British shoe designer Kat Maconie, who won Draper’s footwear designer of the year in 2018 and 2013, is known for her maximalist designs, which are full of whimsy and detail. She recently launched a vibrant collaboration with Veuve Clicquot: a champagne terrace based in her Bermondsey boutique. She spoke to Brummell about being bold, designing for women and being inspired by everything from wigs to antique brooches.
Can you take us back into how you started your brand?
Eleven years ago, which seems like such a long time ago now. I was working full time and started making ballerina shoes, crafting them in India. Then we then started introducing the heels into it and it evolved into something completely different. We found that every year when we added more to the shoes, they retailed better and better. Now, after 11 years, we really know who our customer base is and we make shoes for her.
How would you describe your customer?
Well, we don’t like to think of a particular age or demographic, we think more about attitude. She’s confident, she’s bold, she’s a maximalist, she loves colour, she likes to stand out, and she dresses from the feet up. She would put on a pair of amazing shoes and then thinking about something to work with them.
Can you tell us a bit about the collaboration with Veuve Clicquot and the champagne terrace?
Everything retail is online now and everyone wants to shop online. I think if you’re going to have a retail space, you need to add more and bring an experience to it. We wanted to get people back into the shops and experiencing the product because the shoes are very detailed – it is nice for customers to actually see them. Bermondsey is famous for its food and wonderful wine bars so we wanted to do something to echo that, and Veuve Clicquot was the perfect partner. It’s all about fun, bold and colour. And the yellow fits in perfectly in the shop. We have tables inside and out to enjoy a glass or a bottle of champagne while you browse, or simply if you just want a fun place to relax. Everything has just been so depressing this year; we wanted to do something energetic and fun.
Where did your maximalist aesthetic come from?
It comes from my mum. I remember when I was a kid she had a box of 80s costume jewellery. And 1980s pumps in every single colour. I spent so much time just grabbing jewellery, wearing it and playing with it, it was definitely a maximalist house.
You’ve also described some of your shoes as wearable art, what does that mean?
We put so much into each one. A lot of brands survive on doing beautiful court shoes every season, and there’s very much a place for them in the market but they are always pretty functional. Some of our shoes have hundreds of different components in them and we develop everything for them down to the beak and feathers of a bird on a shoe. We make specific moulds and tooling for each tiny part of the shoe. There’s so much development and love that goes into each pair. We’ve also designed the Bermondsey show room to feel like a gallery, it’s set up so the shoes feel like an art installation. We look at trends but we aren’t trend driven. The shoes are pieces you can have forever and are so singular that you won’t feel like you’re wearing something that has fallen out of fashion.
What can we expect from the new season collection?
The winter collection was inspired by like a treasure box and used a lot of jewel tones, embellishment and rock-inspired detailing. We also have a new vegan line – it’s really difficult to make vegan shoes. Especially ones that feel luxury, special and comfortable because vegan fabrics tend to not be quite as comfortable or soft as leather or as soft.
How do you get kind of inspiration for each collection?
All sorts of things – we tend to start off by covering a big wall with imagery we love. We get inspiration from everything – last time it was amazing wigs. Then it all gets whittled down to lots of different stories. There’s also an amazing antiques market just outside the office, Bermondsey Street Market, and a lady that collects the most incredible vintage jewellery. She keeps back things she thinks we will like. We’ll find something like a 1940s broach and we’ll take for details from that and make it into a buckle. I’m like a magpie, I love anything shiny.
Finally, what are your ambitions for the future of the brand?
Global domination. Joking aside, I think I’ve played around doing lots of different things and I think it’s really important to focus now on our core product – what shoes work and what are selling. I’d also like to open another champagne concept as well as a store in the Caribbean and potentially in South Korea as well – two areas where Kat Maconie shoes are really popular.
You’ve been described as to a woman who designs for women, what does that mean to you?
I always close my eyes and imagine myself walking in a pair of shoes when I’m editing collection and colouring them. I do it to think about how they feel; we want whoever is wearing them to feel very special and to know she’s wearing something she can’t get anywhere else, and that gives her power and confidence. We use a lot of block heels – we always think the bigger the better with heels. Bigger heels are more comfortable. We’re going to start doing larger sizes, up to a UK size 10, and we’ll start doing a wider fit too. I don’t think many designers are doing that and it’s really restricting – we get so many women asking why we don’t have wider fits. We’re interested in all kind of women – inclusivity is what we’re about, we don’t want to be shut off to anyone or anything. We want the shoes to be for everyone.