Gaux for it With Margaux Founders Alexa Buckley & Sarah Pierson
After getting a taste of the corporate world via internships, there was one problem that Alexa Buckley and Sarah Pierson faced on the daily, shoe discomfort. Both had issues with finding shoes that were comfortable, work appropriate, and cute enough to be worn outside of the office by choice. During their senior year of college, the young entrepreneurs decided to create Margaux, a company that provides high-quality flats that are both chic and practical for the modern woman. Although the two built the company with little to no prior experience, Margaux has since become an incredibly successful brand and has even landed Alexa and Sarah a spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30. We chatted with them about what it has been like starting a business from the ground up, and how they plan to change the women's footwear industry. Check it out below!
What’s your definition of a lifestyle brand and how does Margaux fit into that?
A "lifestyle brand" is one whose sense of identity is rooted not just in the products it sells, but in the values, the vision, and ethos it represents. For Margaux, that means creating products that empower the modern woman both through design and practicality, allowing her to move effortlessly throughout her day with confidence.
Why ballet flats?
There is nothing more chic than a woman in a beautiful flat. We dreamed up the idea for Margaux after a summer of working internships in finance and consulting, where we would do the terrible "shoe shuffle" every morning under our desks -- changing out our street-friendly flats for a pair of heels that felt more "office appropriate." As we prepared to return to those jobs full-time after graduation, we wondered, "Where is that elegant flat we could wear all day?" We had never been able to find one that was comfortable, structured, and sleek enough to make us feel confident in wearing it to work and beyond. Margaux was founded to be an answer to that need: A shoe you could wear everywhere, with anything, every day of the week.
How and why did you create Margaux’s unique made-to-measure system?
At Margaux, our first priority is fit. Our goal is to create covetable shoes that don't compromise design for comfort, or vice versa. We offer both a made-to-measure option and ready-made widths because we believe that customers need more optionality when buying footwear. In fact, a 2014 study revealed that 88% of women are wearing the wrong size shoe -- often the result of a lack of availability of size options at traditional retailers. Our commitment to fit means that there's an option for everyone -- and has earned us an incredibly loyal following as a result.
After graduating as history and government majors, what sparked your decision to come up with this brand rather than stick to your traditional career routes?
As we mentioned a bit earlier, we began to conceive the concept for Margaux our senior year of college, after working summer internships in the corporate world. We were all too familiar with the under-the-desk shoe shuffle from flats to heels, and were convinced that there should be (and could be) a solution. In our minds, the answer was a shoe that combined form and function, ensuring that a woman could feel dressed and beautiful - while remaining comfortable - all day long. From there we set out to create that perfect flat -- and along the way, realized the opportunity to use that flat as a platform to redefine the way that shoes are sized and sold along the way.
Classic style is a focal point of your brand, what are some other classic styles in fashion that are personal faves for you?
We are big believers in investing in classic pieces that can be worn, re-worn, and refreshed with accessories. We love a crisp white top, a vintage denim jean, and a great pair of flats anytime of year.
Congrats on making Forbes 30 under 30! What was the most difficult part about starting your own business fresh out of college?
The biggest challenge was entering into an industry that has remained largely unchanged for the past fifty years. The footwear industry is defined by a deep sense of tradition and history. As two bright-eyed twenty-two year old girls, however, this posed a challenge: Convincing a factory owner to reverse his factory line in order to help us produce custom shoes, for example, was no small task. It took a relentless commitment to finding factories and craftsmen who believed in the idea enough to take a chance on us. We ultimately succeeded in finding the partners to help us bring this idea to reality, and were among one of the first brands to disrupt the footwear market by democratizing the custom-fit experience.
“You don't have to be an expert in what you want to do, you just have to be willing to work hard enough to figure it out."
What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?
Gaux for it! You don't have to be an expert in what you want to do, you just have to be willing to work hard enough to figure it out.
Have you guys always shared the same vision for your business, or do you try to combine two different perspectives into one cohesive project?
We have always shared the same vision for the brand, and what we hope it will grow up to be. We're fortunate, however, to have complementary skill sets and personalities which allow us to tackle problems from different angles with the same end goal in mind.
What would you like to see more of in the women’s footwear industry?
We want to see a greater focus on wearability and comfort. It also goes without saying that we'd like to see the fashion industry as a whole embrace flats and low-heeled shoes -- it's all about confidence. Flats can be just as alluring as a pair of sky-high heels. All you need is confidence.
What are three hidden gems in NYC?
1. Haven’s Kitchen - A favorite for afternoon coffee or evening cooking classes, conveniently located just steps from our Chelsea office.
2. The Django Jazz Club - Hidden in the basement of Tribeca's landmark Roxy Hotel, The Django is an electric spot for live music, cocktails, and dancing.
3. Metrograph - A Sunday afternoon favorite for dinner and a movie!
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
It means being endlessly curious, singularly determined, and continually energized by the opportunities ahead.
Who’s your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she’s an inspiration to you.
Our MISSBISH is our product engineer, Nadine. From launching her own brand, to building factories, to helping other young brands navigate the complexities of manufacturing, Nadine has lived many lives in the footwear industry. She is talented, generous, and a true force of nature. Nadine has been an integral part of our team from the very beginning: She took us on our first factory visit, and has overseen the development of each of our products since. Our mentor and confidant, she is in many ways our "work mom." She is a MISSBISH in every sense of the word, and we don't know where we would be without her.
Photos by: Valine Brana