The Montreal Grand Prix, and the surrounding spectacle, inspired two young Canadian siblings to translate the sportif energy of the annual event into a women’s sneaker brand. Fittingly, it’s quickly taken off, with notable fans including Gigi Hadid, Olivia Munn and Margot Robbie.
The label’s name, ZCD Montreal, stands for the initials of Zoe and Zachary Claman DeMelo. Zachary is a professional race car driver in the IndyCar series, and the family is a fixture on the Formula 1 Grand Prix scene, while Zoe co-founded the business straight out of high school. With their mother, Catherine — president of the Quebec-based company and a veteran of contemporary fashion wholesale — Zoe and Zachary launched the racing-inspired collection of women’s sneakers in 2014.
Today, the Italian-made kicks, priced from $298 for backless styles to $698 for fur and embellished slip-ons and $800 for exotics, are carried at Barneys New York, Shopbop.com and Luisa Via Roma, as well as Zcdmontreal.com.
The Claman DeMelo design aesthetic skews toward the high-speed and glitzy. “Day to night, racetrack to runway,” said Zoe of her designs. “The racing world has become very relevant today in fashion, as Lewis Hamilton really bridged the gap.”
While Zachary was off racing (at the age of 12, he won his first Canadian National Karting Championship), Footwear News caught up with Zoe, who acts as the creative director for the family-owned business, to learn more about ZCD’s fast and furious approach.
Why did you decide to make Montreal part of your brand identity and how does the city influence your designs?
Zoe Claman DeMelo: There is something very special about Montreal, as it is French-speaking and the most European city in Canada. The Canadian Grand Prix also takes place here, which has something to do with it, and who Zach strives to be as a driver.
Starting a business at such a young age must make mentors essential. Who do you turn to for advice?
ZCD: My mother, Catherine Claman, is definitely my mentor. She has been in the fashion industry for over 20 years and has worked with some of the most influential people in the business. ZCD wouldn’t be the brand it is without her. We design the collections together and both bring different perspectives to the brand. It is a dream to be this close with my mother and have this business together. Josie Pietroniro, our VP of ZCD, is our sounding board. She puts everything into perspective and has been able to achieve this dream with us. She is the reason why we are in [retailers such as] Barneys.
What white space is ZCD filling in the footwear market?
CD: We are a full sneaker collection. Unlike other brands, we don’t dabble in boots, sandals, etc. We are strictly sneakers that are made in Italy. We are an opening designer price point where no one is trending at, but we don’t compromise quality.
Does the Canadian industry support you? If so, how? What do you wish there was more of in Canada?
CD: That’s a great question. We launched with Holt Renfrew, who had an extremely successful start. We changed our direction and decided to pull back and stay exclusive with Europe and American stores. [Retailers] like Luisa Via Roma, The Webster, Maxfield, Elyse Walker and Jeffrey is what we wish we had more of in Canada, because those are the stores we belong in.
What advice would you give to someone getting into shoes in a niche market? What does it take to succeed?
CD: I think it’s important to stay true to who you are and your DNA. It’s so important to be different in today’s market. E-commerce has made businesses transparent, and consumers are very educated. It’s important to tap into a market that has a gap to fill.
How do you plan to grow the brand?
CD: We want to grow slowly and carefully. We never want to compromise our quality. There has been a demand for men’s, so after carefully planning, we will be launching it within the next few seasons. It’s such a natural transition for us, as we know many key influencers in that market. There is a collaboration in the works, but I can’t say who yet.