After Susanne and Christoph Botschen – founders of high-fashion website MyTheresa.com and its original namesake boutique in Munich – sold their business to the Nieman Marcus group four years ago, they did not turn their backs on the fashion world. Quite the reverse; the couple soon started thinking about a new project, one that meant dipping their toes into an area where other entrepreneurs have already trodden – selling women’s shoes online. Several sites in this area have foundered, for reasons such as stocking too wide a range, and the inevitable problem of returns in a field where size and fit are crucial.
Nothing daunted, the Botschens believe that their experience and selection of products will see them through. Their online shoe boutique MarthaLouisa has just launched and, instead of attempting to please everyone at all levels, it has a tight edit of both big brands and interesting newcomers, some of which are not widely stocked elsewhere. “Huge product ranges and hundreds of pages to scroll through are not customer-friendly,” says Susanne Botschen. “We are specialists, so we offer our selection.”
Brands with large ranges such as Gucci and Prada get the most space, but even then it is a pared-back offering, balancing the easy-to-wear with more flamboyant catwalk items. The site shows faith in new talents, such as Francesca Bellavita, whose pastel, wavy-edged sandals (from £380) are especially chic, and Samuele Failli, whose elegant range launched last year includes high suede sandals (£592). There are experimental collections from well-known Italian brands such as Alchimia di Ballin (the silver sandals with striped ankle cuff are £525), and there are interesting styles from emerging designers previously better known for clothes such as Attico (flat ankle-tie sandals, £444), Sies Marjan (Louis-heel metallic mules, £495) and Petar Petrov (block-heel ankle boots, £653).
Best of all, the Botschens have rounded up a series of exclusives, from Alexander White’s embroidered “mesh” high pumps (£511) to Prada’s pastel brocade platforms (£610). It’s early days for the site – other exciting brands like Aquazurra, Gianvito Rossi and Balenciaga are on the way.
The sizing issue has been addressed by giving full details of each style’s measurements and heel height along with an assessment of whether they are cut true to size, large or small. So far, they say, the returns rate is lower than the average for clothing, reflecting the expertise that should make shopping at MarthaLouisa a shoo-in.