Venturing from horses to shoes

Malone Souliers co-founders Roy Luwolt and Mary Alice Malone at the On Pedder store in Scotts Square, where their shoes are sold.
Malone Souliers co-founders Roy Luwolt and Mary Alice Malone at the On Pedder store in Scotts Square, where their shoes are sold. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Former competitive horserider Mary Alice Malone and venture capitalist Roy Luwolt are behind rising luxury shoe label Malone Souliers

The last few years have seen the rise of popular luxury shoe brands fronted mainly by one designer, such as Nicholas Kirkwood and Sophia Webster, both British.

So London-based shoe label Malone Souliers stands out for being fronted by not one, but two faces - former venture capitalist Roy Luwolt and Ms Mary Alice Malone, who rode horses competitively until the age of 24.

The pair, both 33 and "married to work", launched the brand in February 2014 with the intention of filling a gap in the luxury market. They felt luxury brands were "losing focus and not producing shoes of good design, great quality and comfort". Souliers is a sophisticated French term used to describe a shoe.

Their shoes are unabashedly feminine in design - think high heels and lace-ups embellished with glitter or mules covered with feathers.

There are also strappy, elegant flats that Ms Malone, the brand's creative director, hopes will make a woman feel sexy regardless of the heel height.

She says the shoes are made in Italy as it is the best place to make shoes. Ninety per cent of each shoe is handmade. The brand also offers a Made-to-Measure service, where customers can ask for adjustments to the shoes, such as straps for bigger ankles, so long as it does not change the brand's aesthetic. The service is available worldwide through the brand's website (www.malonesouliers.com).

Malone Souliers shoes, which come with a lifetime warranty, are sold here at On Pedder and prices range from $990 for flats to $1,200 for a pair of lace-up court heels.

But do not hold your breath for the brand's interpretation of the sneaker. Mr Luwolt, its managing director, says: "We don't need to make sneakers. The world has done that enough."

The co-founders got to know each other in 2011 at a dinner party in London, and decided to team up because they had a similar vision. Mr Luwolt, a British-American, was keen on starting his own fashion brand. "I've always been a venture capitalist in what I consider to be consumer luxury," he says.

Ms Malone, an American, stopped riding competitively to pursue an art education in Colorado. She then did a cordwainer course at the London College of Fashion, with the intention of starting her own shoe label.

She describes her jump from horseriding to art school and then shoes as "a very natural and very effortless process".

"I really love making and constructing things and shoes just really worked for me," she says.

While declining to reveal sales figures, Mr Luwolt says they have exceeded their 66 per cent midseason sales target by 29 per cent and that Asia accounts for 30 per cent of the brand's global sales.

In terms of distribution, the brand has done "better than expected" - its shoes were picked up by American high-end department stores Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman immediately after its launch.

It now has 200 physical and online points of sale, including trendy department store Le Bon Marche in Paris and luxury e-retailers such as Net-a-porter. com and Farfetch.

Mr Luwolt is proud of the brand's wide network and cannot help but make a comparison to another popular shoe brand. He says: "Take someone like Paul Andrew. He's been around longer than us and has the pedigree of working in the fashion industry, but he does not even have 100 stockists."

Paul Andrew is a British shoe designer who launched his eponymous label in 2013. His shoes are also sold at On Pedder in Singapore. Paul Andrew is distributed in 100 stockists globally. 

In November, Malone Souliers will open its first standalone boutique in Miami, Florida. The city was chosen for its "transient" quality.

Mr Luwolt says: "You will always get a new customer who will come in with fresher eyes and new needs in Miami, so we're very excited."


Correction Note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'Venturing from horses to shoes'. Print Edition | Subscribe