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Going rogue with a Drapers Footwear Award-winning designer

With Rogue Matilda, Katie Cary created an award-winning take on women’s brogues. 

Katie Cary’s brand, Rogue Matilda, has caused a stir in the footwear scene thanks to its novel approach to the classic brogue style. With bright colours, eye-catching prints and sophisticated silhouette, her shoes are instantly recognisable.

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Rogue Matilda autumn 19

The business has been flying since Cary launched it in 2015. Turnover doubled in 2018, and the brand has six UK stockists including John Lewis and Anthropologie. In June this year, her sophisticated and quirky take on the classic brogue won her the award for Footwear Designer of the Year at the Drapers Footwear Awards 2019. Judges praised her for doing something different with a classic style, and for not relying on high street trends to create something fresh and inventive.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Take the dog out for a walk. It’s amazing for clearing your head and getting you out the house.

What was your first job?

I was a freelance creative in advertising.

How would you describe the brand in one sentence?

For the Rogue Matilda woman, her city is her catwalk and her style is an expression of her personality.

Who’s Matilda? It’s my middle name.

What’s your coffee (or tea) order?

Peppermint tea. I can’t be doing with coffee – I go nuts!

Where are your favourite places to shop?

I do most of my shopping online as often I’m looking for a specific item (I was a buyer at Fenwick for a while and it’s made my shopping habits very methodical). You can’t beat the thrill of a vintage find. I love a good forage for coats at 282 Portobello, and Imparfait online is a French vintage etailer that does monthly drops that sell out in minutes.

Last fashion purchase?

A pale blue linen Jigsaw suit. Rogues look amazing with colour-block suits, and I love the fact you can get so much wear from them: pared down for work or dressed up for weddings, and so on.

Emails or phone calls?

I never used to be a phone call person, but now I find myself often drowning in emails. I love the efficiency of a call for getting things sorted quickly. I think email is incredibly impersonal, too.

Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?

To read the small print. I think I’m naturally impatient so in the early days my enthusiasm would often get the better of me. Now there’s not a legal document I don’t read or a detail that’s not covered.

What would be your ideal office/meeting space?

Having come from an artistic background I’ve always loved the idea of having more of a studio than an office. Somewhere where you can shoot and create content in-house, and somewhere that reflects the colour and quirkiness of the brand.

What’s your favourite part of the creative process?

I absolutely love getting samples back from the factory. Seeing something you’ve designed come to life in 3D and being able to wear it immediately gives me a real buzz. I also love orchestrating the lookbook shoots. I have a fantastic team I work with and it’s incredible to see the shoes styled up and worn on models in a setting of my choice. Everything that’s been bouncing round may head since the early planning stages of a collection suddenly comes together. That’s when you start to get excited about selling them.

What has been your proudest moment since you launched?

I think my proudest moment has to be winning the Drapers Footwear Award. I will also never forget the feeling I got when I first saw someone on the Tube wearing one of my designs. I wanted to run up and hug them! It was also a pretty “pinch me” moment when Julia Roberts wore them out to an event in Hollywood.

Footwear designer of the year went to katie cary at rogue matilda

Katie Cary at the Drapers Footwear Awards 2019

What’s the last book you read?

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Last holiday?

To Seville for the Feria de Abrial festival. It’s incredible if you haven’t been!

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Rogue Matilda autumn 19

Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?

It has to be Paul Smith. He’s still so hands on with his brand despite its success and he’s an incredibly down-to-earth person. His brand also has such a strong DNA and continues to be so popular. You get the authentic feel after all these years.

What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?

Fast fashion. I’m shocked how this culture of disposable fashion has emerged and, at the heart of it, most of the designs are copycat from designer brands. At Rogue Matilda, we encourage people to buy fewer, better quality items and, wherever possible, care for and repair them.

One piece of advice would you give your younger self?

You learn more from failing than you do from succeeding.

Who do you turn to when you need advice?

From a business perspective, my dad. He has a background in accounting and private equity, so he’s not caught up in the creative and “fashion” side of the company. He sees it purely as a business, and that’s an area he’s got lots of experience in.

What would we find you doing at the weekend?

I’m obsessed with British seaside towns, so whenever possible I would be there with my husband and our dog, eating fish and chips in a pub. If I’m in London we would probably be hosting. I love to cook for groups of our friends and we now have a room dedicated to dinner parties at the bottom of our garden.

What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

I’m really excited for us to launch our first bags and belts in August. I wanted to keep the shoe offering brogue-focused, so, rather than expanding to multiple styles, I’ve taken the brand’s handwriting and applied it to some cute bags and belts.

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