I remember my first pair of NewbarK loafers, it was my first pair of loafers in ages, and I bought them online before trying them on which is crazy to do with a new brand and style. I slid into them, and literally didn’t take them off for months. Compliments poured in, and I felt so torn about sharing details of the new brand or hoarding all the loafers to myself. I’m glad I shared that the shoes were NewbarK – a shoe line launched in 2009, based in LA, by stylist sisters Maryam and Marjan Malakpour.
How did you find yourselves launching a shoe line?
When we launched NewbarK in 2009, it was a time of sky high heel shoes, with very little option and variety for flat shoes. We wanted a flat shoe that would be comfortable, effortless, high quality and not a ballerina, something along the lines of a slipper with a laissez-faire attitude.
Have you always had design ambitions?
Yes! We both come from a different design background than the traditionally schooled designers. We have created and designed one off pieces to finesse outfits from hats to gloves to shoes for specific clients either for performance or advertising.
Why did you start with the foldable JACKS? How did this evolve into loafers?
The core of our brand is making shoes that are the most comfortable you’ve ever worn. We do a lot of technical research and work with our factory in LA to ensure our shoes don’t cause blisters and don’t need to be broken in. Since we’re both stylists, we have access to a lot of product and know what’s missing from the market. We wanted a loafer that embraces a kind of timelessness with styles that are classic but with a rock and roll edge.
Your collections are never overwhelming to digest – was this a deliberate decision to keep them small and grow slowly?
We love the well-edited and thoughtful approach for each collection! Often we feel that the market is so over-saturated, and it actually takes time for consumers to get what you are doing, so taking the time and nurturing our designs is really an ideal way!
How do you decide when to add new styles?
We typically introduce a new silhouette once a year, but really our goal is to maintain a brand heritage and have as many permanent pieces as possible, which are available season after season.
What are your individual strengths each of you bring to NewbarK?
We each have definite roles but we also share many as well. Marjan is great at dealing with the administrative and business side of things. Maryam is more on design and creative side so together it’s a good balance.
What do you love about producing in LA?
We love the family environment and being close to home.
Who are your shoes named after?
Usually favorite muses or women in music, French, English, or American, and sometimes we just like a name!
How has being a part of the CFDA fashion fund impacted your approach to design? Or the brand in general?
The exposure and the endorsement is a huge impact. Getting to know all of the judges and getting feedback and time with some more than others has been a huge influence to us.
Has the process been what you expected?
We went in with open minds and didn’t have expectations.
Do you think the American fashion industry lacks a signature American shoe designer?
I think that American shoe designers and companies do exist including Stuart Weitzman, Kenneth Cole, Brian Atwood but they don’t produce in the US which is the difference to NewbarK!
Can Newbark fill that niche?
That’s our goal.
Do you still work together as stylists as well?
No, we have separate clients for styling.
As stylists you have encountered literally every shoe possible – in your opinion what do the best shoes always have in common?
Comfort and workmanship
What sort of lifestyle do your shoes inspire?
Laissez-faire, working woman with a great sense of style.