5 Questions for Maloles Antignac

Designer Maloles Antignac is anxious to take her quirky but stylish looks to a bigger audience.

Founded in 2004 as a line of ballet flats, her eponymous Paris-based label now encompasses 40 women’s styles, including heels, oxfords and boots. And the Maloles looks combine sculpted leather, lambskin and exotic materials with feminine shapes such as whimsical cutouts and prints.

“Customers expect to have the best quality and the best creative design, with a reasonable price,” said Antignac, who worked as a stylist for fashion magazines before creating Maloles. “You have to [keep it] simple so a lot of people can wear it, but you can’t have an ordinary style that they could buy even cheaper somewhere else.”

Maloles’ price points range from $250 to $500, and the brand is offered in 250 retailers worldwide, including Anthropologie, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Neiman Marcus and Endless.com in the U.S. For fall ’11, Maloles inked an exclusive partnership with Le Bon Marché in Paris to design a collection inspired by Katherine Hepburn and the 1960s and ’70s.

Antignac, whose main spring ’12 collection will be on view in her Milan showroom during Micam Sept. 18-21, spoke with Footwear News recently about navigating the international market, working with retailers and why celebrity opinion matters.

Maloles is carried by several major retailers in the U.S. Has it been difficult to break into other global markets?
It has not been difficult. From the beginning, the international market was always really important for us. France is our main market because the brand is quite well known here. The second-largest markets are Germany and the U.S. We are also quite present in Japan, Italy, Greece and Spain. Next, I would like to expand much more in the States, and I would love to go to Brazil and South Africa. It also is really important to expand into the Middle East. I’d like to open a boutique in Paris, too.

In the current economy, has pricing become more important? And what are you doing to adjust?
The [cost of] raw materials is going up, but keeping a reasonable price point is really important for the customer. To be honest, it’s not very easy to succeed in that. I try to balance [price points, quality and customer expectations] by doing a lot of research with raw materials and mixing them with the Maloles style. I propose things with creativity, imagination and a really strong style. You want [consumers] to feel that they are buying something different, something new. I don’t pretend to be really big; I just want [my footwear] to be special. This is what makes the product appealing and suitable for people — details and materials you don’t see everywhere.

Why do you like to create exclusives with retailers?
It is really important because it allows you to give the client something a little more creative, and you have the space, support and publicity that gives you the retail exposure you need. It helps you progress because you can do unique innovations and push things further when the retailer supports you. For example in Le Bon Marché, they have given us our own corner, and the exposure is really important for a young brand like us.

You introduced a children’s line, Petite Maloles, in 2006. How are you faring in the kids’ market?
The kids’ shoes are selling very well, but they are very luxury, so they are more expensive. Each year we are increasing our number of sales to retailers, so that’s a good sign. [In the U.S., the kid’s shoes are available only at one retailer, Little Edit in New York.] I started the line because I have two girls and I had the desire to put them in those kinds of shoes. They are really precious, and people are not used to seeing that level of detailing in baby shoes. Katie Holmes and her daughter, Suri [Cruise], have been wearing my shoes for many seasons. I also recently offered Sarah Jessica Parker some shoes, and then she called and asked for some for her daughters. We did a special order for her twins.

How has that celebrity buzz helped your brand?
It’s really good for publicity, and it’s very helpful for increasing brand awareness. It’s also good for the ego. You feel good because it’s proof that a lot of people can wear [the shoes] and are happy with your style. That gives you a lot of strength to continue and [assurance that] you’re doing the right thing.

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