"When I started making shoes I didn’t know the first thing about doing so," Marc Hare begins before taking a sip of wine. As we sit in a quiet corner of an East London bar for an interview feature for Volume 6 of Varon (out on shelves now), we reflect on the whirlwind of success that has continued to fire his footwear label forward. Both the sit down and glass of white are richly deserved. To illustrate the tale behind the evolution of the label we'd like to focus your attention on how the Miller and Orwell have helped define and shape its path. I propose the apt toast of 'He who hares wins' before delving in to the narrative.
Now, Mr. Hare has always a been a work in progress driven by one man's passion and it shows no sign of resting on its well crafted heels. You know the story well. Conceived at a roadside tapas bar in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Andalusia during the summer of 2008, Mr Hare, the brand not the man, was born out of his realisation that there just were not enough shoes in the world that he liked. Thankfully for our feet, he decided to do something about it. From this epiphany it took a mere three hundred and sixty days for his creations to land on the shop floor at Dover Street Market.
"I had nothing to lose when I started the label. The equation was simple, to either build something or sit with nothing. It was an easy decision. I was fortunate because at the time I was thirty seven years old, I had a long history of working in PR, in retail and the commercial side. I had experience in all of the daunting things that people coming out of college face. As I didn't have any other commitments, I was completely and utterly focused on what I was doing and I still am." One step after another, all eyes remain transfixed by Mr. Hare's fancy feet.
"I’ve had to take little steps and learn how to do things and you’ll see that every season we branch out into different little areas." From season to season, there is a constant sense of evolution and at times revolution. One companion from the start, even when Hare was just a man with a dream, was the Miller. The story of this five hold Oxford shoe is the Mr. Hare fairytale. The original Miller began its life sketched in the mind of a frustrated fashion marketeer.
"I worked for a Swedish clothing company who were famous for their skinny tailoring. I had all of their suits but needed a pair of fly black shoes to wear with them. I went to Jerymn Street because I thought I wanted something quite classic but just couldn't find what I had in mind. I wanted something sharper. At the time I didn't know that I'd be the person to fill the gap, but I left the street knowing that such a gap existed. Ultimately The Miller was my answer, a straight forward classic shoe with contemporary lines. It wasn't so stuffy that it had to stick to the rules. A classic Oxford has certain characteristics already so it was all about adjusting them to just how I wanted." Mr. Hare might not have a formal design background but he is a lover, a tweaker, an alchemist.
"I liken the process to mixing your favourite cocktail, you have the recognisable ingredients and then just make it how you want. At the time, there were so many shoes that had massive toe springs and I just found them to be utterly hideous. The toe spring was the thing to be removed, we then elongated it further because I didn't want it to appear stubby in any way and to ensure it was as elegant as it could
be." See a snapshot of the shake-up behind the Miller below.
The evolution of the Miller.
As much as I admire the fruits of Mr. Hare's work in constant progress that is the Miller, it is their old friend the Orwell. The Orwell has shape shifted and morphed into a number of label favourites. The handsome family. "Along with the Miller, the Orwell has stood the test of time. Every iteration of the Orwell looks fantastic and it has spawned the King Tubby and the Genet, it has many, many children whilst the Miller is pretty much the original,we've added colours, used different leathers and stiffened up the sole but essentially it is the same shoe." Take a closer look at a few of the famous offspring of the Orwell family album below...
From Orwell to Stingray Orwell to all manner of King Tubby.
Hare is not a man that stands still and once again the Miller, mirrors the man. "It's the shoe that we treat like a Dunk or an Air Force 1, the challenge is coming every season with a fresh, new Miller. The amount of directions that you can take it in and the things that you can do with it is really pleasing. If I cut my whole company down to a one pair, it would have to be the Miller and we'd still have a company that you could run forever and ever and ever."
From daydreams to designs, firsts to the lasts, everything was made in the UK. "Up to that point it was very much a British point of view. For me and it's well documented, England makes the best quality, toughest shoes in the world but at the same time, it's very difficult to go to an English factory as a nobody with an idea and to get it made at the price you need. That's still the case now. So I went to Italy because I could. Now I go to Italy as often as I can. During the sampling process, I'm there every two weeks for about three months. I used to go quite sporadically but now that I've got sales staff and general managers, I can spend longer and hope to have periods where I'm out there full time. Even just six months ago, there was myself and James. Two guys running everything. Just like at the very beginning, where I could just concentrate on the product, now that the infrastructure is there I can concentrate on it again and push it even more. With everything that we've learned, the product that's out in a years time should be next level. Ultimately, my aim is to one day by a factory in Northampton and drag it in to the twenty first century and actually get a truly modern British shoe company going again" Hare's relationships with the master craftsmen of Tuscany are thriving but as ever, he's looking ahead. Out of breath, we'll be trying to keep up with this Hare raising talent and remember.. he who Hares wins.