Designer Mary Alice Malone on Malone Souliers first men's footwear collection
London-based footwear label, Malone Souliers, may be known for its classic womenswear designs, but the launch of its debut men’s collection has the footwear industry taking note.
Available exclusively at Level Shoes, the collection bucks the all-conquering sneaker trend to champion the leather loafer.
The described as a “nostalgic project” for founder and creative director Mary Alice Malone, the American designer first learnt to make men’s shoes at the famed Cordwainers school, working on traditional men’s patterns that form the foundation of shoemaking.
Esquire: Why introduce a men’s collection?
Mary Alice Malone: I feel that men are more of a discerning customer, and I love that challenge more. They tend to be much harder shoppers and have a less emotional impulse to buy something. There is a lot more consideration into the idea of ‘how does this fit into my wardrobe?’ If it doesn’t they won’t buy it. Therefore when designing men’s shoes there has to be a simplicity. They have to want to be worn.
ESQ: Is that why the loafer is the hero of your collection?
MAM: We started with a loafer, because it doesn’t get any easier than that. You have to be so precise and clear in what you’re doing. If the stitches or last are wrong, and it doesn’t convey the sense of masculinity, then it isn’t going to work.
ESQ: Were you not tempted into the massive sneaker market?
MAM: I have always been that weirdo where if everybody is doing something, I tend to push away from it. I do love sneakers, but I also love leather soles, and I love the traditions and process of making them. So it was more of an authentic decision, to concentrate on what I’m good at and let the people who are amazing a designing sneakers continue to be amazing at that. I can’t compete with that.
ESQ: Do you wear sneakers?
MAM: I still see sneakers as a performance shoe. I’m obsessed with going to the gym and working out, but yes, I also have some fashion sneakers although, but they are still Nikes.
ESQ: Is it fair to say that over the past decade the stigma around men having ‘too many’ shoes has gone?
MAM: Yes, totally. And it’s super exciting. Years ago, as standard, men would have a pair of black oxfords, brown derbies, a pair of loafers and that was pretty much it for the next 20 years! Now men are becoming more adventurous and I really love that they are taking pride in what they are wearing. Shoes are an easy place to be a bit more adventurous—because you can wear them with your denim or your suit and wear a more adventurous shoe and it can look fresh and effortless.
ESQ: There’s a current generation of men who have never had to wear formal shoes, or even a suit. How do you feel about that?
MAM: I am starting to feel quite passionately about it. I want to put men back in leather soles! I love men is suits. It is such an incredible thing, and somewhere along the line things got a bit too casual. The suit for men is like a women putting on a high-heel, it changes the way you look and feel.
The other day I was walking my dog in New York early in the morning and I saw this young guy getting on his bike with his trousers taped up, and heading to work. He had a pair of real leather shoes on, I was, like, ‘I’m so proud of you!’