Tommy Mallet is a force of nature. The fast-talking, 29-year-old Brit first came to fame on the U.K. reality show “The Only Way Is Essex,” but since 2015, he’s been building his eponymous footwear and fashion label, Mallet, fueled by strength of will, abundant caffeine and a deep and abiding passion for sneakers.
Retailers and consumers have embraced the entrepreneur’s vision as he’s expanded beyond men’s sneakers to offer shoes and apparel for women and kids. The brand is now carried in more than 145 stores in the U.K., Europe, Dubai and South Africa, including Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
And now, it has finally cracked the U.S. market.
In May, Fred Segal hosted a Mallet pop-up in its Sunset Boulevard store. And this month, the brand will make its debut at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Miami and Beverly Hills, Calif., locations — as well as online — where fans can access seven exclusive styles, including the Diver 2.0 in gray and the Kingsland White Reflect featuring a clear sole.
Mallet, who recently welcomed a son with girlfriend Georgia Kousoulou, caught up with FN just ahead of the Saks debut to talk about achieving this long-held dream.
How is the U.S. rollout going so far?
TM: It’s been an amazing few months businesswise. I’ve been trying to expand to the States for five years, but we didn’t get nowhere with it because we didn’t have the right formula in place. Now we’ve got our PR companies behind us. I’ve got a distribution center and more contacts in the industry. And it’s come to the point where we’re delivering to Saks Fifth Avenue now. We’ve also had a pop-up store at Fred Segal. Funny enough, Fred Segal was a store I met five years ago when I was in L.A., but the timing wasn’t right for us as a company. We had a lot to learn back then. And we just didn’t have enough experience in how to deal with American business.
What are the big differences between the U.K. and U.S. markets?
TM: “I’m English, so I couldn’t go into the stores with my swagger that I’ve got and rely on that. There’s only 68 million people in the U.K. — there’s not that many people — and there really are not many people like me. You go to the States and every other person’s a character, so I’m just another guy in the fashion industry. But it’s been perceived very well for us. We’ve also had really good press. People have been interested in the story of us. Because of lockdown, there’s been a lot of doom and gloom going on, so it’s nice to see something new come out.”
What do retail buyers like about your brand?
TM: “The brand is very accessible, the price point is right and the quality is high — it ticks a lot of boxes. Not only that, I’ve also got quite a big presence in the brand, with me being the creative director and owner. And I’ve got quite a lot of followers on Instagram. That plays a part in it because I’m always posting stores I work with, so that goes hand in hand. And plus — I’m quite tired now [because we have a new baby] — but in normal day-to-day life, I’m actually quite fun and outgoing.”
Mallet started as a luxury sneaker label, but you’ve since added apparel and accessories for men, women and kids. Are shoes still important to you?
TM: “I live and breathe sneakers, ever since I was a kid. Shallow as it sounds, I grew up basically measuring people’s success on what sneakers they had on. I just love the story behind everything. I love that I could walk down the road with a pair of sneakers on and someone can relate to who I am as a person by the shoe I’m wearing. I’d actually stop people in the street if they were carrying a bag with a shoebox in it because I wanted to know what they bought. And I’ve gone on to develop as a brand selling clothing, kids’ shoes and ladies’ shoes, but the core of the brand and what I stand for is men’s footwear. I’m absolutely obsessed.”
Now that you’ve entered the U.S., what’s next on your to-do list?
TM: “It’s just to literally take what I’ve done in the U.K., bring it to the States, bring it to Canada, I’m going to take it to Australia and I’m going to take it to the world. And I’m going to be one of the [biggest brands out there] in the next five to 10 years. I want to build something I can leave to my son now, so I’ve definitely got a fire in my belly.”