“It’s always been in my head that whatever I was going to do for ‘work,’ I needed to enjoy it as much as not working. So therefore I had to build a whole world of my own in which I could come to work every day and be enthusiastic about doing it”. – Marc Hare
Isn’t that the dream, the life vision for every man – work, but never feel like it’s labor. For Marc Hare, founder of the eponymous shoe label Mr. Hare, it’s more than a reverie. He is living this statement and pushing the boundaries of what it means to live on purpose, or rather, with intention. On a rainy day in London, we catch up with Marc at Mr. Hare’s flagship shop in London’s Mayfair district (also home to Prada, Chanel and Tiffany’s) to talk about shoes, the brand, how his Jamaican heritage has impacted his craft, and to hear his musings on life.
Five years ago on a tapas-eating road trip around Spain, Marc had a eureka moment. While admiring a stranger’s shoe in a bar, he started to analyze how much better they would be if they were “a little bit longer and Darby style.” In that split second, he had his A-ha moment – ‘OH MY GOD! I should just make shoes… I’ve been obsessed with shoes all my life’. And that was the beginning of the brand the world has come to know as Mr. Hare. Fast-forward to 2013, Mr. Hare, the brand, has become a staple in the men’s fashion arena, showing at varied fashion weeks: London Fashion Week Men’s, Pitti Uomo, Paris Fashion Week, and donning the feet of the world’s leading style enthusiasts and celebrities. The world’s leading retailers sell Mr. Hare, and they just opened an outlet in Japan. Marc Hare is redefining the luxury shoe landscape to create shoes that exude a classic, but fresh design aesthetic.
One would think he had it all, but the circumstances prior to Mr. Hare’s advent read like a bleak novel. After chatting about Major Lazer (who visited the shop not too long ago), he speaks of a road trip through Spain with a broken leg, no job, and an impending divorce. That was the not-so-great precursor to the conception of the brand. His recollection of the realities he faced then doesn’t evade him. One can tell from his honesty that it’s a part of his bushel of life experiences that he embraces and credits somewhat for his success.
Sensing an opportunity to talk about his Jamaican heritage we broached the topic. Holding one foot of a pair of loafers, he reveals the impact his heritage has on his designs. “It would always be about my Jamaican uncles flossing high-class shoes that you don’t see for the rest of the year”, says Marc describing a happy New Year’s Eve party. Pointing to the shoe in his hand, he says, “This is the New Year’s Eve shoe, which is dedicated to my Jamaican uncles. It’s ‘The Loafer’ you pull out that just blows every other loafer out of the water”. With six tassels, we both agree it looks like a bouquet of flowers and channels the cultural flamboyancy of the islands. As for his distinctive dreadlocks, he shares that it wasn’t his ‘Jamaican-ness’ that inspired it but rather his religious upbringing. “My dad was Rastafarian so I grew up in a Rastafarian house. Not very strict, but by the book”. It should be noted, however, that he only started growing locks at the age of seventeen. As Marc tells the story, the silence in the room buffers the panoply of happy emotions he exudes.
The Mr. Hare shoe transmits many of Marc’s life experiences from the colors and the style to the name each shoe bears. “It’s largely to do with heroes,” he revealed when asked about the names. “If your name is on one of my shoes then you’ve done something to inspire me and take me above the normalcy of daily life with the thing you created. So that’s where all the names come from… One season we did authors, (all the books that I’ve read that have inspired me); the next season we did producers. In authors, we have Orwell, Fitzgerald, and all the people I like to read”. In talking about the varied shoe styles he has created, Marc gave insight into their conception. “Every time I make a shoe it’s because there is a gap in my wardrobe. There’s something that I haven’t got to wear to that place so we make it”. It doesn’t take long to realize that the Mr. Hare brand is a real representation of the things Marc enjoys.
“You only get somewhere by making a plan and following it. Not many people get to where they want to be by accident,”
Some mild discourse about growing up in South London leads us to a more serious topic, the struggle of blacks in any business arena. Although one of the few black owners of a global luxury shoe label, Marc says, “I don’t really look at the strive as being a black person or a mixed race person. The struggle is a struggle for every person out there. I know a lot of people with a lot of talent, who can’t get a lift up in life and it’s got nothing to do with their color or where they’re from. It’s just getting a lift up in life is not an easy thing whoever you are”. The solemn look on his face while he speaks unveils the glimmer of a man connected to his humanity. If anything, from this, Marc demonstrates the understanding that he is fortunate to be who, what and where he is at this present moment.
“You only get somewhere by making a plan and following it. Not many people get to where they want to be by accident,” says Marc as we go on to talk about some of the label’s most recent accomplishments. Clearly, he thought about what he was doing. Perhaps it can be credited to his fashion marketing background or his years of planning. In talking more about his hope for Mr. Hare, his answer exposes the core aspiration for his life’s work. “My hope was always to do something that supported me in my life and something that enough people liked, for it to be relevant and for people to look at what I do and say, ‘That’s good.’ Whether they buy it or not… to just look at it and go, ‘Fair dues to that guy, he did a good job’”.
Marc has achieved something many designers will only dream of, and he has done it without any formal design training. He credits his team and a 62-year-old shoe designer named Ciliano, who worked for Bally for 30 years and whom he calls a legend of Hip Hop as Doug E Fresh (in La Di Da Di) rapped about the Bally shoes Ciliano was making back in the 80s. When asked about his secret to success earlier in our conversation, he revealed his approach to Mr. Hare. “The one thing that I knew is that all I needed was to make some incredible shoes that people said ‘I NEED TO BUY THOSE SHOES.’ Around that, I didn’t really need anything else”. This clear focus has allowed Marc to continue to create quality shoes and to secure a brand that has amassed an avid following from Javier Bardem, Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr., through to Tinie Tempah. While many may try to duplicate his effort, one thing is clear, Marc Hare’s mark has yet to be fully made. The etchings of his legacy are yet to be complete, its depth is now excavating and the steps for his onward climb lies before him.