Kat Maconie is a celebrated shoe designer and entrepreneur and has just unveiled an exciting new champagne bar and terrace at her global flagship store on London’s Bermondsey Street, in partnership with Veuve Clicquot. Simon Wittenberg caught up with Kat to find out more.
Luxurious Magazine: What was the inspiration behind combining shoes with bubbles?
Kat Maconie: Our shoes have always been about special occasions and dressing up. Obviously right now, those sorts of celebrations are not really viable for most people, so we thought this was a great way for us to focus on continuing to bring happiness and joy to our customers for the rest of this year.
Fun and flamboyance are at the heart of our brand, and what could be more joyful than Champagne?
As well as that, our shop is based on London’s Bermondsey Street, which hosts some of the best food and drinks offerings in the whole of the city. We count José Pizarro and Angela Hartnett amongst our neighbours, so a Champagne bar with Veuve Clicquot felt like a perfect fit and a nice addition to the street.
It’s been a pretty tough year for everyone, and we think that people are looking for an excuse to celebrate and enjoy something fun. Hopefully, we can give them an opportunity to do that.
LM: Studio Lune has furnished the store with giant flowers and oversized balloons, as well as plenty of other colourful hints. How much design direction did you give set designer Annabel Maguire?
Kat: I worked closely with Studio Lune on the final design, as I’m very hands-on with our interiors. When I first took over the store, it was a total wreck – it didn’t even have plumbing! We transformed a building site into what we think is a cool and contemporary space for people to enjoy.
It was such a labour of love, and I selected every tiny detail that you see in the shop today. I spent hours agonising over doorknobs, lampshades and paint colour options with our designers. We did everything from sourcing vintage furniture on Etsy, to working with specialist craftsman in Shropshire who made our brass chairs.
The tiger print fabric on those chairs even comes all the way from America, so you can imagine that I have specific ideas of what things should look like when it comes to a project like this. Annabel is brilliant, and we had worked with her previously on ad campaigns and look-books, so I was confident that she understood our aesthetic and could deliver the vibe that we wanted.
She has done numerous, fun set designs for the likes of Kenzo, Petersham Nurseries, and even Calvin Harris. Her work is really exciting and imaginative, so it felt like a perfect fit to collaborate with her on this.
LM: What can guests expect when they visit this unique space?
Kat: A fun terrace that you can waste away hours on, drinking ice-cold Veuve Clicquot with friends, whilst watching the eclectic mix of people that Bermondsey Street draws, stroll by. I love the area so much; it’s one of London’s most iconic and vibrant postcodes, which is why it’s also where my studio is and where I choose to live.
Since lockdown, Bermondsey Street has had such a brilliant community spirit that every day feels like a bit like a street party. The terrace is a great place to safely soak up the atmosphere with a glass of bubbles!
As you enter, to one side of the shop is a wall of our latest collections. We wanted the wall to feel more like an art gallery than a shop, as we like to think of each design as a little piece of art, rather than just an accessory.
To the left of the shop is an amazing, yellow, Veuve Clicquot Smeg fridge, full to the brim with cold Champagne. And to the back of the store is a dedicated lounge area in shades of pink, complimenting the yellow with a selection of custom-made brass lounge chairs, upholstered in vintage, tiger-print velvet. As well as being luxurious, it’s bold, bright, and designed to have lots of fun in!
LM: What was the reason for the collaboration with Veuve Clicquot rather than another champagne brand?
Kat: It was really important to me that we partnered with someone who shared the spirit of our brand. Veuve Clicquot, as well as being a luxurious and exceptionally well-made product, is also fun, playful, bold and colourful.
Colour and fun are very much at the heart of our brand and run through everything we do.
But going back further, I also love the history of the Veuve Clicquot brand. It was a woman, Madame Clicquot, who ran the Champagne house and successfully turned it into the first international luxury goods brand in the world.
That’s an incredible achievement in itself, but especially when you consider that this happened over 200 years ago!
As a woman who started her own brand ten years ago, it’s brilliant to know that we are partnering with a Champagne house who, still to this day, champion strong and confident women in the world of business.
LM: Your products are featured in over 200 stores worldwide, and are worn by the likes of Taylor Swift and Jessie J. This must make you very proud that your brand is held in such high esteem?
Kat: I’m so proud! The Kat Maconie brand started in my bedroom. I saw a gap in the market for providing women who weren’t afraid to express themselves with comfortable, but still fun and beautiful footwear. I had moved back in with my parents and, for the first two years, was running the business while I still had a full-time job.
I would have to sneak off in my lunch break to do press and sales appointments. With each new season, we grew, and eventually, I could leave my job and run Kat Maconie full time.
The brand is over ten years old now, and you would not believe some of the crazy life experiences I have collected over the years of running this company! Not to mention the hundreds of flights visiting factories, partners, and customers in far-flung cities from Seoul to San Jose.
It’s been a lot of work, and we have reached an exciting point where the brand is really starting to succeed. However, you can never become complacent, and we always need to remain on our toes, thinking of new and exciting designs and collaborations to keep the brand fresh and interesting.
LM: Your creations have always been a reflection of joyful self-expression
and happiness. Where do you get your ideas from when you update your product range?
Kat: Each season we build a mood board with hundreds of images of inspiration we have collected, from interestingly designed colourful wigs, to beautiful and bold photos of parties and events that we feel reflect the fun nature of the brand.
