Since the inception of her namesake shoe collection, Parisian native and New York-based shoe designer Marie Laffont, has been committed to being eco-conscious without sacrificing luxury and style.
Laffont continuously explores new ways of incorporating sustainability practices and produces her collections using 80% recycled materials from old shoe soles. When she was thinking of what to do with the inventory she had left of last season’s shoes, out of respect for her intimate team of Italian shoemakers who worked meticulously on each shoe that is produced, Marie collaborated with friend and artist Gabrielle Vassallo to see how the pair could reinvent the styles into something new for her customers. Now, she breathes new life into previous inventory of two of her core classics, the Georgia Bianca and Madison Boat, with the help of Gabrielle Vassallo’s custom hand-painted designs.
The partnership has resulted in an upcycling of beautifully revitalized shoes that are special and uniquely designed for the wearer who appreciates dedicated craftsmanship and artistic sensibilities. The 10 piece capsule of upcycled Marie Laffont shoes by Gabrielle Vassallo will be available for purchase at NeueHouse Madison Square on February 19th, 2021 and 22-26th.
What is your creative philosophy?
I was drawn to art from a very young age. I always loved music but never learned to play an instrument. My talent was always visual arts. I started painting, drawing and sculpting when I was four years old and never stopped. I always incorporate different motifs and techniques from these disciplines with every project and brand I work on. I’ve always been interested in how artists see the world and think about the ways in which their world could collide with mine. Oftentimes when I create a pair of shoes, I think about which artists would wear them as a point of inspiration.
Tell us about your career. You started out as a designer at companies like Christian Louboutin & Zac Posen and recently launched your own line – what prompted the shift?
I was born and raised in Paris. Soon after graduating from high school, I enrolled in law school but quickly dropped out to pursue my passions in the arts. I attended Chambre Syndicale de la Couture and then went on to do my masters at the Duperre School of Applied Arts, specializing in Fashion. I was lucky to study under the ever so inspirational Pierre Hardy. Following graduation I went on to work with some of the biggest names in Fashion including Christian Louboutin, Sonia Rykiel, Zac Posen and Sam Edelmen in the United States. After 10+ years working in the luxury footwear industry working in design, sourcing, and production — I had a firm grasp on the whole process and felt confident I could launch my own line. Truthfully, it was not that simple and it continues to be a day-to-day struggle, but I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved thus far.
What are the greatest challenges of being a modern entrepreneur and sustaining a brand amidst a global pandemic?
The COVID-19 crisis slowed everything down — from production to sourcing materials to finding retailers. It has been hard to find retailers to carry my line as they are not inclined to support young designers during these turbulent times. Oftentimes they will prioritize big luxury brands because it is much less of a financial liability. On a positive note, the pandemic has been a really good exercise because it has forced me to cut down the number of styles I’m bringing to the market to just the essentials. The whole FW2020 collection is going to feel very exclusive because I will only produce around 200 pairs of shoes in 5 different styles.
What is the genesis behind your new self-entitled collection, Marie Laffont? What elements are most important to you?
Shoes have always been a huge passion of mine. During my pregnancy, I couldn’t find the right shoe for me: flat but not a sneaker, comfortable but also elegant. That’s when the idea of creating Marie Laffont came to mind. I didn’t want to compromise aesthetic for comfort and I thought people would respond to that. Above all, comfortability, sustainability and elegance are the most important elements of my new collection.
How are you blending art, function, and sustainability into your collection?
It was always a primary concern of mine that production be sustainable. Wearing and producing a durable product is important to me, the environment and thus for future generations. All of my shoes are handmade by amazing craftsmen in Italy and use the highest quality materials. The tanners I work with are all guaranteed for their quality for sourcing sustainable materials. The sole that I designed from scratch is made from 80% recycle materials and the boxes are made from recycled products.