SO WHo Knew? Hot Stepper
"It's a well-appointed spot even for Mayfair," shares shoe designer Marc Hare "It's a real guys' street with two pubs, the best sandwich bars in the area, and us. On one corner is Gucci, on the other is YSL, so it's real busy without being on the main drag. The biggest surprise since opening is that about 50 per cent of the sales so far have come from people who had never heard of Mr. Hare before walking through the door."
Indeed, customers are raving not only about the shoes but the intimacy of the 165-sq foot store complete with mid-century Italian furniture and chandelier, brass shelving, deco mirrors, Milo Baughman chairs, original Mayfair vitrine windows, and photos of previous collections shot by Marley Lohr. What we at SO are thrilled about is the fact that Marc Hare, founder of one of the UK's hippest and fastest-growing brands in men's footwear, traces his heritage to Jamaica via his dad, and speaks proudly of "the memories of my Jamaican uncles, stopping the whole room dead with their style. My uncles taught me how to dress an outfit with a stunning pair of brogues and silk socks.' Hare is referring to the defining feature of the shoes he makes. The concept for his brand was born in July 2008 when he was down and out. "I had dislocated a knee, my marriage was on the rocks and I was unemployed." The disenchanted Hare found himself drowning his sorrows at a bar in Spain, oblivious to the fact that his fortune was about to change. "I was in a bar in Spain and, for some reason, noticed what the guy sitting next to me had on his feet and, liking the shoes, I decided to tweak and replicate them." Rejuvenated in mind, body and spirit, Hare sought help from the legendary Italian designer Silvano Salvadori, who had made his name with Bally. A few months later the first samples were ready and his business was born.
And so with neither heritage nor traditional craft, Hare went 'against the grain' using instead the music of his childhood: hip-hop. "Took old and made it new. Be fresh to death. Have no fear of authority or tradition."
Hare, who at 18 bought his first pair of Gucci shoes and immediately saw the difference in the way people treated him, recognised from then on that "quality shoes made the man".
He has perhaps taken his craft to another level. "To me, everyone else is making jazz standards and I am cooking up exotic beats in a lab. Each shoe I make gets named after a hero of mine. So authors, producers, film- makers, legendary Soho thinkers, and engineers have all featured, as well as icons of music, show business and the arts. Hence the Thelonius Monk shoe; the Sir Coxsone, King Tubby's lace-ups as well as the Spector boots."
Indeed, his hot steppers, which start at £400 are of high demand in the world's most celebrated stores including Harrods, Liberty and Colette in Paris. They are available across Europe, America, Asia, and the Middle East. Who's wearing them are Robert Downey Jr, Tom Hardy, Amir Khan, Tinie Tempah, A$AP Rocky, Javier Bardem, Daniel Craig, and Diplo.
Rest assured, ladies, the cool dread-locked designer has ambitions to elevate the brand to greater heights with a women's footwear line, online store and luxury accessories.
His humility, even as he enjoys his Mayfair location, remains in check. " People may look at my store and think, 'he has made it', but in actual fact I have just given myself a higher ledge to fall off! But for now, I am just happy perfecting my shoe game."