Drumroll: Manu Atelier’s footwear debut drops today with exclusives at Selfridges London and Lane Crawford for the Asian market.
The pre-fall launch collection features nine silhouettes including square-toed, lace-up “duck boots” and new directional takes on the classic Mary Jane.
Co-founder sisters Beste and Merve Manastir grew up in their father’s Istanbul leather workshop making miniature handbags from offcuts they found on the floor, and since they launched for real in 2014, their bags have achieved cult status. A green version of the label’s signature box bag has even been toted on the arm of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. Twice. We caught up with Merve Manastir yesterday for the lowdown on the new category.
Why did you decide to expand into footwear?
“We’ve been getting our own shoes customized since forever by an artisan based in the same complex as our father’s workshop in Istanbul, and people were always asking us where we got them. We feel there is a lack of emphasis on real craftsmanship in the industry, so we wanted to address that, too.”
How does the aesthetic of the shoes translate from that of the bags?
“We don’t like things that shout ‘look at me.’ The mono cuts and the stitching of the uppers are done in a similar way to the bags. We are obsessed with proportions, and geometrics are also a key theme for us. The bottoms of our bags are hand-stitched with folded corners like paper plane. We patented that technique.”
Your silhouettes are really specific. Where did you get the ideas?
“The loafers and Mary Janes especially were inspired by the shoes our mum wore in the ‘90s. As for the duck boots, we are very into the Victorian era but also obsessed with square toes and long lasts, so they were a combination of the two.”
Where do you get your leather from, and where are the shoes made?
“The leather is from Turkey, and the production is split between our family factory in Istanbul and an artisanal factory in Venice, Italy, that has a similarly traditional vibe.”
Is there a sustainable angle to the production?
“Where possible, we try to use leather offcuts from the bags to make the shoes and vice versa.”
How do your shoes fit into a saturated market?
“Even though our shoes are affordable — they retail between $250 and $600 — they have the same premium quality, design aspect and attention to detail as more expensive luxury labels, and that is something that people are looking for increasingly.”
The Duchess of Cambridge carried your Micro Bold Top Handle bag in March. Was it planned?
“Not at all. It wasn’t a PR placement; she or her stylist must have bought it at retail. I cried when I saw it, as it felt like such a historic moment for us. We always dreamed of seeing our father’s craftsmanship on a global scale. It wasn’t because she is royalty, but more because she has such a positive influence on other women.”
The shoes launch today with three-week exclusives at Selfridges London and Lane Crawford for the Asian market, after which they will roll out onto the Manu Atelier e-tail site plus 60% to 70% of the retailers that already carry their bags, including Browns, 24 Sèvres, Moda Operandi and Shopbop.