Actress Yeardley Smith puts her fashion savvy on display with Marchez Vous shoes.
On a cold, gray evening in March, excited onlookers file into the shoe boutique Sole Amour in downtown Andover hoping to catch a glimpse of—or, better yet, meet—the actress Yeardley Smith. Smith, of course, is most famous for lending her diminutive yet distinct voice to the character Lisa Simpson on the long-running hit TV show bearing her character’s last name. But on this night, it’s not Yeardley Smith the actress these fans have come to see. It’s Yeardley Smith, designer of high-end women’s footwear, who has come from California to Andover to promote her brand and to help Sole Amour, which carries it, fete its second anniversary.
Three years ago, Smith launched Marchez Vous, her self-designed line of beautiful, Italian-made women’s footwear. As is evidenced by the event’s impressive turnout, the brand has proved popular among its intended customers, a particular subset of women who Smith had in mind from the very beginnings of her business.
“[Marchez Vous is] for women who are not necessarily slightly older but who have decided, ‘I need [stuff] that works,’” she says. “As women,” continues Smith, “we want the right equipment for the right job, whether that’s a husband, a car, a nanny, or a pair of shoes, and we won’t settle for stuff that doesn’t help us get on to the things on our to-do list that are the most meaningful.”
Perhaps it was easy for Smith to identify her target customer early on because she counted herself among them. “I sort of got into the shoe business to solve a problem, which was that I didn’t have any beautiful shoes that were comfortable enough to carry me through my day,” she says. With her mission in mind, Smith assembled a small team and set to work.
From here, it would be easy to presume Smith to be just another multi-hyphenate celebrity trying to cash in on her clout. Ours is, after all, a world where nearly every starlet’s personal brand comes complete with her own perfume or product line. But Smith differs in many ways from other celebrities with similar side projects. Chief among them is that Marchez Vous’s designs are all her own, inspiration for which she derives from industry trends, demand within the market, and, perhaps more so than anything else, their performance potential.
Of conjuring up designs that are timely but that remain true to her own taste, Smith says, “I read fashion magazines, but more on the trade side. I always give a nod to the trends because it sort of says to the buyers and consumers that you’re relevant, but if orange is trending and it’s not my favorite color, then I’m not going to do a whole collection in orange.”
That same commitment to the cause sets Smith apart from her entertainer-designer peers in another way: Rather than sourcing synthetic materials and Chinese factories, which would yield larger volumes at lower costs, Smith chooses to use fine materials and to have her shoes handmade in Italy. It’s the only way, she says, to achieve the high level of craftsmanship she wants customers to find in their Marchez Vous shoes. With flats starting at $295, pumps at $375, and high boots at $675, the line’s price point is certainly reflective of its high quality.
“Originally, when I came up with the idea to do a shoe line, I thought it would be great to do a much lower price point shoe, but for the kind of shoe that I wanted to make, and [to use] the kind of materials that I gravitate toward, which are the finest suedes and leathers, it was actually not possible,” Smith says. “You really get to cut your price when you get into huge amounts of volume, which we will do at some point, but we’re not there yet.” And that’s just fine by Smith, who, lacking any technical training, submits hand-drawn sketches of her designs to an assistant who is proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) software and “can input it into a format that the factories much prefer over my hieroglyphic scribbles,” Smith says.
For now it seems a winning formula. Marchez Vous customers get beautiful, well-made shoes for their buck, and Smith gets to channel her self-proclaimed lifelong expensive taste and knack for detail into a successful product on which she’s proud to put her name.
If Smith’s track record as an actress is any indication—”The Simpsons” is now entering its 24th season—her alter ego as a shrewd businesswoman and savvy designer can look forward to a long and happy road ahead.
To view the current Marchez Vous collection, visit marchezvous.com. For more about Sole Amour, visit soleamour.com.