Marie Laffont’s Artful Derbies

Marie Laffont
Photo: marielaffont.com.

These are such strange times. We don’t need to wear makeup when we go out because our faces are covered, but we do need to wear makeup at home while on Zoom conference calls with colleagues, friends, and family. The focus is on the waist and the neck-up. Shoes are rarely noticed, yet great shoes make the outfit. Nobody knows that better than Marie Laffont.

With her sustainable and eponymous brand, www.marielaffont.com, Marie is reimagining the classic menswear-inspired Derby. The native Parisian believes that shoes, like art, can transport the wearer, both physically and figuratively. Marie chose a flat because women do not need to sacrifice style for comfort and comfort does not always mean a sneaker. Her light and comfortable shoes are easy to wear indoors or out. “With good shoes, you can move around 24 hours a day and go anywhere without any fuss.”

Marie Laffont
Photo: Yumi Matsuo

“It’s vital to be free in your movement and comfortable with yourself,” said Marie. Indeed, as the pandemic restrictions begin to lift, we will all be walking rather than relying on public transportation. Having the right footwear is critical.

Marie’s shoes feature her patented studs and sole and signature eyelet tabs stitched on top of the vamp. They are designed in New York and handcrafted of the finest materials in artisan factories in Italy. She sees them as sculptures and takes extraordinary pride in supporting craftsmanship at a time of high consumption and globalization.

Marie Laffont’s “Georgia Bianca”
Photo: marielaffont.com

Equally important is reducing waste by not creating so many styles. Marie’s tightly edited collection features one style reinterpreted 7 ways. One of my personal favorites is the $690 Georgia Bianca made from exceptionally soft white velukid suede paired with a trendy pony hair toe and Marie Laffont’s signature studs, hand screwed on grosgrain ribbon.

Marie Laffont with artist Morgane Tschiember
Photo: Yumi Matsuo

Ms. Laffont seamlessly merges fashion and art. Each season, she plans to collaborate with a different artist for a limited edition. For spring/summer 2020, she chose French artist Morgane Tschiember who is known for blurring the distinction between painting and sculpture. Morgane was one of eleven female artists of various nationalities invited to reinvent the Lady Dior Bag for the Dior Lady Art project. Morgane’s derby is made from ultra-soft black Nappa leather and blue and rose velukid suede accented by a variation on Marie Laffont’s signature studs, with three crosses at the toe and heel, hand screwed on grosgrain ribbon, $1050.

Marie Laffont began sketching shoes at the age of 10
Photo: marielaffont.com

Marie attended L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. It’s the same school Karl Lagerfeld attended. Marie got her master’s degree at the Applied School of Art in Paris. She studied under the renowned shoe designer Pierre Hardy. This lead to the revelation that shoes can be a piece of art- an object, and Marie decided she wanted to design them. Marie honed her skills as an intern for Christian Louboutin and eventually began working with the shoe master. Thirteen years later, Marie started her own collection.

Pritika Swarup wearing Marie Laffont shoes at the Almine Rech Gallery
Photo: marielaffont.com

Marie took her debut at the Richard Taittinger Gallery on New York’s Lower East Side last November. Real women modeled her graphic and colorful derbies wearing designs by Andre Walker. In December, Marie had a pop-up store at the Almine Rech Gallery on the Upper East Side, where her husband Paul De Froment serves as director. In December, she opened a pop up at the Basel Art Fair in Miami.

Marie Laffont in her art filled apartment with her shoes
Photo: marielaffont.com

I spoke by phone with Marie, who is currently in Miami with her husband and 2-year-old son, Max. They will be back home in New York next month. Marie explained that she has no plans for a brick and mortar presence (it’s too costly) but likes the idea of pop-up stores in collaboration with art fairs and galleries. Marie said that in addition to contemporary art and architecture, she is also inspired by La Belle Epoque and the existential literary masters of the early 20th century. Marie specifically cited Simone de Beauvoir and Marcel Proust. She is currently re-reading his monumental novel, “In Search of Lost Time.”

Marie Laffont Lookbook
Photo: marielaffont.com

The soon to be 35 years old emphasized that she is inspired by accomplished, interesting women of all ages. Marie’s late grandmother fueled her passion and obsession for fashion. 67-year-old Accidental Icon, Lyn Slater, is one of Marie’s brand ambassadors.

Marie Laffont
Photo: marielaffont.com

Marie might be her own best advertisement. She describes her personal style as “casual, chic, with always a touch of originality. “I love to have items in my wardrobe that are like special objects. That’s why I create shoes you will cherish for at least a decade. I love it when my clothes and shoes have a long life and a story”, she enthused.

The Marie Laffont Fall 2020 collection will make its debut in August. Marie hopes to add more styles, including some heels in the future. She plans to have a capsule collection with another luxury e-tailer, but when the pandemic hit, this had to be put on hold.

Marie Laffont’s mood board was an homage to Italy when the pandemic hit NYC
Photo: marielaffont.com

It is admittedly a challenging time for fashion, and particularly for young independent brands like Marie Laffont’s. On the positive side, it demands really editing down to the necessities, which is not bad.

Marilyn Kirschner
Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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