Meet Marion Parke
We loved chatting all things shoes with Marion Parke. Who better to design a shoe collection than a podiatric surgeon? Marion’s approach to footwear design results in a shoe collection that is unparalleled in fit and performance (while being discreetly comfortable). Our Founder, Christine Carlton was so impressed when she met Marion and heard her story, that she immediately added Marion’s collection to the roster of footwear brands carried at The September. Marion’s shoes are so much more than just beautiful!
You are a podiatric surgeon, what prompted you to design shoes and create your own collection?
After my surgical residency and as I began to practice, my patient population grew to include a number of women who were complaining about the lack of "cute and comfortable" shoes out there. I felt the same way every time I stood in front of my own shoe collection. Ultimately, I saw not only personally but also professionally that there is a need for a collection of women's dress shoes that is not only beautifully made, but also thoughtfully constructed. While discussing with patients what to look for when shopping for shoes, the conversation would almost always end with, "Dr. Parke, you should make shoes!" Add to this, my mother is an artist, so my sister and I were always in art classes. I think I have a unique skill set that brings the medical world together with fashion and design in a tasteful and elevated way.
We love your message: “Women themselves can be both smart and beautiful. Now, our shoes can be too.” Tell us about the message.
In the past, a beautiful shoe was not a comfortable one and vice versa. It was one or the other and never both. As I began to learn the anatomy and biomechanics of the foot and ankle, I realized that the techniques we use in medicine can be tastefully and discreetly incorporated into an Italian made women's dress shoe. The shoe doesn't have to be extra wide or have double the padding. In fact, those modifications can actually make a shoe uncomfortable to the average foot. I realized that, like me, there are millions of women out there who couldn't understand why the two worlds could be brought together in a tasteful way. I think the combination of my medical and surgical education plus a love of fashion design allows the two worlds to come together, finally.
What book are you reading now?
The Happiest Toddler On The Block By Harvey Karp, M.D.
Can you share with us why the shoes you design are so much more than just beautiful?
I started from the very beginning of the footwear production process and created all original molds to allow for a contoured insole that acknowledges the normal structure and function of the foot and ankle. The contouring of the insole allows for increased surface area contact between the plantar aspect ("bottom") of the foot with the shoe. This allows for redistribution of weight and reduces the pressure that is normally focused on the forefoot. Simply stated, there is also added material along the lateral aspect ("outside edge") of the shoe to encourage a straighter and more stable position of the foot and ankle. Also, we use a medical grade material for shock absorption that molds to the foot over time. This material was developed for prosthetics and diabetics because it has similar properties to the natural soft tissue on the plantar aspect ("bottom") of the foot. Still with me? That said, all of this blends seamlessly with the rest of the shoe. It's hidden and allows the beauty and artistry of the shoe to be the focus. That's what women really want, I think. Well, that's what my customer wants.
Describe the Marion Parke customer for us.
My customer wants to be her 100% chic, fashionable, and confident self without being distracted by a poor shoe choice.
You have young children, and are also a new mom again, can you share your tips on how you balance your career and your family?
Women are expected to do a lot, especially when they have a family, and it’s not easy. Right now, I'm a business owner, a wife, a mother and, with homeschooling added to my plate, a kindergarten teacher! There are times when I have balance and other times when I don’t.
What’s the best-selling shoe style from your collection?
Our best-selling shoes are our "Must Have" classic pumps. They come in two heel heights and more are on the way. They're classic, beautifully made and truly comfortable. Our flats and block heels have been particularly popular in recent weeks and we have more on the way.
We love supporting fellow Female Founders, but we also know it’s not easy. Share with us the highs and lows of your journey becoming a Female Entrepreneur.
Since I'm responding to this Q&A in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I think it's safe to say that this moment is the most challenging for my business. I'm trying my best to make business decisions thoughtfully yet quickly and push through to the other side. We have posted substantial year-over-year growth and now are strategizing on how best to scale back. I'm constantly thinking about how we as a brand can be mindful of what the world is experiencing, while keeping the company in a position to thrive once the world situation has improved.
Which new style are you most excited about from your Spring Collection?
The HAYLEY St. Tropez thong, BREE block heel sandal and LANG block heel sandal are my favourites from SS20 (coming soon to The September). Since we're all thinking more casually these days, the HAYLEY sandal is an especially good choice. I'm wearing mine at home to help remind me of the brighter summer days ahead.
Your shoes are all made in Italy, travelling there often, you must have explored much of the country. What is your favourite spot?
Yes, under normal circumstances, I travel to Italy three or four times per year. The coronavirus is having such a devastating impact on Italy right now and my heart goes out to our team and production partners there. I'm an optimist and know they will recover. That said, there is a long road to recovery ahead. Thinking about Florence feels nice: the Duomo, the restaurants, my favourite fragrance shop there (Aqua Flor).
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Right now, with the shelter in place orders it seems I can indulge in these more than ever: the Real Housewives, Girl Scout cookies, soaking in the bath tub.
What destination is on your bucket list?
St. Barth's: when the travel ban is lifted, it's the first place I want to go with my husband!