Simon Spurr might take issue with those who’d say the defining extremity of iconic rock style is the hair, always the hair, whether it’s cropped, ratted, leonine, or sculpted into a towering quiff. Instead, he is of the opinion it all starts from the ground up. Enter stadium left then Spurr’s latest venture, a shoe label called March NYC, which has all the good old-fashioned swagger of a rock goddess or axe hero tuning up to play the greatest hits; think one part Debbie Harry, one part Jimi Hendrix. It’s a collection of ankle boots, flat or with Cuban heels, in various animal-print leathers—leopard, snow cat—as well as black or sand suede and that’s it. It’s really that simple, but then so is a three-chord guitar riff and that has also been the basis of most enduring rock songs.
It’s the first independent venture from the English-born, New York–based designer, who has been busy consulting for various brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, ever since he stepped away from his own self-named label Spurr. (That label got him a place in the 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.) Over the phone one afternoon, he chatted about why he launched March NYC, and why he’s happy to be doing his own thing again, getting people’s feet tapping. The shoes, incidentally, are being sold at Carla Sozzani’s 10 Corso Como store that opened this past September in New York’s Seaport district.
So, why the name, Simon? What’s the story?
It’s called March NYC because I wanted a strong name, a name that was really indicative of what I was designing. It’s actually inspired by a family name—you’d have thought I would have learned my lesson [laughs]—the March family, who were bronze sculptors; they made several war memorials, and Winston Churchill commissioned them to do his bust. I’d thought about calling it just March, but it’s impossible to copyright that, given it’s the name of a month. So it’s March NYC because I live here in New York, and also the N, the Y, and the C is a play on New Youth Culture.
Yet the label also speaks to classic rock style; a kind of timeless culture.
Subconsciously, it was paying homage to certain bands; music has been prevalent in my life, ever since hearing Adam and the Ants or Depeche Mode through my older brother. But ultimately it was a natural and organic way of expressing myself. And hopefully people will embrace it, and get on board with it. I like to think they’re conversation-starters. When you’re out and about, you get into conversations that you might not otherwise have!
Tell me about why you decided to launch a shoe line.
I have always made things for me to wear, and I started making boots for myself in 2016. I found this small Italian factory through the people who were making the leather pieces [for his former label] in Florence. I had a pair of brown and tan zippered boots in calfskin—they call it ponyskin—which are very Lenny Kravitz. When I wore them, I’d get people stopping me—in the street, ma?tre d’s, in shops—asking me where I’d gotten them from. So, we launched in early 2017 with men’s, and it is still a very small company. We’ve just launched women’s now; getting the fit right for that took a bit longer.
Yet essentially the women’s and men’s look exactly the same, which I like; just because you started doing women’s shoes you didn’t just think, Oh, I’d better do a high heel.
That might come in time, but yes, the men’s and women’s shoes look exactly the same, yet they are cut differently. Women, especially when it comes to shoes, are particular—they have a lot more to choose from and comfort is important. If I made the women’s shoes comfortable, I knew I’d be off to a good start.
Where are you making them?
The boots are hand-made in a place in Italy called Montevettolini, in a small factory in the hills, a father-and-son operation. All the boots, regardless if they’re for men or women, are done with a Bologna sole construction. It means the upper is stitched to the sole from the inside. It takes longer to do, but they won’t ever come apart. And rather than use a hollow plastic heel, which so many brands do, we’re using a stacked leather heel; it really absorbs the pounding on the streets, which is better for the spine.
It’s interesting the line sprang from your own pair of boots; I always thought of you as having a much more Anglo-preppy vibe, Simon!
I’m actually like a lot of designers and I wear black! It’s easy, comfortable, and you can think about the job in front of you. I went for louder footwear to bring out a contrast to that, to personalize that uniform.
Given you’re able to start anew with this project, are you also thinking about how to connect with customers differently, not do things the usual and expected way?
I’m looking into partnering with bands, and offering a different way for customers to connect with the bands and with me, letting them purchase the boots when they’re seeing the band play live. But buying a $795 boot in one go isn’t for everyone. So right now we’re already selling them through Instagram via something called QuadPay, which allows you to pay for them over time. I’ve also just started working with Ross Lynch, who’s in a band called R5; he’s an ex-Disney kid, but more the Ryan Gosling school of Disney! And we’re about to sign a female ambassador for the brand; once we have, you’ll be the first to know!