Somehow, even after a year like 2020, shoe darling— Marion Parke—has found her line in Neiman Marcus.
“It’s kind of crazy to even think about this,” the Minnesota-based designer and podiatric surgeon says, “but we sold a fair number of high heels during the pandemic. I’m not sure where our customers have been wearing them, but they continue to love our shoes.” Parke’s story of being a private practice podiatrist to luxury footwear designer with A-list clients like Oprah and Meryl Streep is anything but ordinary. As her eponymous company celebrates its fifth-year outfitting women globally, she’s thrilled to be featured alongside some of fashion’s most historic brands at Neiman Marcus.
“We’ve been courting Neiman’s for a while,” Parke explains, “and they tested our brand online with their customers. We did very well and are thrilled to be starting out in about 10 of their stores now across the country.”
Among those exclusive stores—the Western Suburb’s own Neiman Marcus in Oak Brook.
What makes Parke’s shoes particularly unique is how her designs incorporate her podiatric know-how (she studied at Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine on the Rosalind Franklin University campus in North Chicago). Each shoe is concepted with a sculpted and contoured insole made from medical-grade material that molds to the natural curve of the foot, a built-in arch support that combats foot fatigue, the addition of a heel cup that provides for greater stability, and more lateral material built on the outside of the shoe to ease the foot into a straighter, more relaxed position.
“I was getting dressed one day and as I looked at my shoes I thought, ‘I love all of these, but they hurt my feet.’ For years, I had been thinking about how shoes could be designed differently and finally I said I’m going to do something about it,” Parke says. “Like a dermatologist who comes up with a skin care line knowing patient needs, I got the idea after learning to treat people with high arches—someone with a high arch has similar problems to a woman wearing high heels,” Parke says. She and her team give tremendous thought to where a strap hits the foot and makes room in the crouched space around the toes that often end up being sore spots. “We spend a lot of time on the overall design, of course. But the goal is to ensure that the shoes look beautiful, too.”
Parke’s shoes are produced in the Tuscany region of Italy in the same factory that manufactures high-end brands such as Jimmy Choo, Isabel Marant, and Miu Miu.
But as fashion has become more “comfortable” in the last year because of the pandemic, so too, have some of Parke’s newest designs.
“This season, more than ever, I’m very grateful to have a story about comfort,” she says. “Our relationship with clothing and shoes has changed. We’re predicting that women will be dining outside more and attending many more outdoor events, so our spring and summer lines don’t have any new stilettos.
Instead, we focused our attention on more flats and wedges. With our Italian craftsmanship, we took a casual silhouette and elevated it using luxurious skins and beautiful materials.”
When asked if she has a favorite shoe in the current collection, it’s a little bit like asking Parke if she has a favorite child. But with a little nudging, she names the “Hayley.”
“We changed how the mid-strap buckle works on this sandal,” she explains. “If you have a wider foot, you can typically have your shoes stretched to fit. But if you have a narrower foot, you can’t do that. But with the new construction of Hayley’s buckle, you can tighten it to make it fit your feet. I love this.”
As the company Marion Parke continues to build brand awareness through platforms like Neiman Marcus, Parke’s passion for educating her consumers does as well. She loves nothing more than having a customer understand how her shoes have been designed to create the structure and support she needs to have truly comfortable shoes.
“It’s so validating when women can see for themselves that our ‘sensible’ shoes are also high fashion,” she says. “We’re the best in class in construction, in the tanneries we use, in our manufacturing—we’re second to none. We’re proving every day through our shoe line that you can be beautiful and smart, too.”
For more information, visit marionparke.com.