At Home with Maryon’s Shoes’ Claire Campbell

By Sophia McMeekin
9th Jan 2014

Maryon's Shoes Close Encounter

She has every girl's dream job, a gorgeous pad on the river, and a shoe closet to die for (we'd kill for it, no question!). We went behind the scenes in the Hamilton home of Maryon's, Claire Campbell, where we talked big feet, Tinder, why she'll never wear a square toe, and just how many pairs she has at her disposal. Cue the shoe envy. 

TUL: How did Maryon's Begin?

My mother started the business forty years ago. She started with one store at the Gold Coast for a bit of fun, and it was open five days a week. She was married, she was 22, and she started the business for a bit of fun and it went from there.

Since starting the business at 22 it's been really successful, and she's since opened up four more stores. The business supported us as a family, but she started it because she couldn't find beautiful shoes in her size! Back then they thought it was crazy; she was written up in the paper as being absolutely outrageous, 'the most expensive shoe store in Australia'—that kind of thing. '$75 a pair, outrageous!'. And now look at the difference in attitude!

TUL: Are your mother's feet big or small?

Big feet. She's a 41, so am I. We've got a huge database of clients with that size. Back then you couldn't find beautiful shoes in that size so that was the reason she started the business, and because of her passion for beautiful shoes.

maryon's Shoes Close encounter

TUL: Do you share her passion?

Absolutely. Mum's passion for textiles, colour, interiors and things like that—travel, clothing — has been with her for her whole life, but for me, I was brought up with it. Back in those days, my mother always travelled to buy, but not four times a year like we do now. Back then they'd come to us; They'd fly out to Australia and come to visit everyone and I used to be there, doing all the buying with my mother from when I was born. So I was running around, helping her while I was wearing sample shoes with the left foot suede and the right foot patent — I was brought up with it. She was always include me, asking 'what do you think of this?' and 'what goes with this?', piecing together how to do a buy with me. So my passion came from there.

TUL: Tell us about your stores?

Our Rosalie store is our outlet store. And we've got a store we opened a year ago in James Street, which was designed by Adrian Spence who's just so clever. We had too many windows, which doesn't work for showing shoes because you need more display space internally so, he said, "you know what, let's just display around the windows...". And it's beautiful.

We used to have one in the Brisbane Arcade for over 35 years, and I loved the Brisbane Arcade, but things in the city have been tough, and it was a very small shop, and we've got a lot of shoes! Then we've got a store at the Emporium, which we've recently decided to reopen, and we've got our summer sale on there at the moment. I'm relaunching that store at the end of January with Maryon's Philosophy, which will be a middle price-point store, as well as having a few higher price point pieces. 

Then we've got our store on the Gold Coast, and I'm sentimentally attached to it because I grew up there and I love going to the beach. We've got a lot of interstate and international clients there.

Four is enough, but I'm thinking about more, I'm always thinking about more! I've got amazing staff too, so I'm very lucky. 

Maryon's Shoes Close Encounter maryon's Shoes Close encounter

TUL: Which are your favourite labels you have in store? 

For me, I love the things that I've been brought up with, like Robert Clergerie. My mother brought his very first collection, when he first started, and watching that evolve over time has been amazing. I love the construction and it's very French; I love his pieces. I love Tod's, too, because I love lifestyle shoes, I'm very into comfort. But, at the same time, I've also got these lace, peep-toe black booties that are very high, but they're just so beautiful and you feel so good when you wear them. 

What I love is colour, for me that's important. I still love the elegant, simple, classic shoe but if I can feel the excitement on my feet, it just makes my day.

TUL: What advice do you give when customers are choosing shoes?

I would tell them to go with something they love. But also matching things is very important, and colour coordination is extremely important because you've got to work with the colours that suit your skin. But you've also got to work with the colours you love; you don't have to be so restricted. The bag, the belt, the shoe don't have to match. I think it's important they go with their passion. 

Also comfort. I will never wear a massive, massive heel all day. I think women still have to look after their feet. I think they need to invest money into shoes that they want to wear everyday, whether it's to work or taking kids to school. That's where you should invest your money.

People come in and spend huge amounts of money on party shoes, which I understand and love. But then they spend $150 on shoes they wear all day, every day, whereas I think they should be spending on the shoes the are going to wear every day. 

Maryons Close Encounter

TUL: How many pairs do you have in your collection?

I'm definitely hitting the 300 mark now! My mother would die. She tries to confiscate them from me. I remember when I was younger, I was putting the rubbish in the bin one day and found some of my shoes there; she was hoping I'd never notice they were gone! But I just cannot part with them. 

She also hates it because I've filled up her wardrobes in her house with shoes, all labelled with photographs on the front of the boxes. My girlfriend Jane is a similar size so me so she gets a lot of my hand-me-downs, so I feel a bit better about that because they're going to a good home. I can't part with anything?scarves, bags?but shoes are terrible. I hope Mum's not reading this!

TUL: Do you have any shoes that you always stock in store, because they're always a favourite?

Mid-heels because they're so hard to find. A beautiful mid-heel from a really good brand, really well made, is so hard to find because the fashion is extremely flat or extremely high. But mid-heels are coming in again, because the brands are becoming more commercial. And when they do come in, they go fast because the whole world wants them. We've got people coming in early because they want to bet the first there because the mid-heels just go so quickly. You have to be super quick! Mid-heels are really popular, and Tod's are popular. We sell Tod's really well. Australian women love colour so, unsurprisingly, a lot of the colourful pieces go really quickly, too.

TUL: So you go on buying trips four times a year?

