Studio Tour: Marais USA's Cozy Greenpoint Workspace

Founded on the simple principle that cute shoes need not cost the same as your rent, Brooklyn-based footwear label, Marais USA, has been making charming flats for less than $100 for almost five years.

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Catherine Blair Pfander/Thread NY
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Catherine Blari Pfander/Thread NY
Founded on the simple principle that cute shoes needn't cost the same as your rent, Brooklyn-based footwear label, Marais USA, have been making charming flats for under $100 for nearly five years. We swung by designers' Haley Boyd and Catherine Chen's sunny Greenpoint studio to take a peek at what goes into making shoes for a student budget.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
Haley and Catherine became fast friends their first year at Parsons. "I always knew I wanted to be in fashion design. I even had my own line, 'Haley B,' in high school," Haley laughs. "Yeah, I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't gotten in," admits Catherine, who transferred from BU after deciding enormous lecture courses in micro-economics weren't for her.
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Catherine Blair Pfander/Thread NY
The pair founded Marais in 2007 with the "sole" intention of delivering affordable, high-design shoes to people who couldn't afford the $1000 alternatives. "When we were just starting out, you couldn't buy a lace-up oxford that wasn't around $900," says Haley. Their own take on the classic menswear-inspired style comes in at just $88.
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Catherine Blair Pfander/Thread NY
Though both ladies collaborate on every aspect of the design and business processes, Catherine formally serves as Creative Director while Haley handles "more of the business end." "We tend to design shoes that we really want to be wearing," says Catherine, who claims market research and trend hunting play an important role in their design process.
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Catherine Blair Pfander/Thread NY
Wedges, low-heels and flats are all big sellers for Marais USA. "Styles that are practical and that you can really wear all the time are successful for us," says Catherine. "Yeah, getting dressed has definitely been a lot easier since starting the line," admits Haley. "It sounds funny but seriously, if you get two pairs of the 'Chelsea Boot' in black and brown, you're good to go!"
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Catherine Blair Pfander
A sneak peek at Marais USA's gorgeous styles for Fall 2011, including some must-have olive green oxfords.
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Catherine Blair Pfander/Thread NY
Future plans for expanding the Marais offering include accessories—"bags, belts, maybe a wallet"—though an exact date hasn't been decided on yet. For now, we're content to peruse the brand's latest batch of perfect summer sandals and peep-toe wedges on their website, MaraisUSA.com.
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