To celebrate the launch of our Women’s collection, and Alice & Ed’s Alice Made This partnership, we have interviewed a series of inspiring Couples in Business. Over the next few weeks we will be telling the stories behind the people and the products that we admire. We start with Tobias Cox and Ingrid de Vries, the team behind MULO shoes.
MULO is a summer essential that offers a more refined take on the espadrille. Entirely handmade in Portugal, MULO works with a family run factory who take pride in their craft and construct the shoes out of carefully sourced materials from select suppliers in the UK, Italy and Portugal. Taking 20 steps to make each shoe, from cutting and stitching to lasting, MULO shoes are made on an Oxford last and are formed from a leather footbed, linen braid trim and textured rubber-crepe soles. With the fit and feel of a sneaker, MULO makes for the ideal slip-on for both sandy beaches and city streets. We talk to Tobias Cox and Ingrid de Vries, the couple behind the brand, about their ways of working and how the collection started.
‘The idea for MULO came on a sailing trip across the Atlantic’, Tobias says. ‘Whilst sailing from Antigua to Venice, I realised that the traditional espadrille style wears very quickly and was inspired to develop a contemporary version that could function like a proper shoe whilst maintaining the simple charm of the original.’
‘While the shoes were still in development we were put in touch by a mutual friend’ he continues. ‘At that time Ingrid was based in New York and we began a transatlantic relationship. The professional partnership developed organically and was complimentary from the outset. Ingrid brought knowledge and expertise in sales and marketing and we split the first stock between us, launching in both the UK and US at the same time.’
‘Our skill sets are very different,’ Ingrid adds, ‘so our roles are clearly defined. Tobias manages our teams and the day-to-day running of the business, whereas I focus on the detail and business development. It allows us to work independently on tasks, but also in tandem. We review each aspect of the business together, interrogating every decision, process and colour swatch.’
‘The most rewarding aspect of the business is sharing the experience of building something from scratch’, she continues, ‘and the opportunity to navigate the journey together. Nothing else has come close to it. I am frequently surprised by the results of combining our individual skills and experiences - for example, our limited edition collection with the Norman Parkinson Archive. My background is in fashion photography and we translated three iconic photographs spanning the three decades Norman Parkinson worked for British Vogue onto the shoe. I was conscious to apply the necessary sensitivity in translating the images, and worked with the finest leather printers in London to replicate the photographs with the utmost integrity. The collection included an image in the ‘Vogue 100: A Century of Style’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, and that pair of shoes we also featured at the gallery.’
The result of such a balanced partnership is a precise, honest and versatile collection of contemporary shoes, willing to experiment with different mediums and art forms. Sharing the Alice Made This work ethic, respect for manufacturing and clean design aesthetic, MULO presents the ideal summer accessory.
However, as Alice and Ed will give testament to, the struggle remains maintaining separation between the business and the personal - something that is often much easier said than done, particularly at such an important growth stage of a business.
‘There is always motivation to work,’ Ingrid concludes, ‘but there also needs to be a sanity check. We are now a bit more disciplined at putting down the laptops at least one day a week.’
Learn more about MULO here.