If you took a stroll through New York City's Soho neighborhood back in 2013, it would be nearly impossible to make it a block without spotting a woman in a pair of Rag & Bone boots. The contemporary brand's iconic Newbury and Harrow ankle boots were the type of footwear that created a long line of imitators and continue to be sold still, all these years later. Credit for such reverberating success goes to Lauren Bucquet, who spent 10 years as the brand's director of footwear and accessories until 2016. Now, she's striking out on her own with the launch of Labucq, a direct to consumer footwear brand inspired by what she actually wants herself. Labucq's luxe-yet-affordable boots, heels, and slides are all about creating footwear you'll own for the next 10 (or even 20) years.
"Even classic silhouettes evolve," Bucquet says in an email interview. "The things that we want to wear on a daily basis will slowly rearrange themselves to fit in with the current time. When I design classic silhouettes, I’m always considering whether this is something that I really want to wear now." While she may incorporate a pop of color or a sleek snakeskin, Bucquet avoids following any trend too closely. "Things move so quickly now that the only way to stay ahead is to set your own path," she says.
And set a path she has. Bucquet took a step back after leaving her role at Rag & Bone, eventually realizing that she was ready to launch her own line. "I saw a real gap in the direct-to-consumer space. While several online brands were offering shoes at great price points, when I saw their product up close it disappointed me. These shoes didn't stand up to the claims that were made to sell them." And so, Lubucq (a portmanteau of her first and last names) was born.
Her first collection includes a sharp edit of shoes that lightly touch on trends — a sleek snakeskin boot, an embossed mule — without losing sight of a minimalist simplicity that makes them so easy to wear. Prices for this first drop all remain below $500, with a slouchy over-the-knee boot coming in at $495, the highest price point. Every piece in the collection is either leather or suede — including the standout blueish-gray snakeskin style, the Jules Mineral Python. And while using the word "comfortable" to describe a pair of shoes can come off as a sartorial critique (no matter how outdated the "beauty is pain" idiom may feel, it still carries weight for some), in the case of Labucq, comfort and style manage to coexist successfully.
"I once read that the best shoes are the ones that you don’t have to think about while you’re wearing them," explains Bucquet. "Luxury should mean that your feet don’t hurt at the end of the day." To fulfill the promise of designing shoes that not only look good, but feel good too, she sweated the details. "The last is where it all begins," Bucquet notes (the last is a foot-shaped cast used in designing footwear). "I custom developed each last shape by hand with my last-maker in Italy, making every toe shape and heel pitch just right."
But, while attention to design has been at the core of Labucq's launch, the bigger challenge for Bucquet has been the leap into full-blown entrepreneurship. "I try not to get too distracted or overwhelmed by everything that I am juggling, from raising capital to international logistics, but it has certainly been challenging at times taking on so much." Still, the shift to complete ownership has been a long-term dream for Bucquet. When asked about what she's most excited for now that launch day has arrived, her response is simple.
"There is nothing better than seeing people wearing and enjoying something that you have worked so hard on to create. I’m looking forward to the day when I can see a stranger in Labucq."