5 Minutes With Kat Maconie, Founder & Creative Director, Kat Maconie

Kat Maconie has come a long way since she founded her eponymous footwear label. She's received the backing of powerful retail figures, expanded trade to overseas markets, and increased exposure with pop-up stores. Her online retail business recently opened its first ever permanent shop in London, so we thought it would be the perfect time to catch up.

Kat Maconie

Congrats on the store launch! How does it feel? 

It’s wonderful to be able to offer our customer a designated Kat Maconie destination. The store concept is quite a unique one too, we offer our customers the opportunity to book in for luxury beauty treatments from Hydro and gold facials to shellac manicure and pedicures while shopping the complete Kat Maconie footwear collection.

We are absolutely looking at expanding worldwide. We have recently been to Dubai to have
meetings with a partner out there who is keen to roll out the concept in a couple destinations. We hope to have another three or four stores in the next four years.

Tell me about the Kat Maconie story.

Kat Maconie was founded 10 years ago now. It’s been an amazing whirlwind. After quite a few years working as a buyer at a number of retailers I felt as though there was a gap in the market for accessible yet recognisable and special footwear. I began creating Kat Maconie in a small studio in West London and it really took off from there.

I collaborated with footwear high street company Dune, which was great exposure, and then later I worked with several designers for fashion week which again put Kat Maconie on the map within the British fashion industry, and the brand grew on a global scale after I won some designer awards.

What gap in the UK retail market does Kat Maconie strive to address?

Kat Maconie offers unique “stand out from the crowd” designs. We aim to cater to the customer who seeks luxurious footwear but not on a huge budget. Our shoes are
special yet attainable and also we don’t stick to specific trends. We have a very strong
brand identity which our customer can easily recognise, this really sets us apart to other
retailers in today’s market.

How is your business model different to other retailers?

We don’t stick to specific trends, we strive to be unique and create fantastic and original designs for our customers. We also have a large international following as we work predominantly as a wholesale company. We are now in over 40 countries with leading retailers such as IT Hong Kong, KaDeWe Berlin and Harvey Nichols.

What’s in store for Kat Maconie for 2019?

“The retail industry is a challenging one especially in today’s climate. The bigger you get as a brand the more challenges arise.”

It’s a really exciting time for us here at Kat Maconie. We have just opened our beautiful concept store in Bermondsey Street offering luxury beauty treatment as well as selling our footwear designs. Also, in a few months we will be launching our first bag range which really looks amazing. A Kat Maconie beauty and skin care line will be available to purchase by summer, too. I have worked with a brilliant team in Korea who have produced a phenomenal range of products. We can’t wait to share the line with our existing and also new customers.

How is Kat Maconie addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?

The retail industry is a challenging one especially in today’s climate. The bigger you get as a brand the more challenges arise. There is a huge and evident decrease in people’s
spending but we do pride ourselves on being unique and something no other brand is
able to offer. I think being able to stand out from the crowd and offer customers something
they are unable to find elsewhere is key.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

Several retailers will have problems with distribution and shipping on top of many other issues. We actually avoid these issues as the majority of our orders internationally are dispatched directly from our factories in China straight to our wholesale customers, we therefore avoid bringing the goods back to the UK. Again, labour is a huge problem but our factories are in China which will help majorly in this tricky period.

Describe your role and responsibilities at Kat Maconie.

I am super involved in almost every aspect of the company. I work closely with my co-creative director Amy Cox who designs four collections every year. We travel internationally for factory meetings, product development trips to ensure the designs look as we initially envisioned. The boutique opening has been interesting, too. Ahead of the opening I was involved in almost every element, from the treatment lists for the beauty salon to the recruiting staff to the final shop design. Having your own company is challenging and it’s hard to ensure you know everything that’s taking place every day. However, I do try to meet the team weekly and I am in the office nearly every day which helps keep on top of everything. If i am not in the office I am contactable on our work WhatsApp group which all team members are in.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Kat Maconie.

“Having your own company is challenging and it’s hard to ensure you know everything that’s taking place every day.”

I’ve always been obsessed with footwear. As a child my mother had an amazing 80s wardrobe with loads of fantastic shoes. This is where I first fell in love with shoes and accessories. Career-wise, I never went to university but I was part of the buying team at Whistles for quite a long time. I worked across accessories, footwear and also clothing which helped me gather an initial feel for working within the fashion industry.

What got you into retail in the first place?

I always had a little fascination with clothes and dressing up, working within the fashion industry from a young age also encouraged me to start the brand. It’s also a thrilling industry to be in, you can never get too comfortable as you constantly need to stay interesting.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

I was working with suppliers at my previous roles so early on I was able to understand the ins and outs of creating product. It was also brilliant working within a large retail company, but I knew I wanted to have my own business at some point.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I love running my own brand but there have been several hiccups along the way. Raising
finance was a challenge, developing custom-designed shoes with unique heels are often costly. Custom machinery and moulds need to be produced for each construction but having the freedom to make decisions makes it all worthwhile.

And the most rewarding?

I still get excited when we receive large international orders from global customers and the
feeling of seeing new samples that arrive fresh from our factories never gets old. It’s also
brilliant to be able to work across several things at once. As mentioned, the store has been a primary focus and the launch with bags and then later this year beauty is exciting and rewarding. It is amazing to see how the company has grown over the years.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

Ensure you know the market and the customer you are aiming to cater to. It’s also integral to know the challenges that come with retail, the budgets involved the expenditure. Having a great team you can trust is also important – it’s a hard enough industry as it is and you need to be surrounded by people that inspire you and people you can absolutely rely on. Be relentless and take risks, too.

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