Move over diamonds, a girl’s new best friend is Marion Parke. The budding designer has gone and done the impossible—created a line of luxury, high-fashion shoes that not only look fabulous, but also actually feel great to wear.
“I was standing in front of my closet one day, getting dressed, and as I looked at my shoes I thought, ‘I love all of these but they kill my feet.’ For years, I had been thinking about how this could be done differently and finally I said I’m going to do something about it,” recalls Parke of the impetus behind starting her eponymous line, which combines her love of fashion with her very unique skill set—she’s also a podiatric surgeon. In fact, Parke is the only one in the world who has attempted to design a collection at the luxury level.
Though she makes no warranties about her designs being therapeutic or preventative or even ‘doctor recommended,’ Parke (who studied at Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine on the Rosalind Franklin University campus in North Chicago) is quite proud of the patent pending “intelligent design” she was instrumental in creating. Its features include 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 got the idea after learning to treat people with high arches—someone with a high arch structure is in a similar position to a woman in high heels,” Parke says, noting she and her team also gave thought to where the straps hit the foot and made room in the crouched space around the toes that often end up being sore spots. “We spent a lot of time on the overall design, but also wanted to ensure they look beautiful, too.”
The shoes are Carrie Bradshaw-level breathtaking, with a number of versatile styles in the debut Spring/Summer 2016 collection, including the “Lita,” a cutout suede and mesh bootie with tassel ties, and the tiered-strap “Mitchell,” which offers a heel with attitude.
Each design was named for a woman in music (Lita Ford and Joni Mitchell in the examples above, as well as the “Angie” style inspired by the famous Rolling Stones song and the “Layla,” which references the Derek and the Dominos hit). “I’m a huge rock and roll fan,” admits Parke. (She and her husband even spent their first wedding anniversary at Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary show at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin in 2012.)
“So, in terms of the aesthetic, I wanted the shoes to have the duality for women like me who have to be professional and polished one minute but also want to let loose at a concert on a Friday night, and I think the collection has a nice blend of delicate femininity as well as a rocker edge.” Even the rubber tip on the bottom of the shoe is made to look like a guitar pick. “That vibe will always be present in my shoes,” she promises.
The collection was manufactured in Tuscany, Italy in the same factory that cobbles together high-end brands such as Jimmy Choo, Isabel Marant, and Miu Miu. That, along with Parke’s unique back-story, has gotten the attention of a number of prestigious fashion magazines. In just the past few months, the “Mitchell” was featured on Vogue.com and worn by Broadway actress Sutton Foster for a photo shoot.
There have also been features in W magazine along with Shape, InStyle, and Cosmopolitan, as well as placement on Moda Operandi.
Perhaps most exciting of all, Parke recently learned she is a finalist for the Accessories Council’s Emerging Designer competition. “It’s all provided such serious validation,” she admits, having spent a good amount of time at tradeshows, on Instagram, and meeting with buyers to tout her line. “The feedback we’ve gotten so far has been great, with a lot of people saying this really is what women want.”
It’s something the now Minnesota resident even witnessed on a trip to Winnetka’s neapolitan boutique, which will be carrying the Marion Parke collection beginning this month.
“While I was there, two women preordered several pairs of shoes each,” says Parke, who adds that she has been both humbled and excited by all the attention her line has been getting. Though she’s had to put aside her private practice of seeing patients for the time being to focus on the shoe collection, Parke says, “I’m so happy it’s finally out there in the world. I hope I have the opportunity to reach as many women as possible.” No doubt they will be running to find her.
For more information, visit marionparke.com. The Marion Parke collection is available at neapolitan in Winnetka, neapolitanonline.com.