As a podiatric surgeon, Marion Parke often fields questions from women about ways to take better care of their feet in heels. As a result, she’s spent a lot of time developing a way to combine “thoughtful structure” and luxury style in a footwear line.
“I have a passion for luxurious fashion. [So my line is] a marriage of those two things: orthotic design and high fashion,” said Parke, whose namesake brand is launching for spring ’16. “It’s something that is lacking and that women are looking for.”
Parke set off for Italy to produce her collection at the same factory as industry giants like Jimmy Choo, Miu Miu and Isabel Marant. There, she was able to craft features such as arch supports, a medical-grade foam and contoured insoles that add a high level of comfort (though Parke is not a fan of using the “c” word).
“Sourcing from the best tanneries in Italy was a goal of mine, and I’m very excited to work with them,” she said, adding that the transition has also been a learning curve. “They’ll say to me, ‘Marion, because you’re a doctor, you think the strap should go here, but let me explain why it should go here.’ The two worlds collide [in terms of] what we think is functional and what is beautiful.”
Parke knows a thing or two about colliding worlds. “My aesthetic is influenced by a dual life of being a doctor and a music fan,” she said. “[The styles in my line] have a polished, sophisticated side, with a little bit of edgy rocker.”
To generate interest in her brand, Parke has been showing at industry trade shows and has already signed accounts such ShoeBox in Plainview, N.Y., and Shoe Stories in Sausalito, Calif.
She’s also building buzz by posting images of her shoes on Instagram. “Because I’m doing this on the luxury level, [my product] sets me apart,” Parke said. “I want the women across the room to say ‘I need that shoe.’”
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in print 08/10/15]