Sneakers are the ultimate closet accessory for men and women. With the revolution of street-wear that’s affected everyone from designer, household-name labels to smaller fashion brands over the last decade, everything from bomber jackets to sneakers are becoming part of the fashion conversation, and most at an unreachable price point. When smaller brands find a niche in the current fast-moving market and are able to stay there, it’s nothing short of remarkable. Mallet London is one such brand that’s making a huge name for itself around the world. Created by Tommy Mallet and his friend and business partner Evren Ozkarakasli, Mallet London was developed in 2015 as a antidote to high-priced designer sneakers that were too flamboyant to wear every day, but too valuable to keep away in your closet.
Almost 40 years ago Michael Jordan made Air Jordans a shoe that could be worn on and off the basketball court, and set a trend for anyone-and everyone to start wearing sneakers, in the same style, Mallet London is creating high-end, low price luxury footwear that’s for everyman, everywhere. Whether you’re hitting up a club with your mates, traveling, or just heading out in your city for the day, Mallet Londons will get you there in style. Approachable but with character, much like its’ creator, Mallet London are the sneakers you’ll never want to take off. LAFM sat down with Tommy Mallet of Mallet London to hear all about his footwear (available for both men, women and children), his plans for the future and his current status as a Saks Fifth Avenue retailer, check it all out and more-below!
LAFM: Tommy, thank you so much for spending time speaking with me and all our readers at The LA Fashion Magazine! Footwear is such an exciting avenue of fashion, and menswear and mens footwear is really reaching new heights, can you tell us how you got your start in creating Mallet London?
Tommy Mallet: Sure, when I was younger I was one of those guys who never knew what he wanted to be. I’ve got no background in footwear and no background in fashion whatsoever, no qualifications in business, but I always always loved shoes and sneakers to be exact. I’m not the best reader and writer, I wasn’t very academic, so when it came to expressing myself when I was younger, I was all about wearing different sneakers-I used to love it. I used to love the new (sneaker) drops, different colors, even down to the packaging of the product and things like that.
Six years ago it was literally just me and an idea with my business partner, and we’ve finally gotten it to where it is today. When I got a little success with the brand and knew where I was going with it, I ended up designing the brand based off of a 14 year old version of myself up to 22. What I was looking at was when I was at that excited age and becoming a sneakerhead, going into department stores and what I was looking for. The whole process was going back to my childhood about what made me excited about certain things and certain brands growing up. I sort of relived my adolescence while doing it, so all the more reason I created pieces like the styles and places I grew up around. The shoes and the brand are sort of my autobiography, they really tell a story of who I am and where I’m going.
LAFM: Can you tell us some of the designers that you liked and wore when you were younger, and what brands and designers inspire you today?
Tommy Mallet: When I was younger the only brand I could really afford was Nike, I couldn’t afford the Gucci or Prada shoes. Prada was a brand I was always inspired by and always loved that style. When I got into my 20s and people started wearing more and more Prada, Valentino, Gucci and high-end designer sneakers and they became really really expensive, like the $500-$800 mark. That was probably in 2013 when I started noticing it happening and when I started feeling left out because I didn’t understand what sort of person could spend so much money on shoes back then, because I never had the money to do so. That’s when the concept for Mallet London first came together, I wanted to get the same feeling you have when you buy something luxury, but for a more accessible price. I made sure I made my packaging, my materials-really everything as top-end as I could. I knew if I got that element right, I would make it to the top, it would really help the brand succeed.
When I first started out, I noticed the competitors on the market were high end Italian and French brands, and then Nike, so there wasn’t really anything in between. I travel a lot so I wear a lot of joggers, combat trousers and jeans and when I was designing shoes I wanted something in the sweet spot that can be every day 24/7, anything. That’s how we came to designing using fabrics like mesh, leathers-as a way to to compliment whatever your look is. Everything we’ve done has been well thought of, each time we create a Mallet London shoe we’re thinking ‘how can you get the most wear out of the products?’ You don’t just have to wear Mallets with a certain outfit, if you’re spending your paycheck, you can get the top value out of it because you can wear Mallet London shoes with everything.
