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Person to Know: The Man Who Created One of the Most Copied Shoe Designs

By Caroline Suganda

Roy Luwolt, co-founder and managing director of Malone Souliers by Roy Luwolt believes that his best ambassador is an amazing product.
 
Roy Luwolt, co-founder and managing director of Malone Souliers by Roy Luwolt believes that his best ambassador is an amazing product.

You’ve probably seen Malone Souliers’s Maureen mules on someone, at least once — even if it’s not the original creation by the American design duo of the London-based brand. The Maureen — a classic pair, designed with two straps, often in a contrasting colour, and curvaceous lines that gently hug the feet — is reportedly, one the most copied shoe design last year. 

The brand is now known as Malone Souliers by Roy Luwolt, following the departure of Mary Alice Malone, formerly a business partner and creative director, from the footwear label in July. Luwolt, co-founder and managing director of the four-year-old brand, was in town last month to meet with clients at On Pedder, Singapore’s exclusive retailer. Here, he shares with T Singapore on the brand’s ethos and plans for the future. 

CAROLINE SUGANDA: What is your secret to the perfect pair of heels? 

ROY LUWOLT: We’re in for the particularity of the comfort that is based on the understanding of the sculpture of the human foot. If you think about the fact that the whole body is actually resting on it, it is the one product that you are not able to fake about quality. We really look into the correct placement of the heel in terms of where it’s localised under the foot — that means we’re looking at the spinal alignment and ensure that there isn’t any wobble. Sometimes, you see some women’s feet are sticking out of their shoes, that’s because their body is trying to compensate for that [mis] alignment. But when it’s properly aligned, then you have a focal point where the entire spine is resting, it gives someone sort of a stance, your shoulders are up.

CS: Would you say that Maureen is one of the most iconic designs
from the...

RL: From the industry, entirely. Yeah, we’ve been very fortunate with that. Of course, a lot of hard work and clarity going into it. It was actually one of the most copied shoes in the entire of last year, in the world. The first 20 times you’d think it’s flattering but after that, you know... It’s quite romantic for us because [Maureen] started in our very first season, and it was one of the very first shoes to come out and I think, in a lot of ways, it defined the business — and I’m not just talking commercially, I’m talking as an actual core aesthetic and ethos of the design team.

CS: Maureen aside, which style is the underdog of the collection?

RL: That’s an interesting one. I don’t think I consider any of them to be underdogs, perhaps, one that takes more of an adoption. It’s the Savannah, a gladiator-bootie with an open toe and you see that a lot on the red carpet. It’s funny because we didn’t focus [on] the development of the Savannah — it’s a very classic shoe. But we find it [worn] by celebrities... The last one, we made in new colours [and] fabric, was a year-and-a-half ago, but it’s still featured very strongly on the red carpet.

 

CS: You hit 320 points of sales in the last four years. What do you think is the formula to your success? What was it that propelled the brand forward?

RL: What’s the source, if you will. We have an amazing team of 50 people. We’re likely to grow very soon for very good reasons. What propelled it? I think we’re very fortunate that we came into this from a business know-how instead of an aesthetic choice. I think the majority of designers are like ‘Oh, I have an idea of a product’ and it tends to amount to [just] silhouette and aesthetics — that’s not a business. That’s a product, if you like it. We come with an understanding of the market, the consumers, the landscape of the industry and of course, the product development and design. The last part of it is fashion. I’ve worked in luxury for the last 18 years but in fashion for the better part of 10 [years]. If you look at it in that sense of having a strong supply chain system, and back-end support, we started out strong, not trying — and that really helps. We spent two years getting ready to launch before launching. We didn’t just open and hoped it worked. 

CS: The brand is exclusively stocked at On Pedder in Singapore. How do you ensure that the collection stands out among the sea of shoes here or at any other points of sales?

RL: [It’s our] attention to detail. We’re very difficult to miss, if you will. Because [we’re] the kid that sits at the back of the classroom but gets the best scores. We’re observing and we care very much to know that every next collection is a result of feedback. You can tell from our two years that — to use metaphor further — from the test scores that we’ve been doing our homework. It’s impossible to win luxury or fashion just based on how something looks. It’s important but it’s not the first fundamental at all and neither is the third. Our best ambassador is the product that’s amazing, because then when you buy, you’ll tell your friends [and] they’ll buy it. And you’ll understand that the only reason a brand can actually offer a lifetime warranty on luxury shoes is because they believe in what they’re saying. 

CS: I notice that the upcoming Cruise collection has a different branding with only your name on it. What kind of changes should we expect? 

RL: I’m not a designer. I run the business, I run the design creative team, but that’s always been the case. Given when my partner was here, I still lead that. What she did was creative direction that still sits under business management to ensure that it is the right product. Everything has always been submitted to my office to ensure that the market would understand it, that the timing is right and the consumer wants it. All of those things have not changed and [they] come to me as they are. It’s a formality only and that’s actually really the difference, because it effectively comes down to, I suppose, a slight name change, which will be a full name change soon, but at the same time, as well as embodying the brand personally, which I had refused to do in 18 years with any of my businesses. But I think having listened to my advisors, it really is about time. And we realised that since it started early this summer, we’ve actually seen significant results.