Drapers caught up with Marie Nilsson Peterzén, creative director, vice-president and co-founder of footwear brand Vagabond, to find out the secrets to the brand’s success.
Marie Nilsson Peterzén founded Swedish footwear brand Vagabond in 1993 alongside her husband, Mats Nilsson. Its quirky and minimalist designs sell for between £70 and £200, and it boasts around 1,000 stockists worldwide. Its 40 UK stockists include Asos, Office, House of Fraser and Urban Outfitters. Drapers talks to Peterzén about the complexity of shoe design and the challenges of planning product for a global market.
What’s your background? How did you come to be working in fashion?
When I was young I wanted to do anything but fashion, since my family was in the business … However, after an education in hotel management I realised that I did want to work in fashion after all! I started as a buyer for a shoe company and the rest is history.
What does your role at Vagabond entail?
I am the creative director and vice-president of the company. I support our design manager and her team in building the collection. I also work very closely with our brand communication manager to ensure our brand message is communicated throughout all our channels.
How would you describe the brand ethos?
We believe in true style and the right to express yourself. As a company we are independent, driven by both our curiosity and our gathered knowledge about making shoes.
Can you tell us a little about the history of the brand?
The company Vagabond Shoemakers was founded 1993 by my husband and me. We wanted to build a shoe brand and sell our products all over the world. To have it “our way”, meant making everything in-house, which was not possible from Sweden since there were no longer any shoe factories here. Because of that, we moved to Italy to open our first design studio and workshop. We still work the same way, but as we grew in confidence, this design studio and complete workshop was moved and is now established in Varberg, western Sweden, at the headquarters of Vagabond.
What drew you to footwear – why do enjoy designing shoes?
Shoes are more than fashion. It is a three-dimensional product and there are a lot of things that must fit together. It requires a lot of different kinds of knowledge to create the perfect shoe.
Where do you find inspiration when you are designing?
Everywhere! I know it sounds like a cliché but it is like that. I travel, I walk around in cities, I read, I meet people, I visit exhibitions.
What are some of the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis?
As we are in a global market, today it is more difficult to forecast how well a product will do in its first season: how big the trend or style will get, and how fast. And even if we are happy to see that our key items are the same globally, there is still a lot of variance between different markets: bigger than you could imagine before entering a new market.
Whom in the industry do you particularly admire?
Miuccia Prada. I have never met her but she is a great artist and she seems to be a such a fantastic person. I also admire the Swedish companies Ida Sjöstedt, Our Legacy and Acne Studio.
What is the best piece of business advice you have ever received?
Try to be independent and make sure you have the knowledge yourself. Grow with your own money.
Favourite clothing brand
There are so many … Ida Sjöstedt – she is an artist. Our Legacy for men and Acne Studios for the whole story
Favourite place to shop
Last fashion purchase
A new pair of stretch boots from Vagabond
Last book you read
A Swedish book about [doctor and stastitician] Professor Hans Rosling
As a hotel receptionist
I cannot think of doing anything else. Except from continuing more philanthropy work alongside my regular job
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
I love spending the weekends at home. I take long walks along the seaside in the best town in Sweden – Varberg, on the Swedish west coast
My Fashion Life: Marie Nilsson Peterzén, vice-president and creative director, Vagabond