I spend a lot of time at Selfridges and Harrod’s sitting down and watching my customer, watching what they’re buying from the shop floor, watching what they’re wearing. My biggest inspiration is probably my customer more than anything, myself and my customers. The Virgil Abloh’s and big huge designers-they’ve got more of a scope to be more creative than I am. Their customer is more brand based than product based, my customers are product. The brand is big, but not that big where I can go and make something crazy with zip ties or something! So I do keep an eye on men’s fashion trends, but I also try to stay in my lane as much as possible. I’m always looking through tagged photos on my instagram, who the new followers to the brand are, and understanding what’s drawing them to us. It’s very time consuming but it’s the research that has to be done and a lot of the time I feel like I just have a natural gift to make it work. I always knew it was going to happen, it’s taken a very long time to get here, but it’s finally happening.
LAFM: I love hearing about how close to the brand and the customer you are, Mallet London really has a knack for creating something people will buy and wear for a long time. Speaking to that, can you tell us more about the design process and Mallet London’s design aesthetic?
Tommy Mallet: I was doing a lot of tests with shoes when we first started, getting a feel for how things felt and looked. I used to do things like go into a nightclub and wear shoes that didn’t stand out too much, but still had that high-end look. I wanted to find a good balance between a luxury look and feel without a luxury price tag, and not something crazy and flamboyant. When I would test out shoes and go out to nightclubs, I would choose options that weren’t too sporty for that sort of event, versus when I would walk around the city in the daytime, I was always testing and trying out what type of shoes could be worn all the time, and really go with a lot of different outfits in your closet and I think that’s where a lot of our success comes from. We never lost touch with what we were doing with the brand, who our customer was and what sort of design style Mallet London was and is. We’re really well researched, and still today we’re not really bothered about what anyone else is doing, we just keep doing what works for us.
I still do it to this day-I walk around department stores and I stop people as they’re shopping asking where they got something they’re wearing, and why. That’s my passion-and I think it really helps with my brand, I always want to know what people are buying, what trends they’re wearing and understand why. I really get a lot of inspiration from myself and from my customers, I work through different outfits in my closet-different styles, and really my style changes every day, that’s why I’ve got so many units in my collection. One minute you see me wearing a blazer from Balmain and the next I’ll be wearing Prada every day, I’m switching up constantly. What I do is I get inspired from myself what I’m wearing because sometimes it works and sometimes I look back 3 months later and think ‘Oh my god what was I wearing??’ I switch it up constantly but I do keep a close eye on Men’s fashion, and trends I see as well as trends I want to set.
LAFM: Amazing! And finally, can you tell me: where do you see the brand in the next 5 years, what do you hope for for the future of Mallet London?
Tommy Mallet: Honestly, Mallet started out more as a hobby than a business, and after years of perfecting the styles and materials and packaging, I really think it’s going to be one of the biggest footwear brands in the world in the next 5 years.
You start out chasing-trying to get as much success as you can, but when you actually get there, you have the anxiety that you have to stay there and think: what can we do to make sure we don’t go anywhere. So as much as I want to venture out and take so much more on, I need to stay in my lane right now which is menswear footwear. Anything that comes from that is a bonus, the focus is to make sure the shoes get to the states, they’re packaged correctly, we can talk to our customer properly and we can start delivering other things.
I was always one of those guys who never knew what I was going to do when I grew up, I was never really that academic. Now I’ve got my teeth in the footwear industry, I feel like I’m unstoppable. I’ve just got my vision, majority of the time it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but I always learn, I know in the next 5 years Mallet will be a household name brand. We’ve got ambitions to be in every top department store and all over the world!I’ve got a lot of ambition for footwear, a lot of determination to make it in the industry when I was first starting out, so all of that added together brought us here today. Now we’re just opening stores worldwide, we just launched in stores in America, Australia, South Africa, and the Middle East, some days I even take a step back and think to myself “I don’t even know how we got here!” The formulas have worked and I’ve stayed true to it, I haven’t raised my prices, or changed up what makes Mallet London such a great brand and great footwear, and I think the customer knows that when they buy our products and wear our shoes, we’re a luxury-cool, approachable brand, and we’re here to stay.
LAFM picked our absolute favorite, must-have designs from Mallet London (and a link to shop ASAP!) so check it out below, because Mallet is the ultimate footwear destination and you NEED these shoes in your closet-now!
To shop the rest of the Mallet London Collection, shop here, or to see it in person, a limited collection is currently available in Saks Fifth Avenue of Beverly Hills! #LAFMApproved #MalletMayhem