Radical Yes Founder Kerryn Moscicki On Letting The Customer Guide Design

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

Image: Radical Yes founder Kerryn Moscicki.

Radical Yes makes the kind of footwear that is both comfortable and will also stand the test of time. Their classic ballet flats, court shoes and slides are crafted by their dedicated maker and mentor, Paul – who owns a factory in Hong Kong and whose family has been in the footwear business for more than four decades now. But going back to the brand's beginnings, Radical Yes was first launched in 2013 by Product Designer and Yoga Practitioner Kerryn Moscicki – who was frustrated by her inability to find the perfect fashion-active shoe.

To this day, Radical Yes shoes offer the perfect confluence between fashionable footwear and something that you can run around in with ease. Specialising in flats and low heels, they make shoes that are built for the modern working woman – a woman whose pace of life is too fast to be worrying about blisters. So, to find out a little more about the Radical Yes journey, we asked Kerryn to share her story to date.

 

Rosie Dalton: Can you tell us a bit about how you first got into fashion?
Kerryn Moscicki: My Dad worked as the CFO for Sportsgirl for more than 20 years, so growing up I used to spend Saturday mornings at work with him in their old Redfern Road manufacturing space, wandering through reams of materials and sewing machines, or sneaking upstairs to the office and catching glimpses of upcoming products. It was a world that seemed so magical and creative, so I always knew I wanted to be part of it. My first job ended up being with Sportsgirl for a number of years and, from there, I had loads of great retail jobs in the late 90s with brands that really shaped my perception of the industry, before finishing my Business Degree studies and working as a Product Developer in apparel and then eyewear and accessories. 

Rosie: Why was it shoes, in particular, that you found yourself drawn to?
Kerryn: I guess over the years I have learnt that my design sensibility, especially my sense of palette, works best in small shapes and three-dimensional executions. I can see these things very clearly in my mind when I am working on a range. I have always loved accessories – much more so than apparel – because I love how much personality they can transmit. Because accessories don’t hang off the body in the same way as a garment does, there is an element of forgiveness and playfulness to them, which I have always really loved. Shoes can be so expressive and personal. I think that’s why I enjoy making them so much.

Rosie: When did you decide to launch Radical Yes and how has it evolved since then?
Kerryn: I really feel like the brand chose me. Somehow it has manifested itself through these insanely serendipitous moments. From a pragmatic point of view, it really began with my maker and dear friend Paul, who offered to support us in producing a collection. We had always had a great working dynamic and had produced many ranges together while I was working for other brands. At the time that he reached out, I was on a break from the industry and very immersed in teaching Yoga – I was 1000 miles from ever wanting a label, but Paul persisted. Literally on the yoga mat one day, I had this crazy idea about creating a hybrid lifestyle shoe that you could wear as easily with your yoga leggings as you could with an outfit for the art gallery. This ended up being our first silhouette ‘Abundance’. In the beginning all the shoes were made with athletic innersoles and more than 80% of them still are, but we have now evolved to include fully flexible traditional saddle stitch styles, like the ballet flats. The ideas of functionality, durability and usefulness were really the bedrock of the brand and it has just spun out from there.

Image: Radical Yes founder Kerryn Moscicki.

Rosie: Can you run us through the process of how your shoes come to be, from concept to creation?
Kerryn: We had been working with the same last (which forms the shape of the sole and silhouette) for a number of years – over 4 years. So for a long time it centered around how to continually reinterpret the upper in that silhouette to create economies and stay clever with materials. Last year, after much convincing from the team, I was finally brave enough to add some other shapes into the collection and it has been so liberating to start to think about the range in a much broader way. So concepts always begin around flat shoes, because we want to make products that are absolutely useful, comfortable and wearable before they are fashion-led. Our Product Developer, Sofia will build the mood boards and together we will digest and discuss how to interpret these ideas in our ranges. Sofia and I are in a constant dialogue on the range and she has a real knack of reading my mind. From there, we will build the material libraries on a development trip and source the materials before putting them into work with Paul. 

Rosie: What is the mood like in and around the Radical Yes studio?
Kerryn: Since we opened our first permanent store with the studio out the back, the mood is actually brilliant. Five years of working so hard from the kitchen table and a storage unit has really transformed into a space that's much more solid and committed. The studio itself is a 1940s shopfront with a meandering garden out the back and a fireplace in the middle. It's like a second home, with our kids running around. We have all been working together for some time now, so there is a lovely creative shorthand happening. I think everyone on the team shares very similar work values – we are late 90s DIY kids who are all very creatively motivated. Somedays it is like I woke up in the dream job I had always wanted.

Rosie: Can you tell us a bit about the team that makes up the brand?
Kerryn: My husband Leo has been working on the branding and web graphics with me since the beginning. He has been as dedicated as I have in wanting to make it work, because ultimately we imagine it as legacy for our kids. We really think about the brand in that Japanese sense of brand building – with 100 year plans – because then it makes the hard days seem very short.  He has a background in fashion marketing, having worked for brands like Mooks, Lee and even Sportsgirl, so he just brings this wealth of knowledge and reference. Sofia who is our Product Developer and Stylist on all our shoots has been working with me since the second collection in 2014 and I can honestly say I would never have gotten this far without her by my side. Sofia is originally from Sweden and has worked all over the world for huge international brands. I have worked with many people in the industry, but I have never met anyone with a sensibility sp closely aligned to my own. This is the same with Eddy, who is our Front of House Manager and works in our store, ‘The Fitting Salon’ taking such great care of our customers. Eddy has been with us for almost two years now and has seen the business change and bought so much of herself to the job. Our customers know Eddy by first name and come to the store just to visit her because she is so warm and charismatic. Eddy is also a highly regarded textile artist who has lived all over the world, so she brings a very cultured and informed approach into the studio space and our overall service. I feel so lucky with our team because they genuinely support my vision and contribute in a way that makes me dream bigger everyday.


Rosie: What were some of your main sources of inspiration behind the latest collection of footwear – in particular, those pieces that we currently stock on Well Made Clothes?
Kerryn: As the brand is growing, we're focusing on this very clean, minimally branded product with a pared-back upper silhouette that lets the materials be the hero. The selection of pumps on Well Made Clothes is a reflection of that ‘radically minimal’ concept. We really love to create products for modern women, so in that sense we always start the design process with the customer. We've been receptive to customer feedback about looking for a ‘small rise’ rather than a heel, for example; so this is where we began with developing the ‘Little & Often’ day heel. We literally road tested this shoe by running around in them first in the studio and then chasing after trams. 

Rosie: Finally, why do you believe it is so important for independent designers to support the continuation of traditional craftsmanship such as shoemaking?
Kerryn: In many ways it is probably only independent designers who are able to support traditional methods of manufacturing, because volume production scales are obviously more about automating process. Over the years I have worked with some very talented old school pattern maker masters and production technicians and, even with a language barrier, you can still have these crazy inspiring moments where they understand what you are trying to achieve in a design. I love that process and I love how passionate our maker is about shoe making. It’s an industry you really do need to love, because it is a hard category fraught with complication, especially in small-scale runs. I think this is one of the many reasons people should feel really good about supporting independent designers.

You can shop our full range of Radical Yes footwear over here

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