I do Milan, Paris, I do a little bit of New York, especially when buying for the new shop. Also a little bit of London, because I love the place and I've got a lot of friends there. I discovered Nicolas Kirkwood there, because he's based in London and so often I do my buy at the head office there. I love to see what's happening in London and New York. Paris is also really important, as is Milan. 

Maryon's shoes Close Encounter

TUL: What would it take for you to bring a new label in store? Do you do take on new brands quite often?

Absolutely, we don't dart around like other stores that get really excited about what's hot right now. We try to be consistent and loyal to a brand and build a demand for that brand, because customers get attached to a certain brand and that specific style. I try to be very careful when I'm selecting new things. 

Quality is also extremely important to us. Often, we get to meet designers and more importantly, visit the factory. Doing the background check first is really important, and then, when you first start a collection, making sure you represent the brand really well so that the customer gets a bit of an idea of what that brand's all about. 

TUL: What do you love about living in Hamilton?

I love being able to see out on the river. I can see out from the Gateway, all the way along the river, down to the city. And when I wake up in the morning, having that light — because there's so much glass — just having that hit of light in the morning gets me energised. I need to be able to see out. I don't know why, it's not claustrophobia! I just like to be amongst the action, see what's happening and being able to see water. I feel free if I can see water. If there was a beach in Brisbane, I would be the happiest person. 

I love Hamilton because I can get on the ICB to Paddington, the West Side, New Farm, or get on the Highway to the Gold Coast if I want to go to the beach, it's so easy! But also being a little bit away from it all at the same time. And I probably eat out in New Farm way too much! 

maryons Shoes close Encounter

TUL: Where do you love to go in New Farm?

Tartufo! Poor Tony at Tartufo. I call there after leaving the office at 9 o'clock at night or whatever, he'll say, 'What do you want?' and I'll just say, 'Chicken schnitzel!' and he'll go 'No, you have the figs with the mascarpone'. He's been feeding me, even when I was on the Gold Coast as a kid. I eat there a lot! I come there and I look exhausted and he's saying, 'Eat something! Eat something!' in his beautiful Italian accent. So yes, I eat there a lot. 

I'm at breakfast at Harveys regularly. Probably too often. 

I go to Public a lot in the city, too. I get around though because I love food, and I love everybody in the hospitality game because they're extremely passionate about what they do and sociable and bubbly, and I love being around all that energy. So eating out a lot is a bad habit of mine that I really enjoy!

TUL: Is there anywhere new that you've been impressed by? 

Tinderbox, I've been there about 20 times! My friends and I keep joking because of that app, Tinder? That dating thing? We wonder how many people dining there have met on Tinder, because there's actually a lot of people dating at Tinderbox, you can see they're on first dates! I wonder if PJ intended that? [Laughs]. It's very good there. And Hatch & Co, I've been there a few times.

Maryon's Shoes Close Encounter

TUL: Where do you like going shopping in Brisbane?

I shop a lot at Samantha Ogilvie and camargue. I often do a lot of my shopping overseas, often in New York. But I hate shopping centres, so going to a Westfield is like hell. I understand that it's air conditioned and everyone gets excited about that, but no, I'd rather die than do that.

TUL: Is there a shoe trend that you really hate?

Square toes. If they come back in, I am not there. It's like flares, I understand that they're 'in', but I hope that it goes away soon. Square toes are a killer. I don't understand what it is, or how it can be sexy in anyway. I understand if there's a little bit of a round toe happening, but square toe? No go. Not possible. If you see me in square toe shoes, bash me across the head because there's something wrong with me!

TUL: Any new season styles that you're really excited about? What do you think of the Birkenstock trend?

I love a bit of the Oriental for fun, definitely. In terms of accessories, I'm very excited about the new Kenzo, just because it's wild, I love the brights, the metallics, the mish-mash of everything. The tiger, I'm loving the tiger! I've got Kenzo t-shirts and Kenzo skirts that I wear, but we've also got the jewellery coming in store, and the bags. We've had the shoes for a while, but now we've got new shoes and the bags coming in the next two weeks, so I'm just so excited.

Maryon's Shoes Close Enconter

TUL: What's next for Maryon's?

Some new brands, which is part of what I'm doing at the Philosophy store at the Emporium. 

I've also got a few more people onboard working with me, which gives me a little bit more time to be creative and think of new things and focused on what's important and the bigger picture. 

I've had opportunities to expand interstate, but at the moment I'm just keeping it neat, keeping it strong, focusing on the marketing. And also it's a lifestyle choice, I don't really want to be living on a plane, not at the moment anyway. I'm 30 next year, so trying to restore a bit of balance into my life with yoga and pilates. I do shooting every week at the Brisbane gun club too; it's super cool! They're just so wonderful there, I've been doing my safety course to get my license. And all my hobbies I love! I do Argentine tango as well. I'm trying to make sure I have the time to do all the things I love, otherwise you just end up drowning yourself in work and then, by the end of the year, you're just exhausted and you can't think. So restoring that balance is pretty important to me. 

TUL: Is your mum still involved in the business?

It's the family business but she is semi-retired at this point. She's very adventurous, she's done some crazy things! She spent five years sailing through Asia, kayaked the Amazon…. But she loves the business, it's her baby. She loves our customers and our clients, but she's tired of retail, it's been pretty hard, so she's stepped back quite a bit. I do bounce ideas off her—usually I just need to vent, and she listens, which is great—but, no, she's not really involved. We'd probably bang heads, we're so alike we'd kill each other!

Image credits: Daniel Maddock

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