Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
Some founders seemingly have no choice but to start their own company. They’re so deeply connected to a passion that at some point, naturally, a brand is born. Jamie Haller is that type of founder. A veteran of the fashion industry with an interest in restoring historic homes, Haller launched her eponymous shoe label in 2020 after realizing each part of the brand – product, messaging, packaging – was already living in her mind.
Thoughtful design and Italian sacchetto construction lend themselves to this intentionally small line of ballet flats and loafers. They’re comfortable, chic, sustainable, and made to be worn every day – both a work of art and heart. Below, Jamie Haller shares her view of the fashion world. Dive in – it’s a refreshing experience.
I’d love to learn more about your story. What were you up to before you landed here?
JH: “I spent several years in corporate environments in Los Angeles before moving into more intimate design settings (I wanted to be hands-on with the product and have creative control). I worked for a company called Ever, and then NSF for about 12 years designing different categories of clothes. I've always loved denim and have been a fan of vintage – even a personal collector of vintage clothes.
Covid hit fashion particularly hard, and I wasn’t working for a while as the industry shook out. That made me want to do something that I was in more control of. It’s funny – right before Covid, I had coffee with a friend who’s an actual shoe designer, and asked my thoughts on if she should start a shoe line. She had every reason to do it – the relationships, the experience – but she didn’t know what she wanted them to look like, what her messaging would be. I realized at coffee that I knew exactly what I would design – which sole, shape, materials, packaging, etc. I left feeling so strangely motivated – and when Covid hit, I had this clarity: ‘I'm going to do that shoe line.’
I’ve just kept stepping forward. I’ve always led with my heart."
I’d love to learn more about the design and ethos behind Jamie Haller Shoes. What are you hoping to build?
JH: “The way that I am personally informs how, at least so far, I've built the business. I really value timeless, high quality things – things whose form and function I go back to constantly. I always wear ballet slippers. I've been collecting men's penny loafers my whole fashion collecting career. They are these things that define me.
I found the Jutti slipper 15 years ago in a market in India. I didn't invent it, but I purchased a pair and wore them for years and years. The fact that I could wear them with everything and every day really resonated with me. That’s how I dress: I wear the same thing every single day. Eventually, I wore them so much that there was literally no way to repair them.
I worked in fashion on 12 lines a year, 50 styles in a line and couldn’t even wear all of the things I made. There’s so much waste and drop off in fashion. I want to create such iconic silhouettes that people respond with, ‘I wear these every single day.’ That’s a huge compliment to me.”
Can you walk me through your production process?
JH: “I had no experience as a footwear designer. Through talking to a lot of people, I got connected with an Italian product developer. She introduced me to a small atelier that’s over 100 years old and limits how many shoes they make per day. It’s a very small and intimate space, and it’s also very luxury-minded (they work with really amazing clients).
It’s a culture of craftsmen and makers and a family that’s been finetuning a craft for quite some time. I can walk into the space, metaphorically, and show them a sketch or provide some kind of reference, and they help me do the rest.
They gave me the choice of making sacchetto shoes or regular lasted shoes. With a lasted shoe, which is how most shoes are made, they set the skin over the last and sew it to the sole. In sacchetto fashion, they sew the upper to a sole and then flip it inside out, and it makes a little bag (I've been told that sacchetto means ‘little bag’), so it creates a contoured, glove-like fit. Both are high quality ways to make shoes, but when you put the sacchetto one on your foot, it's like a hug. It’s one of those things you can’t unfeel.”
It sounds like, from a fashion perspective, you're inspired by timeless designs and hopping out of the trend cycle. I've read about your work restoring interiors, too. Is there any interplay there?
JH: “Both fit in very nicely with what I value: age, patina, story, authenticity. Whether it's restoring a house or making a slipper, I'm always coming from a place where my heart led me. From there I want to craft authentically and with high quality.
With homes, it’s not fast fashion but it’s fast flipping. There's so much trend driven design that does not resonate on an energetic level with the soul of something. I live in a historic home in Los Angeles, in a historic neighborhood, so I am in a bubble of walking around in a neighborhood of Victorian and Craftsmans. When we bought it, I had the most fun experience stripping the paint off and bringing the wood back, restoring the hundred year old floors, and finding the salvaged plumbing fixtures. All those things spoke deeply to me, and that's what I'm inspired by– that storytelling narrative.
Leather patinas as it’s a living material. Same as a countertop or a piece of brass. All of those things are the same in my world. I just keep doing me in all these other places.”
With all of the projects that you’re working on, how do you envision your future?
JH: “I'm looking to expand my team a little bit and bring on people to help me. I am introducing new silhouettes: I made a boot for next fall, and then I have another couple of shoes in the works. Down the line, I have no idea. Maybe I'll make clothes. Focusing on just my shoes and my homes is a recent transition for me, so instead of having three full-time jobs, I'm enjoying just having two.
I want to give myself some time to kind of reframe who I am again. I think in five years I'll probably have a design firm and great clients, maybe a store shoe line. In the meantime, I'm just trying to catch up to myself.”