wife duo started the German speciality fashion boutique MyTheresa, then launched an e-commerce platform of the same name, which consumers loved and American-based retail group Neiman Marcus acquired in 2014. During their three-year non-compete agreement after the sale, they travelled the world and had a lot of fun. But they wanted to get back to business – doing something they love.
The pair bring a great presence to the room, even one as fabulous and hushed as the main bar at the Crillon. Christoph is very tall without being imposing, but he’s the quieter type – it’s easy to tell that Susanne is the zealous voice of their business. She’s wearing some amazing fine jewellery with flourish, paired with a satin bomber jacket in pastel colours.
What would you say is the state of luxury fashion today?
In terms of ready-to-wear, it’s not my topic anymore. Things are changing. The way people dress is more solid and more laid back, but it’s also more sophisticated. It doesn’t matter that everything is superhigh-end. There’s a return to pretty. It’s not so stuck anymore – I love it!
[She cuts away to order a salad in perfect French, then turns to Christoph to ask if he wants to split a sandwich, in what sounds like perfect German, and continues.]
It’s the contemporary luxury price point. At the end of the day, people don’t want to spend that kind of money anymore. Not because they can’t, but they don’t want to.
And they don’t have to. I think this is testament to style confidence.
This is exactly why we think there’s a need to do shoes. This doesn’t exist in the e-commerce space, anywhere. We have all the major brands on board, but at the same time, this affordable luxury – there is so much out there. There are so many great brands and products.
How interesting, though, to go from multi-brand and multi- category to specifically one category. It’s not even shoes and bags, which is the traditional pairing…
It’s really just shoes. First of all, we don’t think shoes have anything to do with bags. We think it’s high time for a specialist, particularly in the e-commerce sector, which plays the major role today.
The big guys are becoming are so massive. It’s such a jungle of merchandise. They have to increase their turnovers, the budgets are getting bigger – which means that every heel height, every colour, every version is selected. There isn’t a true curation. But even shoes, as a category, is so big.
So we tried to curate what we think is beautiful and special. We aren’t afraid of special. We don’t go purely commercial. But if something is commercial and good, we embrace that too. It’s just about the best of shoes. There will be a lot of brands unique to us.
The advantage that you have in your court is the emotional quotient of shoes. Sweaters and dresses don’t seem to conjure those pure emotional reactions – but on a really good shoe day, somebody will cross the street to pay a compliment.
100 per cent! And shoes make you so happy. People don’t even have to wear them. Just owning them makes you happy. What girl doesn’t love shoes?
What will be new about the functionality of Martha Louisa?
Don’t expect a new invention. We have learned a lot developing MyTheresa. People have learned how to shop online for some time now. I think it would be wrong to invent a new “wheel”. People want product. They want it now and with flawlessness. We aim to be customer-oriented.
Any lessons from MyTheresa that you’re bringing to Martha Louisa?
We have been retailers for a long time. [Christoph pipes in: “Forever!”] Our expertise is that we know customers and their needs, and we really take that seriously. But at the end of the day, it’s product. We have experience with customers all over the world. We know the size needs of the different regions, and that Asia needs more sizes at both ends of the range, from tiny ( 34 and below) to bigger
( 39 and above).
What else are you excited about?
The product! There are some great contemporary brands that we can’t get enough of. But also in the more elevated space is Fabrizio Viti, Chloe Gosselin, Samuele Failli – these designers who create the shoes for the houses like Louis Vuitton and Valentino, but have their own brands to express their visions. I love Suzanne Rae and Gray Matters, both based in New York. We have a German – after Jil Sander, there was nobody – but Aeyde is fabulous; they’re based in Berlin, great price for super-cool booties. We also have quite a few exclusive capsules. There’s one with Leandra Medine-Cohen aka the Man Repeller. The Prada exclusives are also one of my favourites. We’ve got everything under one roof – only shoes, only women. Nobody else does this.
When the idea came to you to launch a shoe concept, which was the first brand you approached?
This page: The Prada exclusive capsule for Martha Louisa
Opposite page: The MR by Man Repeller exclusives