CanvasRebel Magazine Interview with Kara Mac
Conversations with Entrepreneurs, Artists & Creatives
We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Kara Mac a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below. Kara, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. We’d love to have you retell us the story behind how you came up with the idea for your business, I think our audience would really enjoy hearing the backstory. I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and studied fashion design. I spent 25 years moving up the ladder for a number of companies. My first job was as an assistant designer but I was often sent out to run errands for the staff and didn’t do much designing, however, I always learned. Over the years I became an actual designer for companies including Chaps Ralph Lauren, Tricots St Raphael, Talbots and Bobby Jones Golf. I specialized in knitwear but also designed woven fabrics like plaids and prints as well as finished garments. During my last position as a director I was commuting from Westchester NY to Grand Central Station. Then I had a 20 minute walk to get to my office. I was greeted by a dozen pairs of dress shoes that were under my desk and would choose a pair that worked with my outfit of the day. I often had evening events that would require dressier shoes so many times there was a pair in my travel bag along with my laptop, paperwork and food. I wondered, why do I need so many shoes to get through my days? This sparked an idea to hunt the footwear market to see if there was a solution. I scoured the internet, looking for a shoe designer that had addressed this issue and it didn’t exist, so I invented it. I wanted to create a shoe that could be manufactured with a variety of options.
Kara, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do? I studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and spent my professional life as an apparel designer, specializing in knitwear for brands such as Ralph Lauren and Talbots. I came up with the idea while commuting back and forth to NYC for my job. I had commuting shoes, a dozen pairs of shoes under my desk and if I had an evening event, another pair in my shoulder bag. I searched for shoes that could morph from one look to another and couldn’t find it. I could not imagine that I was the only woman going through this problem. I scoured the internet, looking for a shoe designer that had addressed this issue and it didn’t exist, so I invented it. I wanted to create a shoe that could be manufactured with a variety of options. I also felt the need to reduce footwear’s environmental impact by reusing what one may already have and make it last longer, decreasing the number of shoes dumped in landfills. My kitchen island became my ‘Research & Development Lab’, working with various chemicals and teaching myself how to mold and cast. I eventually figured the interchangeable heel and cover design out and worked with an engineer who had 3D prototypes made. In 2014 I was lucky to have scored a meeting with Shark Tank investor Daymond John. Although the meeting with Daymond was not to secure investment, the words he said were powerful to me. “This idea can be huge!” With this I quit my job as a apparel designer and went all in with my idea. I decided to manufacture my collection in Brazil and sent them a few samples to duplicate so I could confirm the quality was up to my standards. However, I asked them not to put heels on the samples. They thought I was a nut-case. Within a few months of finalizing three low heeled shoe designs, I hopped on a plane to Brazil, met these two agents, spent a week driving from factory to factory and six weeks later, 750 pairs of shoes arrived at my house. My vision became reality. The result, a women’s shoe that has permanent heels attached to them but can instantly be changed into different looks by swapping out the heel covers. One pair of our shoes, sandals or boots can morph into dozens of looks with our interchangeable accessories that we call “candy”. It took about five years to build the rest of the collection which includes four different heel heights and shapes and ten classic shoe styles. I traveled the country showing my shoes at Women’s and Shoe conferences, fashion pop ups and through social media. All the while meeting new customers and gaining proof of concept. It’s 2023 and we are in another phase of development. I am on a mission to be launching an innovative solution that will help make the planet a little bit greener and hope that some decision makers in footwear follow our lead. Reduce waste by educating women that you can own less but wear more and keep more shoes out of the landfill. I designed and sampled the first 100% Eco-Friendly leather boots that are comfortable, durable and will last a long time. Good for the environment because they biodegrade 90% faster than a traditional leather shoe once disposed of in landfills. I am so proud of this new adventure being crowdfunded on I Fund Women. https://ifundwomen.com/projects/kara-mac-shoes-eco-friendly-womens-boots and am honored to also be recognized by UPS as a winner of the “ Proudly Unstoppable” award through NAWBO, National Association of Women Business Owners.