INTRODUCING: ROGUE MATILDA
A former retail buyer with a background in advertising, Katie Matilda Harland spent years searching for the perfect flat shoe balancing finely between comfortable and cool. Following a one-day course in shoe design, she decided to launch her own collection under the label Rogue Matilda, which would redefine the traditional brogue style in late 2015. Crafted in Portugal from premium leathers and suedes, and finished off with intricate details, such as pompoms, velvet feathers and python-effect leather, today her label is stocked in luxury retailers, the likes of Harvey Nichols, has caught the attention of prestigious press and has been worn by supermodel Gigi Hadid. Since its early launch, Rogue Matilda has been shortlisted for Best New Footwear Brand at the upcoming 2017 Drapers Awards, and has won the 2016 Footwear Friends award in association with the British Footwear Association and FNPlatform for Most Export potential. We caught up with the founder to discuss her debut in the market, current shoe trends and her immediate future plans.
Could you please discuss your background and what were you doing before launching Rogue Matilda?
Before launching Rogue Matilda, I was working in advertising and also as a buyer at Fenwick.
Tell us a bit about working towards launching your debut product range – from how you decided on the styles to start with to choosing the right factory for you.
It all happened very fast! Finding factories is the hardest bit, and I’ve had four different factories in the last two years. However, at the beginning, it was just a case of drawing the product and sending this to my agent in Portugal, who found a factory which he thought would be a good fit. In a sense that was the easiest part for me as it was one simple style in seven colorways. I had always struggled to find the perfect shoe, so this part of the process was quite fluid for me.
You haven’t had a formal fashion education. I am wondering, as your line grows would you go to fashion school? If so, on which aspect of your business would you choose to specialize?
I may enroll in a course sometime in the future, but what I love is the fact that I haven’t been formally trained. It means I’m coming at (a shoe) from a different angle, and, as a result, I work very closely with the factory throughout the design process to understand the mechanics of a shoe and how it works. If I was designing heels, then it might be more of a necessity, but with the nature of my work and the repetition of the same last used in production I don’t think it’s strictly necessary.
How important was having mentors in your case?
Mentors have been great, but ultimately everyone’s experience and journey in the footwear industry is so different that I like to use mentors more to seek specific advice on a particular area than have them shape my business. I’m very much from the school of learning on the job and leaning from mistakes. It’s why I’ve enjoyed slow rather than rapid growth at the start, as it has allowed me to feel my own way.
What is your opinion on “ugly” flat shoes, which are increasingly popular? Would you ever get inspired by this type of shoes?
I don’t tend to get inspired by other shoes; I more get inspired by textures, colors and shapes. However, for me, ugly shoes don’t tick any boxes, and I think they’re more of a fashion fad than a wardrobe staple.
As a young brand what are your thoughts on being physically present with your customers?
Incredibly important. Your customers are everything – without them you have no business – so finding opportunities to engage and learn from them is so key to understanding your own creative work.
Since brogues are your specialty, how do you feel about mens’ shoes?
I love men’s shoes – that was the whole reason I got into designing. There’s something so classic about the fit and lines of men’s brogues and desert boots that I wanted to recreate specifically for women with heaps of character. You wouldn’t catch me dead in a ballet pump or stiletto heel. Creating some styles for men is something that’s still firmly on the horizon for me as I got a lot of interest from them for my current women’s collection.
Is there a flat style you haven’t introduced yet but believe it would be a great fit for your brand?
What are some goals you would like to achieve within the end of the year?
I would love to have a couple more big stockists on board, as I feel that now I’m in a position to support wholesale more effectively, but ultimately I would love to get the new styles flying out the door online.
Images © Rogue Matilda