If you wanted that summer feeling to last you well into the autumn, then those standard jute-soled espadrilles may get a little soggy come all the wind and rain. This was the thought MULO founder, Tobias Cox, 35, had when he was unable to wear his favourite summer shoes in the changeable climate of London.
Left - MULO - Suede - Cobalt - £115
Inspired by a sailing trip across the Atlantic, which saw another pair fall apart, Cox became determined to create a version that could stand up to wear and tear yet retain the charm of the original.
With no formal fashion training, Cox made a DIY prototype by cutting up his waxed cotton Barbour jacket to see if the weatherproof qualities of the material would translate to footwear. Further product testing proved that by using waxed cotton the shoes were not only durable but also aged beautifully.
This breakthrough instilled the belief that each part of the shoe should be enhanced in the same way. Over the course of two years Cox deconstructed the espadrille and rebuilt it using only the best materials, working with specialist suppliers to customise each component.
The result was a simple yet elegant slip-on.
TheChicGeek took time out to ask Tobias a few more questions:
CG - Where does the name MULO come from?
TC - It is the spanish translation of the word 'mule' - humble, pretty and hard working. It captures our goal for the shoe, and seemed a fitting homage to the Catalan heritage of the espadrille.
CG - What did you do before founding MULO?
TC - I have no formal fashion training and worked in management consulting, but always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
Right - MULO x David Kafri - Tribal - £115
CG - When did it start?
TC - The idea for a modern version of the espadrille came during a sailing trip across the Atlantic. I was wearing a traditional pair that very quickly fell apart and it made me realise that as a concept the shoe does not really work. I wanted to create a version that could function whilst respecting the simple charm of the original. It was several years in development and launched in 2013.
CG - What’s the difference between a MULO espadrille and any others?
TC - We don't use the traditional rope sole, we work on an Oxford last which makes the shoe a properly structured one. We are an elevated staple that combines the fit and feel of a sneaker to the summer essential. We rebuilt the espadrille on an Oxford last, lending structure and a fitted shape, and customised each component using premium materials to make it best in class.
Our limited edition collections using bold prints and images add personality. We recently collaborated with Design Miami/Art Basel. We applied a print by Pierre Frey named Chromatropic to our shoe, an assemblage of palm trees, sunsets, and foliage, cut from current Pierre Frey designs and pasted together to resemble wildly coloured camouflage. The shoes were made using different parts of the print, meaning each pair was one of a kind. They were a statement piece that immediately sold out.
CG - Where are they made?
TC - Our shoes are entirely handmade in Portugal. It takes 20 steps to make our shoe - from cutting and stitching to lasting. We work with a family run factory who share our values and take pride in their craft.
CG - What inspires you?
TC - Good design and craftsmanship.
CG - Where is the business based?
TC - London.
CG - What does becoming one of Walpole's Brands of Tomorrow mean?
TC - It is an honour to be recognised by such a reputable institution - Walpole is a unique alliance of over 170 of Britain's finest luxury brands, with companies such as Burberry, Jimmy Choo, The Savoy and Harrods among its membership. We are at a very exciting stage of development and are constantly navigating opportunities whilst also needing to stay nimble. Walpole is providing us with invaluable counsel and a wealth of resources to successfully expand in the luxury marketplace.
CG - What are the future plans? Own retail outlet?
TC - Our goal is to follow former Walpole Brands of Tomorrow - Orlebar Brown, Charlotte Olympia, Mr Hare, The Business of Fashion - and become recognised as a leader in our field. We plan to build the business selectively, through retailers and online, to maintain our premium market position and push creative boundaries.