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Marta Jonsson

The Icelandic women’s footwear designer speaks to Emma McCarthy about why she chose to launch her own retail concept

Your background is in wholesale footwear design and manufacturing - what made you decide to launch an eponymous standalone retail business alongside your wholesale arm?

The business model for retail is an entirely different concept to wholesale. But as a wholesaler I was constantly interacting closely with my retail clients so my wholesale experience gave me an incredibly strong sense of what the customer wants to purchase. I supply six of the biggest high street multiples. We make everything in Portugal so we can react quickly. Despite the recession, last year was our best ever.

You launched the retail business during the recession. How are your two stores performing? We opened a store at Westfield London in July last year and our Bluewater store followed shortly after. As with any new brand entering the high street at a time of economic downturn, we launched with cautious optimism. Moving into our second season, we’ve had a strong first quarter and within the short time we’ve been trading we’ve already secured a loyal and repeat customer base.

Tell us about the Marta Jonsson brand. What are the key styles this season and what can we expect for autumn 10?

My focus is to create wearable styles that offer something different and unique from a design point of view. The shoes are designed for the requirements of a busy, modern lifestyle. This seasonI’ve played with the nude palette that was shown on the catwalks, offering boots and sandals in creamy beiges and soft pink hues, but bold, bright splashes of colour come via statement heels and wedges. For autumn 10 the use of decorative trims and studding is strong.

How are you planning to grow your retail business?

I’m constantly looking at new opportunities within the industry to develop and expand the Marta Jonsson brand.

We respond to the market quickly and we make our shoes in Europe, and are able to respond to the latest trends, getting styles from concept to production and onto the shopfloor in 21 days. Building on our business’s retail concept is most definitely in the pipeline and we are talking to department store groups both in the UK and abroad about opening concessions.

Which other fashion or footwear brand do you most admire?

I adore Gina shoes and really respect how the brand has kept its identity in such a changeable industry. It has a truly distinctive look which in my mind encapsulates timeless glamour.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

There isn’t a particular highlight for me. I started the business in 1996 and I just see it as an accomplishment that I’m still here in these rocky times, when 96% of new businesses don’t manage to see their 10th anniversary.

Which is your favourite shop?

Bal Harbour in Miami. Even the security guards at Bal Harbour exude luxury.

In the UK it has to be Harrods.

Who is your favourite designer?

I have two, Roberto Cavalli and Tom Ford (pictured). Cavalli makes the most beautiful, soft fabrics.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love the outdoors.

I enjoy walking and skiing and a good day in the spa is always at the top of my list on a day off.

What was the last thing you bought?

A fabulous necklace by Roberto Cavalli (pictured).

Marta Jonsson is a footwear designer and founder of the eponymous footwear retailer

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