TORONTO — Canadian direct-to-consumer footwear brand Maguire unveiled its first U.S. brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan in June and already has plans for two more international openings over the next few years.
The brand was founded in 2017 by Montreal sisters Romy and Myriam Belzile-Maguire, who set out to make shopping for high-end footwear more enjoyable. The New York store in NoLIta has had a strong reception (with stars like Trevor Noah venturing in) and Maguire is now planning store openings in the California Bay Area in 2023 and in London in 2025.
“We believed there was a better way to do high-end footwear,” said cofounder Myriam Belzile-Maguire, who spent six years working as a footwear designer for Canadian retailer Aldo before launching Maguire, while Romy did marketing for film festivals and advertising.
Like Maguire’s other storefronts in Montreal (opened in 2018) and Toronto (2020), the NoLIta boutique, located at 198 Elizabeth Street, is anchored by one key feature: the brand’s self-serve closet. The closet contains flats; sandals; unlined boots that can be worn year-round, and other shoe staples that are made in small batches and can live for more than one season. That, according to team Maguire, is more sustainable.
“We developed this idea of having a big, built-in wardrobe in each of our stores that would be stocked with all our sizes, styles and colors. That way people could easily try things on quickly and test as many shoes as they wanted — and for as long as they wanted without the push to buy,” Myriam Belzile-Maguire told WWD.
Consequently, Maguire eliminated many of the unpleasant aspects of traditional shoe stores, such as open boxes on floors; staff that was missing in action in store rooms, and product that was constantly being damaged by customers trying them on.
“Suddenly shopping became a lot more enjoyable,” said Romy Belzile-Maguire. When shoppers finally make their selection, they receive a fresh pair of shoes untouched by other customers. That, she said, “is more efficient, clean and gives people more confidence when they know their shoes have not been repeatedly handled.”
Maguire’s game plan doesn’t stop there.
Determined to be a slow-fashion company, the brand offers a fair price plus transparency on the production costs consumers pay for to own these high-end shoes made in Italy, Spain and Portugal. These details are available on Maguire’s website. Maguire shoes are about half of what consumers would expect to pay for other luxury brands.
“The average price for a summer shoe is $220 and for winter $270, so it’s not your whole rent,” said Myriam Belzile-Maguire, who grasped how the industry operated while traveling for Aldo to factories in Milan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Los Angeles.
“As I traveled I saw amazing shoes that were $500 plus, which I thought was too much, and some priced at $150, which were totally underwhelming,” she said.
She also visited one Chinese factory known for making shoes for a major New York brand.
“It cost them about $20 to produce a pair of shoes for this company. But at the duty shop the same shoes sold for $500. Shoppers had no way of knowing that — and that got me thinking. I quickly came to the conclusion that you could do more business for a fair price.”
The independently run brand also wanted shoppers to appreciate that human beings were making these shoes for them by hand.
“Last week I visited one factory in Italy,” recounted Myriam Belzile-Maguire. “The whole family works there: three brothers; the grandmother; the mom is at the end of the production line, and they only speak Italian. We’re their biggest customer for winter and this family is making a living because of our business. That’s what people need to understand. As we grow, they grow, too. ”
Maguire moved into the export market between 2020 and 2021. Since then its sales outside of Quebec have increased from 11 to 42 percent.
Also, thanks to a partnership struck with Madewell in October 2021, Maguire now offers free shipping in the U.S.
Next up, the company is developing a genderless sneaker that will be offered in selected styles in size 34 to 45. Maguire is also planning to launch a genderless tote bag for fall and to create something unique for the NoLIta store paying tribute to New York Fashion Week.
“Building this brand was challenging particularly in a male-dominated business. We had to convince many people they would make money if they worked with us,” Romy Belzile-Maguire said. “In end they’ve learned we’re the real deal.”