We also spend a lot of time in local markets. There is a woman called Lynn, at Bermondsey Square Market, who really knows our style, and sources bold, antique necklaces and brooches for us. We can then use these as inspiration to develop into motives for the range, new patterns, or ideas for new styles of buckles.
I also travel a lot, so I’m exposed to lots of different cultures and their tastes, so we often tailor some of our ranges to specific markets. This could include detailing, heel height or general style. In Hong Kong, for example, it is warm, and they want to run around a lot, so we have to think of the practicalities for our customer when we design.
We might also look at baroque embroidery or historical detailing, and then give it a modern edge, running the inspiration through our collection. Obviously, we can’t do this now, but we used to do incredible sourcing trips where we would walk through miles of markets in china sourcing everything from electric pink pearls to sequins and feathers.
It’s important the colour pallets are light-hearted and happy. Hence we always find Spring / Summer much easier than Winter!
LM: Who is your typical customer, and which are your most important markets?
Kat: We design with no age demographic in mind, and our shoes are not trend-led pieces. You could pull them out in 10 years, and they wouldn’t feel dated or tied to a specific time. Our customer dresses from the shoes up! She is confident and loves unique design, attention to detail and colour, and is a maximalist at heart.
With the women who wear our shoes, it’s more of a mindset, and we want to empower her through her accessory. Our customer is fun, playful, light-hearted and likes to dress up and have a good time.
Our strongest markets are the USA, the Middle East and Italy – they are not afraid of bold design and colour. In places like the Middle East, they get really dressed up for brunch so it makes sense that we would be popular. In countries where the style is more casual, it doesn’t resonate so well, as we are all about fun and embracing bold colour.
The US business has grown significantly over lockdown. Selling our shoes at Neiman Marcus, one of the US’s biggest luxury department stores, has given us a lot of exposure and demand. I think that people want something fun and less serious in a difficult time.
Whilst our shoes are still designer, we deliberately try to keep the price as reasonable as we can, so that they are as accessible as possible, despite the work and detail that goes into each pair. A lot of brands are still targeted towards smaller women, but we like to be inclusive, and think everyone should be able to wear our shoes if they want to, so we are launching a wider fit range soon.
LM: How has COVID-19 affected your business, as we imagine that you must travel a lot in more ‘normal times’?
Kat: We were lucky that we had a strong e-commerce platform set up before everything happened, but our online business has really taken off. I think everyone is looking for a bit of happiness at the moment, which I hope our shoes bring. I had a baby in February, and so lockdown was pretty convenient for me, as my husband was around to help lots.
My normal schedule would involve lots of flying and so, to be honest, it’s actually been a welcome break, although it’s devastating to hear how many lives have been lost and businesses seriously affected by the virus.
In terms of how we are running the business differently, it’s made me realise that it’s not necessary for everyone to be in the office all the time. Everyone works well from home, and our team are really self-motivated and committed to the business.
Productivity might even be better than it was before, as people are enjoying a different quality of life where they have more time for themselves. Now, people are working a few days from home and a few days from the office, so we have a balance whilst still making sure we meet up regularly to keep the team vibe going.
I also used to travel a lot to factories, but we have now reallocated our travel budget to digital marketing and testing new markets, which has really paid off, and we’ve seen a big uptake. Whilst it’s obviously harder working by Zoom and e-mail than having face-to-face meetings, it’s definitely possible to run the business without travel.
LM: Can you tell our readers please what’s in the pipeline for your brand?
Kat: We’re really excited to be launching a sister brand called Le Clique in January 2021. It will be a global launch going out to a number of online retailers. We plan to make it 100% vegan and the products will have a simpler aesthetic than the current Kat Maconie line.
Le Clique will cater to a slightly different customer and be available at a slightly lower price point. We are also introducing a wider fit in our best-selling styles, and bigger sizes, to make it more accessible.
A lot of customers were demanding something like this, but it’s very challenging to make a high quality, vegan shoe because of all the different components that are required. Very few people are doing it well, so we hope to change that! This is something that we have wanted to do for a long time.
We have been working on using more sustainable materials moving forward, but it can’t happen overnight. We have discovered some really cool alternatives though, including piñatex, which is a leather alternative made from pineapples! We are keen to incorporate this into our future collections.
We are also working with Vogue and the British Fashion Council on their Amazon collaboration for this year’s London Fashion Week. A handful of designers are taking part and so, for a limited time, to celebrate London Fashion Week, our shoes will be available on Amazon!
LM: What are your personal luxuries in life?
Kat: When lockdown started, I bought myself a beautiful silk, vintage dressing gown to lounge around in which I absolutely love! I also stocked up on lots of Aromatherapy Associates bath oils, as they smell amazing.
I am obsessed with flowers too, particularly with bright pink peonies and white hydrangeas, so it brings me lots of happiness to have these in the house. And what else could be more luxurious than a glass of Veuve Clicquot at the end of a long day!
LM: Thank you for your time Kat, and it has been a pleasure talking to you.
Kat Maconie – Where and How?
The Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar & Terrace at Kat Maconie is open now from Tuesday to Sunday at 92 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UB, UK.
Store hours are as follows:
Tue: 11 am – 6 pm
Wed-Sat: 12 pm – 9 pm
Sun: 12 pm – 5 pm
For reservations, please call 0203 645 6976 or visit www.katmaconie.com.