Today we are super excited to have Frenchie from Merlo Designs over for a chat!
Yup, for our latest feature we have the most exciting custom shoe designer around and we are not afraid to shout about it... Check out these shoes! We want two of every pair, one for wearing out and the other for display in Vivid HQ!
Want to learn more about their maker? Us too!
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I'm a totally average twenty-something year old female with a taste for the fun and fancy free. By day I dance around my living room to Call Me, Maybe (no shame in that), and have dinosaur wars with chicken nuggets while my two year old laughs himself silly. By night I'm stuffing nutella into my mouth by the spoonful, furiously typing up romantic tragedies and, of course, creating the head turning heels, flats, and wedges that have made me feel awesome on the internet. (And in real life too :D)
The purpose of my designs are to give women (and men, if that be your flavor, gents) a reason to give everyone something to talk about. I believe that confidence makes a person beautiful, and what other way to show how self assured you are than to strut around in some questionable kicks? My designs revolve around the fun for the most part, as glitz, glam, and sexy are pretty saturated areas already and I have a natural penchant for sticking out :)
What inspired you to start designing your own shoes and sell them online?
One day when my son was a wee infant, I was incredibly bored. (Seriously. Babies sleep a lot.) I also had it in my head that I needed a pair of ruby slippers. I also wanted a pair of glass slippers. Swarovski crystals were ordered (having just quit my job working for their retail boutiques, I was in a state of crystal snobbery), abandoned shoes were dug out, and I had my first pair of (incredibly mediocre) hand-embellished shoes.
But then something interesting happened. While I was painstakingly adhering each one of those tiny gems, I thought, "hey, I should cover shoes in sprinkles."
"Oatmeal and raisins!"
Yup, that too.
I got bit by some sort of crazy shoe bug and I really haven't been able to control it. (Though my bank account has!) I can honestly say I don't remember where I heard of Etsy, or when I decided to join, but I'm glad I did. Selling online was the best choice for me, not having the funds to dive in and open up a B&M so soon, and quite frankly, everyone I know is broke.
Is there anything you would love to put on your shoes but haven't found a way to do it yet?
A shower curtain. No joke. I have a whole bathtub design in my head, but I haven't had the time to do the adequate research to get it done.
Hee hee! We'd love to see some tub shoes! Get on with it already ;)
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
The nature of my product is difficult to sell in itself. Most women I know (myself included) are reluctant to buy shoes online, and for good reason. Sizing can be really difficult to work with. For this reason, I actively encourage clients to send me their own shoes to work with. This has worked very well, especially for brides.
When you're having a crap day, what do you find motivates you?
I step away. I've been an artist in one fashion or another my entire life and if there's one thing I've learned it's that I can't force it. If inspiration isn't there, it isn't there. Luckily this only applies to new designs. If I'm feeling bummed out about photo editing or ...aw who am I kidding. I ignore that too. Sometimes you just have to put stuff away and take a breather. It helps. A lot.
What have you found has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
YOU ARE NOT YOUR TARGET MARKET. Well, maybe you are, but I'm definitely not mine. I'll take $25 Target heels over $350 designer pumps any day. Which is why I make them. So I can have them. I'll admit it still costs a lot more than $25 to do so though. :(
What are your top 3 ways of finding inspiration?
1. FOOD: I get really inspired by food and I'm always trying to come up with new ways to incorporate it into my design be it actual edibles, packaging, or ingredients. Unfortunately, working with food takes a lot of trial and error, so I don't work as much with it as I want to.
2. POP CULTURE: Pop culture is awesome. What's even more awesome is how in it is to think pop culture is awesome, even on Etsy, where the hipsters roam away far from the mainstream.
3. NATURE: I'll admit that I'm definitely not a boho super indie eco hippie. I'm pretty much the opposite unless it's convenient for me. That might make me a terrible person, but it's true. Still, there are a lot of things in nature that are super stellar and I am hungry to use them. Like animal pelts. ....especially animal pelts. (sorry PETA)
Do you have any advice for other people starting their own small business?
How much time do you have?I think I'll sum it up with the old adage: You get out of it what you put into it. It really can't be any truer than that. If you treat what you do as a hobby, that's all it will ever be. And that's totally okay it that's your thing, but if you are serious, and you want to make it as a business owner, get down to the nitty gritty. Register yourself with the division of taxation, keep your books, and keep a professional attitude. If you treat your business as a business, so will everyone else.(Also white backgrounds!)
Where can we find you? (click the links)
In all the old familiar places:
Twitter (follow me and how hilarious I think I can be)
My website is slowly coming to fruition, so if you'd like to take a gander at that and tuck it away for later when it's bigger and badder and more AWESOME, I'd appreciate it :)
Finally, tell us what your guilty pleasure is... (apart from shoes!Hee hee)
Oh man. I have a lot of guilty pleasures, but I have to say that right now the biggest one, and one that I am most actively involved in is...
Anime fan fiction. More specifically, Rurouni Kenshin fan fiction. More more specifically Shinsengumi fan fiction. I used to write and read it when I was in middle school ten years ago (yuck. that long?) but then last year something happened. I went to re-write something embarrassing and terrible (you know, just for the fun times. An exercise, really.) and then.. I just... I couldn't stop. I haven't stopped. My original fiction is sitting in their neatly organized folders on my hard drive and they're all developing abandonment issues and all the while my fingers are flying and I'm just saying, "I'm so sorry!"
So yeah. There you have it.
Shoes & Samurai, by Frenchie Leigh. :)
Hee hee! Thanks for hanging out with us today Frenchie :D What a fantastic interview! There is a lot of inspiration to be taken from your banter as well as your incredible designs; thank you so much for giving us an insight into the world of Merlo!
We'd love to hear what you think about these incredible shoes and we hope you had as much fun reading this interview as we had getting it :) We want to put sprinkles on EVERYTHING now!
To find more shoes you never knew you needed, visit Merlo Designs here