Anna McLaren started her shoe label, A. Emery, because of her “love of simple sandals”. But she couldn’t find the particular look and pricepoint she was after.
“I really found them quite hard to find,” says the Melbourne-based designer. “Not only in the Australian market but in the international market as well. I was always spending the entire European summer overseas trying to find pairs. And everything that was stripped back [and] all black… were all at very high pricepoints.”
Sandals “don’t have the longevity of a [luxury] boot or a tailored blazer,” explains McLaren, and when friends began complimenting her on her European finds, she realised there was an opportunity to create an affordable, elegant alternative.
Two days after graduating from RMIT with a fashion degree, McLaren boarded a plane to New York for a five-month internship at The Row, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s acclaimed luxury fashion label. The opportunity was pivotal in pathing the way for the launch of her very own label A. Emery in December last year, arming her with invaluable insight into the luxury industry – from imagery, to website and branding, to selecting the right stockists.
Though McLaren had never dabbled in footwear prior to launching her label, she had some experience with accessories. This helped her navigate key development elements such as manufacturing and retail.
“The technical side is very different [to accessories] but the product development is quite similar – it was something I’d done for years,” she says.
But even with that background, she was initially unsure about releasing one of the signature styles to market.
The Lola has “a very simple design,” says McLaren – it consists of two thin straps running horizontally, each no more than a centimetre wide and placed just slightly further apart.
But the sandal has become A. Emery’s most popular style, proving this ultra-minimalist look is exactly what people are looking for. (A number of new-generation Australian designers including Essen and Maria Farro are also seeing success with sleek but simple leather footwear.)
Other designs in McLaren’s collection are similarly restrained, and include slides and lace-up styles in black, honey leather and suede.
A. Emery sandals cost between $129 and $159 – a far cry from the hefty $992 price tag attached to The Row’s leather sandals. McLaren designs each pair in Australia, and the shoes are crafted by hand in India.
The result nails the intersection between luxury, quality and accessibility.
Not surprisingly, this has meant fans from day dot, including key industry players. The label’s first stockists included important online retailers My Chameleon and The Undone. Sydney label Albus Lumen picked A. Emery in its early days to complement its fashion week show. Prestigious British online retailer Matches Fashion will launch A. Emery on its platform in April.