Emily Cooper is wearing suede shoes. They’re not blue; they’re actually a stunning, hyper-real shade of fuschia. Her lace-up brogues shine against the murky grey backdrop of a rainy day in Surry Hills. The brogues are one of the stand-out styles from the recently debuted women’s line from her footwear brand Meandher (pronounced: meander). Alongside various classic brogues there are penny loafers and one spectacularly simple pair of slip-on shoes, half suede, half patent.
“It’s called The Willa,” says Cooper. “I actually designed them at school [Milan’s prestigious footwear school Ars Sutoria] as a prototype for a man, but I loved the style so much I had to do it for [our women’s collection]. It’s easy just to slip on, and it’s also quite unusual. There’s not a lot out there like it.”
Easy but unusual also neatly sums up the allure of Meandher as a whole. What began as a local brand offering high-quality, classic, everyday shoe styles for men has become an internationally renowned footwear name in just a few years. From the famous fans – Drew Barrymore, Orlando Bloom, Poppy Delevingne and Jessica Hart are all Meandher enthusiasts – to the technical brilliance thanks to her stint at Ars Sutoria and the heritage factories in Italy and Portugal that produce each pair of shoes, Meandher has developed into an example of successful Australian design on the world stage.
“There was a speaker at Ars Sutoria one day, this cool Italian guy who had been in footwear his whole life,” Cooper recalls. “He said, ‘I will give you one piece of advice, and that is; ‘KIS’. Keep It Simple. I thought, that’s exactly how I see my brand. Really beautiful design with quality components that add a simple but important point of difference.”
Currently splitting time between Sydney, Milan and Los Angeles – with brief detours to New York and London thrown in for good measure – Cooper is intent on growing Meandher organically. The focus is on development overseas, with a dedicated sales agents working out of London servicing Europe and Japan. The American market is also key.
“It’s a massive market, and it’s a totally different kettle of fish,” Cooper says, “but I’m really excited about it, and we’ve had a really great reaction, both this season with the women’s and with our next season that we’ve just sold.” This season, the women’s shoes will be available in the American flagship stores of cult-favourite French blouse company Equipment, and locally at the recently-opened The Stables in both Surry Hills and Bondi, plus through the brand’s online store.
The most important thing for Cooper, though, is the authenticity and honesty of her designs. “It’s really exciting to be able to wear my own product and talk about it,” she says. “Before I was wearing the smallest sizes of my men’s shoes, but this way [with the launch of the women’s range], I am really involved in the process. Now I really know the comfort and the feel.” Like all great designers, Cooper – in her perfectly proportioned monochrome outfit with the pop of those fuschia suede brogues – is truly her brand’s best advertisement.