2024 Renegade Craft Tour! →

Renegade Craft Fair

August 26, 2015


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We can’t get enough of Mariem! Karla López Rivera is the designer behind Mariem shoes and we are so so so so excited to have her join us at our Brooklyn Fair coming up on September 12+13 at the Brooklyn Expo Center!

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Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind?

There are two important factor behind that decision. Mariem is part of my name but only my close family knows or uses it. It’s also not extremely connected to any place/culture in particular as oppose to my known name, Karla López Rivera. Mariem, the footwear project, is born from personal interest but it is not about its main designer it is more about the concept. Mariem can be anyone that agrees with the ethos and aesthetics and should grow to be its own entity separated from me.

When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?

I studied furniture first and when I learned the upholstery part of it I realized I spent way more time in the sewing room than the heavy machine studio. My thesis ended up being about merging furniture with fashion with some interchangeable ‘upholstery clothing’. I though footwear was the perfect combination of processes between the rigidity of furniture and the malleability of apparel. I ended falling in love working with a smaller scale and with how shoes connect so magically with the user. Footwear, historical, social, and culturally, is fascinating to me.

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Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?

It is important not to jump steps- is one of the things I’ve learned. For example, you should definitely not be in major trade shows before acquiring some traction and don’t start contacting buyers if your production isn’t tried and trued.

Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?

I’ve sacrificed the desire to live in my place of origin close to my family. But I don’t regret it, I have hope that in the future I’ll be able to establish a studio over there.

What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?

Delivering to the first store and making that first brick and mortar sale was pretty exciting!

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How does the city you live in influence your work?

Shoemaking has been a dying industry since the 1960’s in the US but there is an interesting revival that is creeping in! New York is one of those few places. There are still resources here for shoe making and a vibrant community of designers as well as makers. Some of us are in constant communication and sharing skills, machinery, experiences, contacts, etc. It has been key to keep Mariem alive and going.


What made you take this leap into being your own boss?

I never thought there was another option for me. But I think that is because both of my parents own their small businesses and I grew up like that is the normal. I do still work for other designers and enjoy it as well.

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What are some inspirations for your work?

One of the most important driving factors behind Mariem is that it is able to be fabricated in the US regardless if its at my own studio or later in a bigger factory. For that to be feasible you have to know what resources are around first and design accordingly. So I would say Mariem is very ‘technical’ inspired first, aesthetically second. We always try to keep it clean and fresh. Warm but minimal like Agnes Martin.


What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?

Meet as many people as you possibly can in your field. Some of those relationships end up being invaluable at a personal and business level in a very genuine and organic way.

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Thank you, Karla, for letting us get to know you and your work a little better! You can try on Mariem shoes at our Brooklyn Fair coming up in just a couple of weeks and you can find them online here: