Good morning darlings! I’m delighted to present to you our latest Plucky Pioneers, Catherine Chen and Haley Boyd of MARAIS USA footwear! If you’re not yet familiar with their stylish, functional and wonderfully affordable shoes then you’re in for a real treat. I first met Haley when I was living in Manhattan though a mutual friend (love you Miss Brooke!) and was immediately taken by the girl’s innate sense of style. She’s one of those striking Brooklyn girls that has mastered the “effortless chic” look in ways I can only dream of. Haley met her business partner Catherine while they were both studying at Parsons School of Design and judging by their success, it was a match made in heaven! Their company is named after a summer spent in “Le Marais” — Paris’ most eclectic, and in my opinion, chicest neighborhood. Today MARAIS USA shoes are available at Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie stores nationwide (talk about “making it big time”…) as well as select independent boutiques and online. I have such admiration for these young women because they not only have great style and a GREAT product, but they’ve worked their fannies off to get where they are today! I’m honored to introduce to you MARAIS USA…
[Above, an illustration of Catherine, Haley and their shoes by renowned fashion illustrator Richard Rosenfeld. Below, an old image of Haley and Catherine snapped at a Tribeca cafe while they were preparing for their first sales meeting—awwww!]
Five words used to describe yourself.
Catherine: visual, inquisitive, talkative, moody, fun
What inspires you creatively?
Haley: My goal is always to design shoes that I want to wear every day. We also do a lot of research to figure out what’s missing in the market. You’d be surprised at how many super basic designs that we shop for are only available if you’re willing to spend an arm and a leg. Voila our Oxford, Classic Pump, Chelsea Boot, et the rest!
Who are your design mentors?
Catherine: My kindergarten art teacher Nova Rockwell.
How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?
Haley: Classic, Feminine, a little Preppy, obsessed with Annie Hall. [Below, the fabulous Haley snapped on the street in New York.]
What propelled you to found your own company?
Haley: I’ve always been super entrepreneurial – even in high school I had a little clothing line that I sewed myself. Marais USA began because Catherine and I would go shoe shopping as Parsons students and literally could not find something as simple and obvious as a good-looking black patent ballet flat for under $100. We didn’t understand why you had to splurge on Marc Jacobs to get something basic.
Most glamourous part of owning your own company?
Catherine: Having an awesome collection of shoes! [Below, Catherine hard at work between takes of a MARAIS USA photo shoot.]
Least glamourous part of owning your own company?
Haley: The heavy lifting! Our office is on the third floor of a warehouse building in Williamsburg, and I would really hate to go back and count the number of bulky boxes we have carried up and down those stairs throughout all of our sample sales, trunk shows, FedEx drop offs, etc. We’re always joking about how much manual labor we subject ourselves to as co-founders of this company.
Best business advice you’ve been given?
Catherine: Learn to manage your cash flow. [Haley and Catherine with MARAIS USA models/friends]
Creative businesswoman you admire?
Haley: I’m gonna have to go with Gabrielle Chanel. I love how she looked at everything with such fresh eyes and designed things that are still relevant in 2010. You could wear an outfit today that she wore in the 1920’s and not look costume-y or vintage. That’s pretty remarkable.
What keeps you organized and on task?
Haley: In the morning, a strong coffee. In general, the fact that I love the work I’m doing and that I work for myself.
Moment you knew you’d “made it”?
Catherine: When I could starting wearing my own designs!
Describe your typical work day…
Catherine: Answering lots of emails… [Below, the girls in the 40′ container that delivered their first big shipment!]
Your dream project?
Haley: This doesn’t have a lot to do with shoes, but traveling around the world shopping for furnishings for my own home is definitely in my little bucket list.
What goals do you have for your business in the future?
Catherine: My goal for the future is to do a design collaboration with Uniqlo.
Advice to other budding creative entrepreneurs?
Catherine: Capitalize on your youth and take action.
Stop by tomorrow to see the MARAIS USA cheat sheet—Catherine and Haley’s picks for film, flowers and more! In the meantime be sure to visit their darling blog HERE—you will adore it!
Thank you ladies!!!