When Spanish designer Maloles Miracosta-Antignac decided to create baby-size versions of her chic women’s shoes, she didn’t skimp on the details.
“The inspiration for Petite Maloles comes directly from my Maloles line,” she said. “I want the shoes to be very stylish and different — not the typical baby shoes.”
For Petite Maloles, introduced in 2007, she uses the same high-end materials, including buttery soft leathers, patents and Liberty-print fabrics. The designer also incorporates exquisite trims and finishes, such as lacquered wood buckles, crystals and hand embroideries. The silhouettes and color palettes are equally sophisticated.
Of course, such a high-end collection comes with high-end prices. The shoes, which are hand-crafted in Spain using sachetto construction techniques and packaged in keepsake cloth bags, retail for $122 to $212. Despite the steep prices, which could be off-putting in today’s economy, the Paris-based designer and mother of two young daughters, Anna and Olympia (above), believes parents are looking for something special for their kids. “These are real luxury for babies,” she said.
Now heading into its fifth season, Petite Maloles is attracting a small but growing audience of retailers that includes Scoop Kids in New York, Isetan in Japan and Littlefashiongallery.com. This spring, the collection will expand beyond the infant category to include styles for toddlers.
Here, Miracosta-Antignac talks about the unique trials of designing for babies and why the mommy-and-me trend is here to stay.
1. Why did you decide to start making children’s shoes?
MMA: My first daughter, Anna, was born in 2006. I wanted special shoes for her, but couldn’t find anything I liked. And the mommy-and-daughter thing is fun. I like the idea of having matching shoes. So I decided to create baby shoes inspired by my women’s line. I started with a mini version of the Zoe [ballerina] and then added from there.
2. What was missing from the market?
MMA: I was looking for something more stylish, more sophisticated. I’ve always found the typical baby shoes to be very square in shape. And the soles are thick and heavy — they’re not very elegant. Babies looked like they were having a problem wearing them, and I don’t like that. They don’t look stylish. The child could be wearing a beautiful dress, and then the shoes [just ruin it]. Also, baby shoes tend to have a lot of embroideries with a lot of color, and it’s hard to wear them with many different outfits. Nothing ever matches right. I like very chic, simple things for children.
3. What new point of view do you bring to the category?
MMA: I bring a more sophisticated look with the use of different materials not common in the baby market. And also unique detailing. My shoes have a really playful and whimsical feel, but at the same time, they’re very sophisticated and trendy. I try to create the kind of chic styles you would look for in a women’s designer line.
4. How much of your design inspiration comes from your own women’s line?
MMA: Everything comes from my main collection. Everything has the same feel and mood. And the same details and materials are taken from the women’s line and translated into the kids’ shoes whenever possible. I just want to do things that look unique and different for children.
5. Do you ever have to rein in your designs to keep prices in check?
MMA: Yes, it can be a challenge. With Petite Maloles, everything is made by hand in Spain. Labor costs are very high — and I use luxury materials. For example, for winter ’08, I used an Italian quilted fabric in both the Maloles and Petite Maloles lines. So I have to be careful and selective.
6. What is the most challenging aspect to designing children’s shoes?
MMA: Mixing the aesthetic and the technical is always very difficult. Kids need certain comfort [features]. And there are trims and materials you cannot use for babies because of safety concerns — they like to put their shoes in their mouth. You have to be responsible. But as a designer, you can’t just say, “Ah, because they are kids, I cannot do this or that.” You have to try to push the design as much as you can. That is my goal: to be able to balance style and comfort at the same time.
7. Why do you think the mommy-and-me trend is so popular?
MMA: Consumers are demanding designer things for kids more and more today. Kids have become almost fashion accessories for their parents. It’s very charming for a mom and her daughter to have the same shoe. When my daughter wears the Zoe like me, she feels important. She thinks, “I look just like Mommy.”
8. Do you find that more designers are paying attention to the kids’ market now?
MMA: Definitely. It’s a really big trend. Every season, there are more and more designers doing lines for kids. And all the celebrities having babies is having an impact. People follow them like crazy. There is just so much focus on babies right now. You’re seeing a lot of luxury products for children, such as cashmere clothes, designer strollers by Maclaren and all those things.
9. What other footwear brands do you like for your daughters?
MMA: I love the shoes from Bonpoint and also the English brand Start-rite. They make really nice, classic styles. And the shoes in Spain are actually not bad either. This winter, my two daughters have Mary Jane shoes that are navy-blue velvet with a patent leather cap toe. They are simple, but really nice.
10. What’s next for Petite Maloles?
MMA: For spring, we are going to start producing shoes for children up to age 4. And [looking ahead to] fall ’09, the collection is all about glamour, with a little bit of a 1940s and 1950s inspiration. We need some glamour right now.