in conversation with malone souliers
CURRENTLY THE NAME ON THE LIPS OF ANY SELF-RESPECTING STYLE AFICIONADO, THE LONDONBORN SHOE BRAND HAS RISEN TO CULT-STATUS IN LESS THAN FOUR YEARS, QUICKLY GARNERING THE ATTENTION OF THE FASHION ELITE WITH IMPECCABLY CHIC AND COMFORTABLE SHOES. EMIRATES W
64 In Conversation With: Malone Souliers.
“THE SHOES NEED TO BE COMFORTABLE. AS A WOMAN DESIGNING FOR OTHER WOMEN, I FEEL IF I DID NOT RESPECT THE NEED TO BE COMFORTABLE THAT WOULD BE REALLY RUDE OF ME”
The sun, the beach and the blue sea is glorious to wake up to,” exclaims Mary Alice Malone, the creative director and founder of Malone Souliers. Lounging on the capacious sofa in the hotel suite overlooking the Burj Al Arab, her velvet slipper-clad feet are the first thing we see when we walk into the room.
Sitting next to her is her co-founder, managing director and best friend, Roy Lulwolt. The duo – who are in Dubai with luxury online retailer The Modist – open up to Emirates Woman about why they believe their shoes have become so popular in the region, how comfort is the core component to the brand and Malone’s love for the “bold and unapologetic” style of women in the Middle East.
How did you end up in the field of shoes?
MALONE: I don’t have an incredibly logical explanation for that. I’ve always been intrigued by humans and women and why we do what we do and I love making things – so shoes are kind of the
juxtaposition of the two of them.
Do you remember the first pair of shoes you designed and why?
MALONE: Yes, absolutely – Savannah, the open-toe lace-up booties. It wasn’t corsets specifically but foundational garments and how they work in shaping the body.
Why do you think Malone Souliers’ shoes has achieved instant cult-status?
MALONE: I’m going to let you answer that [turns to Roy]. I’m too much in the centre of the storm to answer that. LULWOLT: Because she makes good shoes.
Do you think it has anything to do with the woman who wears them?
MALONE: The shoes are meant to enhance whoever is wearing them. They are meant to become you. Hopefully it is a very personal experience wearing them.
The women of the Middle East love your shoes. They always sell out quickly in the region. Why do you think they are so popular here?
MALONE: There is an amazing understanding of fashion, boldness and self-expression here that really leans towards a very playful take on fashion.
What do you think of the Middle Eastern woman's style?
MALONE: I love it because it's very bold and unapologetic. Women here look fabulous every minute of every day and that's quite impressive. It's an incredible standard they keep up daily.
Modest dressing is a trend that has taken the world by storm. Do you dress modestly?
MALONE: I think it's fab. On a daily basis I like feeling comfortable as I want to go in to the studio and focus on work. Most of the time I don't want to worry about my skirt blowing up if it's a windy day in London. I like to keep things covered as that's when you get work done. When your clothes are unfussy you can get through your day and have less distractions. I wear a lot of large flowing pieces.
What's your fundamental rule when designing shoes?
MALONE: There's a very important balance that needs to be struck between what's concealed and what's revealed with the foot. The amount you conceal is just as important, if not more important, than what's revealed and I think that tension is necessary. It's what's interesting, what makes the shoe.
Is that why the shoes are subtle yet sexy?
MALONE: That's the tension – that sexy element and that intrigue comes from covering not by uncovering.
Tell us about the Roy and Alice relationship. What's the dynamic there: are you always best friends or are there ever any disagreements?
[Both laugh]MALONE: There's healthy conflict but that's how you grow and get things done. LULWOLT: We've never fallen out since we've been friends. We've obviously had very difficult conversations to engage in but that's sort of the beauty of it. It's actually very insulting to say the words 'mutual respect' as what we have is bigger than that. It's a natural respect for each other. Our relationship is one of opposites. What she does is entirely different from my skill set and vice versa but that's what is great. We didn't plan it that way, we met that way and it's made the business what it is.
We were enemies at dinner, negotiators at breakfast the next morning and then we became – well, I was the stalker and you were the prey. [Laughs, looking at Malone]. Then we became business partners and then friends.
In one sentence, what do you learn from each other?
[Malone pauses to think] LULWORT: I know mine very easily. MALONE: [Looking at Rory]I love that you have this very creative and confident energy, everything is negotiable to you, which I think is fabulous. If you want something you will go get it – there is no ‘no'. LULWORT: [Smiles] So, moving on… Basically it's bizarre – I've always been surrounded by women in my work and life. My daughter, my mother and the world around me is female led but I have never learnt so much about myself [since meeting Alice]. I'm not being cheesy, I mean that. There's a lot more self-awareness that occurs with her than I've ever had. It's in fact what makes her one of my best friends. She's knows what I need before I do and she always foresees problems before they occur.
We've lasted all day and night in our Dana pumps – they are so comfortable. Is comfort important to you when designing?
MALONE: The shoes need to be comfortable. As a woman designing [shoes] for other women, I feel if I do not respect the need to be comfortable that would be really rude of me [laughs]. They need be comfortable and they need to be beautiful and hopefully that happens at the same. I understand that everyone has a different relation to what's comfortable. We meet some women who are like: ‘Oh my gosh, I've been in your heels for the past 36 hours and I've just run three miles and got on 16 flights and I'm still wearing them and I'm comfortable.' I understand that's not everybody but hopefully if you really dislike high heels and want to wear flats they are super-comfortable as well. LULWORT: This leads back to your question on our success. The comfort element has been the core part from the start. It was something that we decided was fundamental for every single style we made. Comfort is not really the priority of many brands, with the exception of Gianvito Rossi, who actually is all about comfort – though we're better than him [laughs]. It's actually really important to understand that luxury really doesn't play along the lines of functionality and being able to do that is a very sustainable position for us. MALONE: I make all of our casts so that there is room for the toes and that heels balance and don't feel like you're falling backwards. That's really important with the engineering.
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
MALONE: You have to be stubborn about what you want but you also have to be open-minded to other considerations and be able to take them on board as well. There needs to be that balance. For me it's trial and error.
We adore the Roksanda collaboration you created recently. Who's next?
LULWORT: We can't speak of that. MALONE: [Smiles] There's always someone in the pipeline.