The L.A. Stylists-Designers of Newbark Are Flat Out Cool
Ahead of their spring showing, the Malakpour sisters talk rock star style, their CFDA award nomination, and getting back to their roots.
Sisters Maryam and Marjan Malakpour are rockstar stylists who never intended to become shoe designers.
The Iran-born, Los Angeles-bred duo, whose chic clientele include Keith Richards, Selma Blair and The Strokes, had to get creative in 2009 when they simply couldn’t find the perfect cool, androgynous counterpart to the ballerina flat. “We were just looking for something that was an alternative to ballerina slipper, and in 2009, there weren’t many flats out there. It was just kind of the Lanvin, the Repetto, Tod’s,” Marjan told Pret-a-Reporter at NewbarK’s West Hollywood studio a week ahead of their spring 2017 presentation at New York Fashion Week. “And being stylists, we were like, ‘we need something cooler than that, more rock-and-roll.’”
Besides, they were desperately seeking a comfortable flat, too — in fact their name, NewbarK, is a reference to the age-old saying, “my dogs are barking.”
Thus the Jacks, a seamless, foldable loafer, was born, and immediately took hold; their first-ever order from Net-a-Porter exceeded 500 pairs. In the years following their launch, the sisters expanded their repertoire to include more styles — all designed with rockstars and above all else, comfort, in mind — including wedges, platform sandals, boots and even handbags.
However, after receiving the Vogue/ Fashion Fund finalist nomination, the sisters are reining back in the collection to focus on the loafer styles that are their bread and butter.
This spring season, the Jacks and the Melanies, a classic loafer whose heel can be folded down and worn as a slide, are the stars of the show. The sisters have outfitted the kicks in vintage fabrics sourced from Iran and inspired by “that kind of 1970s cool chick — '60s, ‘70s French rockstars or icons,” said Marjan, who noted traditional Japanese style as another aesthetic influence. “The person who is going to wear that is not going to be shy.”
At the presentation, taking place at Milk Studios on Sunday evening, the sisters will style the loafers as well as a few mules and their minimalist slides with vintage jackets and flared trousers, as well as looks from their "good friend," L.A. designer Juan Carlos Obando.
Though their recognition has them considering the growth of their brand, Maryam and Marjan are adamant about remaining in Los Angeles. They admitted that finding manufacturers to produce their seamless shoes, which can be folded and even turned inside out, thus making them the perfect alternative to a stiff, blister-inducing loafer, was a struggle initially, however they’re happily keeping production local. “It’s had its challenges, but it’s kind of become really important to us,” added Marjan of keeping their business based wholly in their hometown. "Everyone wants to move to L.A., so many Europeans and New Yorkers — they’re all coming! But yes, it’s great having it here; it’s a huge advantage."
Says Marjan of their long term plans for expansion, "Our ultimate goal is to become a lifestyle brand and have a beautiful boutique where we can work." Of the short term, however, re-releasing the Jacks in men's sizes is at the top of their list. But considering their styling background, would they ever consider clothing? "No," laughs Marjan. "We would rather do cushions. Clothes, there’s just so much of it out there."