If there’s any career that fits squarely under the “dream job” category, Emy Mack’s is it. The long-time design lover launched her eponymous shoe label in 2012, and since then, her shoes have appeared on the runways of New York Fashion Week, and on celebrities like Kerry Washington.
Here, we talk to the designer, wife, and mom of three about how she got her start, taking risks, the best career advice she’s received, and more.
YOU DIDN’T ALWAYS DESIGN SHOES. HOW DID YOU MAKE THE DECISION TO START YOUR OWN SHOE LINE?
I studied art and design throughout elementary school, high school, and college. Design and shoes, in particular, have always been my passion. My grandmother designed and made clothes so she was always teaching me. My parents insisted I get a college degree in business and marketing, which are vital to running any business. After college, I moved to Italy, where I continued to study design. My passion for shoe design and manufacturing increased, and I explored a variety options for starting a shoe business. It took some time for all the stars to align, but I never stopped trying.
WHAT WENT INTO LAUNCHING YOUR LINE? FOR EXAMPLE, HOW DID YOU FIND A MANUFACTURER, AND SOURCE LEATHER, AND DECIDE HOW TO BRAND IT, ETC?
Starting a shoe line is not an easy endeavor. I knew I needed someone who was seasoned in the business to introduce me to the manufacturers and tanneries. I found two wonderful people who had been in the industry for a very long time (one is a former Jimmy Choo exec) who work with EMY MACK now and make the process seamless. I always had a clear vision for the branding. “Emy” has always been my nickname and “Mack” is my maiden name. That part was easy!
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU DESIGN YOUR SHOES? DO YOU DESIGN FOR A CERTAIN “GIRL” OR CERTAIN STYLE?
I design for women who love beautiful shoes. I lean towards making classic silhouettes that I fine tune to make them sexy but still elegant. Depending on the trend at the moment (hot fix, studs, etc.), I will add a little twist. It has been interesting that there has not been one specific demographic. Sometimes I will have a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter all buy the same shoe and just style it differently!
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS STORY SO FAR?
I don’t think there can be just one great story. We are building a skyscraper and every wonderful thing that happens contributes to that success. I will admit, it was amazing to have our shoes on the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week this year. We collaborated in 3 runway shows: twice with David Tlale in New York and also with Luli Fama at Miami Swim Week. Kerry Washington also shared her new favorite EMY MACK flats on social media this past spring. That was a big moment for us. She is a true style icon. When someone of her caliber falls in love with your brand, it is a big accomplishment, but the success also lies in the little moments. Every new store, every article, every customer who buys a pair of shoes—these create the bigger success story.
HOW DID THAT PARTNERSHIP WITH DAVID TLALE COME ABOUT?
The opportunity to collaborate with David Tlale originated from a contact our publicist had—Kimmie Smith, an accessories and style expert who owns a company called Accessory 2. Kimmie reached out in January to find shoes. Everything came together at the last minute, and our first runway collaboration at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was on February 9. It was certainly a dream come true–to see the shoes on such a respected platform with a very talented apparel designer. The aesthetic worked so well for his Fall 2014 collection that we partnered up again for the Spring/Summer 2015 runway show at Lincoln Center, which just took place last Sunday, September 7. Supermodel Tyson Beckford opened and closed the show. Every look was paired with our shoes, and it was another powerful collection. We love working with David and hope our partnership continues into the future.
HOW TO YOU HANDLE THE STRESS THAT COMES ALONG WITH ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
I have so many wonderful, supportive family and friends around me that have really made a huge difference in my stress level! They take weight off my shoulders when necessary and help keep me focused on what is important. It truly takes a team to build a brand, and surrounding myself with the right people has been invaluable.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE TAKEN IN YOUR CAREER? DID IT PAY OFF?
Starting my own company has been the biggest risk I have ever taken. The endeavor has been very personal on many levels. And yes, it is paying off in ways I could not have imagined. I have never been happier and love what I am doing. That alone is the greatest gift.
WHAT’S THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Before we launched EMY MACK, I had everything in place. As a wife and mother of three small children, I paused and said to my parents, “This just isn’t the right time.” My parents said, “There will never be a right time…just GO!” So I did.