Style

One Hour With ... Margaux footwear creators

The co-founders of shoe brand Margaux, Sarah Pierson (left) and Alexa Buckley.
The co-founders of shoe brand Margaux, Sarah Pierson (left) and Alexa Buckley. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

It’s not every day two 24-year-old, Harvard-graduate footwear entrepreneurs who’ve already been in Forbes and Vogue host a trunk show at Charlotte boutique Capitol.

So it seemed a fitting place to kick off this occasional series, in which we spend one hour in a fashionable setting with fashionable people doing fashionable things.

Alexa Buckley and Sarah Pierson graduated – with history degrees – just 22 months ago, and last spring launched Margaux, a line of direct-to-consumer handmade ballet flats that start at $175 for standard sizes, with made-to-measure pairs $195-$345. (Wrote Vogue, “At a $195 price point ... there’s no reason not to own a pair in every color.”)

Their brand, based in New York, quickly won the attention of high-end fashion brand Tome, which is partnering with them for a spring 2016 collection – a partnership that got them in the doors of Capitol, where Tome is carried.

For the uninitiated, a trunk show is where a designer or sales rep from a fashion brand comes to a boutique to show and sell styles from an upcoming season.

Buckley and Pierson brought their full line of 14 colors and three styles (the Classic, the Limited and Margaux for Tome), which are made from Italian leather and crafted in Spain; manufacturing on custom pairs is done in New York. Turnaround time is about two weeks for custom shoes.

The vision behind the brand, they say, is a well-crafted, versatile shoe that is so comfortable wearers won’t feel the need to kick them off the moment they get home. (Memory foam is a component in the insole.)

During our hour with Buckley and Pierson, they knelt down and did detailed fittings on a handful of Capitol customers, measuring the women’s foot length, width at the widest part, heel width and circumference at multiple points.

Why all the measurements?

“Most people haven’t had their foot measured since they were 10 years old and trying on sneakers,” Pierson says. “We see so many women who aren’t necessarily wearing the right shoe size. Everyone asks you, ‘What size do you want?’ when they should be asking, ‘What size is your foot?’”

Often, women’s feet are two different sizes, and some 88 percent of women are wearing the wrong size shoe, Buckley and Pierson say. Some choose sizes too large to accommodate a wide foot, while women with narrow feet may choose a shoe that’s too short to keep it from slipping off at the heel.

Because Margaux sells directly to customers through their website and trunk shows, they have a detailed measuring kit they mail out to online customers. And off-the-rack shoes are also an option with Margaux, though they say 60 percent of their business comes from women who want custom, made-to-measure shoes that cost just $20 more than their off-the-rack counterparts.

Curious about the process, I slipped my shoes off for a Margaux measurement.

First, Buckley asked for my standard shoe size (7.5), and slipped me into a pair of Flint (a pearlescent silver) standard ballet flats in my European size, 38. Too small.

A size up felt far more comfortable, but gaped ever so slightly on the sides of my feet.

Buckley took my measurements. Sure enough, one foot (my right) was larger than my left.

Add in a bunion on my left big toe knuckle and unusually narrow heels, and Buckley pronounced me “a good candidate for made-to-measure.”

The pair, who met their freshman year at Harvard and were roommates the next three years, had accepted corporate job offers senior year, but ditched them to follow their hearts into fashion entrepreneurship.

“We came up with the brand before we came up with the product,” Pierson says. “We knew we wanted to offer something elevated in the brand, but accessible in the price point.”

The following months were spent learning about shoe construction and agonizing over design, colors and materials.

Their company is still in its infancy, but with a new showroom due to open soon in Chelsea and national write-ups continuing, chances are they’ll be back in Charlotte one day, asking women to slip off their shoes.

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