Few think of the humble Australian thong as a luxury fashion piece, but the founding designer behind footwear label Maria Farro does. Raised in Sydney’s Bondi Beach by Greek parents, Traianos Pakioufakis saw the silhouette’s potential when he launched Maria Farro in October last year, debuting two leather “flip-flops”.
“I think I have always loved thongs but felt a bit deterred to wear them because I never saw it as a style that could be worn with a nice pant or away from the beach,” says Pakioufakis, who worked as a fashion photographer for 15 years before finding footwear.
“The design itself is so comfortable. I wanted to develop a way to make them more accessible to everyday life.”
Every sandal is handmade in Crete using traditional, local techniques and each style is designed for optimal wearability. “I think there can be a fine line with summer footwear looking too casual, but we wanted these designs to be paired with [pieces from] luxury designers and casual summer dresses,” he says. “The ‘MF girl’ has a girlie side, perhaps a Chloë Sevigny and [is] a girl who likes to wear more masculine silhouettes, like an Olsen sister.”
This dichotomy is evident across the Maria Farro range. The original plan was to develop a collection that sat classic styles alongside more colourful, playful designs (such as the Ana and Joanne). “But essentially via wholesaling and a lot of research through friends, it seemed classic and traditional styles were a better introductory path,” Pakioufakis says.
As it stands, the Maria Farro range features two luxury iterations of the humble Aussie thong, alongside a series of understated slides and strappy sandals – a collection of 10 core styles in total. There’s a clear focus on longevity, both in design and production. Each sandal is made by hand and where machines are used they are hand-operated. All styles are 100 per cent leather including the sole, which means they mould to the wearer’s foot with repeated wear, ensuring they’re long-lasting.
The products are also sold in canvas bags to reduce waste, and the label is working on removing the plastic used to protect the shoes during the shipping process.
After many visits to Greece with his business partner, whose family emigrated from there 50 years ago, the designer wants to support the Greek economy. “After seeing the struggles the country faced, I thought of a way to help give back to the economy through practices the people are known for,” he says.
“Greek culture is known for many things including amazing food and wine, but they have also been making sandals since ancient times, perfecting the art of easy footwear over centuries.”
Maria Farro is available online or in-store at Incu.