We recently caught up with one of our favourite British fashion designers Kat Maconie to discuss all things footwear, building a brand and personal style. It’s an exciting time for her eponymous designer shoe brand, as it celebrates its 10th year in the business as well as the recent opening of its first standalone store.
Kat, you’ve been running your own fashion label for ten years now. How has that been for you?
It’s been a real roller coaster. There have been several hurdles along the way, but so many amazing moments too. It’s amazing to see how much we have expanded from when I first launched and it’s brilliant to have a growing team working alongside you too.
What accomplishment from over the decade are you most proud of?
It would have to be opening our store, it’s amazing to have a real Kat Maconie destination in the heart of Bermondsey right where we started. I feel very lucky to have customers and real fans of the brand travelling to the store to see our designs, it’s very rewarding.
What have been the major challenges?
Raising finance was a challenge at first. Also developing custom designed shoes with unique heels and trims is extremely costly, as custom machinery and moulds need to be made to produce each new construction. With each collection there is always a new challenge, however having the freedom to make decisions is a major perk of having your own business.
Tell us a bit about your background. Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
Not at all. I always had an eye for accessories and would rummage through my mother’s amazing collection of jewellery and brooches as a young child but didn’t think I would end up running my own shoe brand. After quite a few years working as a buyer at a number of retail companies, I felt as though there was a gap in the market for accessible yet recognisable and special footwear. I began creating Kat Maconie in a small studio in London and it really took off from there. I collaborated with footwear high street company Dune which was great exposure and then later I worked with several designers for fashion week which again put Kat Maconie on the map within the British fashion industry. I have also won the Drapers Footwear Designer of the Year award twice now, which also helped the brand expand on a global scale.
If your 20-year old self could see you now, what would she think?
I think she would be shocked. I really can’t believe I started my own business and it’s taken off the way it has. From opening our first store to potentially launching in another 4 destinations internationally and now looking at launching a beauty line in the coming year, it’s incredible. I feel very lucky to be working with people who believe in the brand and see the vision I had when I first started.
Your brand is known for its bold and distinctive look. What inspires your designs?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Myself and Amy Cox, my co-creative director, travel plenty for development trips and for shoots, and many ideas spark while we are away. Our offices are also located on Bermondsey Square where the famous antique market takes place every Friday. There’s a lady who sells gorgeous antique jewellery and keeps precious pieces aside which she thinks I may like, and this is where many of our trim and print inspirations derive from.
How would you describe your personal style?
I like to think it’s quite timeless. Despite creating the most colourful and bold shoes, my work wardrobe consists of mostly black. When running to meetings I always throw on a pair of Kat Maconies to smarten and brighten my outfit up. I love to invest in staples especially during the winter – classic cashmere never gets old and can be worn season after season.
Do you have any favourite trends at the moment?
I love the brights trend, neon and lemon is a must in the summer too. Despite not personally wearing bright clothing, colour is a real mood changer and our shoes always aim to make people feel good. With such fun and bold designs, we often tell our customers to dress from the feet up.
You recently opened your first UK store in Bermondsey. Could you tell us a bit about it?
We like to call it a concept store whereby we have our current collection on display for customers to purchase but we also offer a host of luxury beauty treatments, from hydro and 12 carat gold facials to manicures and pedicures! It’s a very unique shopping experience but it’s brilliant to be able to offer customers a beautifully designed and designated Kat Maconie destination. We have also been approached to expand the store internationally so this is one of my current exciting projects.
How has the process of opening your first standalone store been?
It’s been such a learning experience and a real challenge at times. I didn’t realise how involved I would be but it’s really hard taking a step back, it’s our only store so I want it to be perfect. From staff to treatments to product on display, it’s a real representation of us as a brand.
How has the business evolved over the years, and what’s next for Kat Maconie?
I can’t quite believe how much we have grown over the last 10 years. From new stockists to launching our first bag line for Autumn Winter 19, there’s plenty planned. I am also working closely with a Korean business partner who is developing an amazing line of Kat Maconie beauty products specialising in different types of skin. I won’t reveal too much but the ingredients in some of the products are super hi-tech and have never been used before in the UK. It’s a really exciting time for us with lots to look forward to.