You’ve probably seen them plastered across your Instagram feed or on the heels of your favorite influencers: chunky platforms, knee-high boots, and mules in bold patterns that range from gingham to daisies, in playful silhouettes and eye-popping shades like fuchsia and metallic silver. The brand? Larroudé. Over the past two years, the ’70s-influenced footwear has been quietly taking over the fashion industry, thanks in large part to its luxury appeal at a rather accessible price point.
But Larroudé might not have come to life in quite the same way had it not been for some unfortunate circumstances. One month after the start of the pandemic, its eponymous founder, Marina Larroudé, and her husband, Ricardo, both lost their jobs. As they found themselves in lockdown with their kids trying to figure out their next move, Marina, a fashion industry veteran who had previously held positions at Barneys, Teen Vogue, and Style.com, channeled her focus into launching a shoe line. It was something that had been on her mind for years. “Honestly, I remember reading a story about Tory Burch and how she started [her line] right after she had twins. She was home, and that was when she had that aha moment of creating her own brand and bringing it to market. It was when she wasn’t ‘in it’ that she could see it,” Marina explains over Zoom, from Larroudé’s office in Midtown Manhattan.
Marina finally felt like it was her time. She initially thought of designing private label shoes for Barneys, since she had done that at her last job, but some advice from her ex-colleagues to “start your own brand instead of trying to revive something” stuck with her. By December 2020, Larroudé had officially launched, with Marina and Ricardo as co-founders—the former the CCO, and the latter the CEO. “We did everything within a six-month period,” she recalls. The team, which began with five people, now has a headcount of 26, with an additional office in Brazil. Plus, Larroudé has a factory opening there next month.
Despite launching Larroudé during the pandemic, the designs weren’t exactly fit for the languishing, end-of-the-world vibes at the time. “We had few slides, but we didn’t develop a collection for the COVID era, or for lockdown,” she admits. “We created a brand for the long term.” The Larroudés wanted to introduce “a whimsical brand” that pedaled high-quality products. Marina’s rationale for the timing was simple: during the 2008 recession, retail was in shambles, but by 2010, “it was the best year ever.” That gave her hope. The less-than-ideal timing was, in fact, her sly advantage. While everyone was scaling back, she was able to subtly garner a slew of press and attention. “After the vaccine, [customers] came to us for those whimsical pieces. People wanted to have that joyful moment in their lives. It wasn’t planned, but it really helped us,” Marina says.
Comfort, for Marina, was also key. What makes Larroudé’s shoes special is just that: The landing for the top of your foot is five millimeters wider than any other shoe in the market. The width of where you are landing your feet is considerably wider, even in the high heel. “We put a memory foam inside the entire shoe that we call ‘the Larroudé cloud,’” she says. Having worked in luxury fashion, Marina saw a gap in the market for these kinds of shoes that were high-quality, with a price point that wasn’t too extreme. “I honestly saw it as a blank space, and I think that’s why we are still growing,” she adds.
Larroudé launched with just a few product lines: the Kate, a chic and sleek knee-high boot; the Miso, a chunky, retro flatform; the Colette, a mule with a slim heel; and the Lee, a pointed-toe ballet flat. It wasn’t long until it added several more styles, including its top-seller, the Dolly, a party-ready platform sandal. Larroudé has also expanded on the designs that have become hallmarks of their brand—the Miso, for instance, is now a clog and a boot, too. Many of the items are emblazoned with funky prints that include daisies, strawberries, gingham, and polka dots.
Marina’s upbringing in Brazil heavily influenced both the shoes’ playful sensibility and timelessness: “I am Brazilian, and I love my summer wardrobe,” she says. “I’ve had my wardrobe for 20 years. When I was thinking about the collection, I thought, I want something that’s collectible, that you can buy and wear and add into your life. Not something trendy you buy one season and are over the next.”
Much of the brand’s popularity and success can be credited to influencers and celebrities. “I knew a lot of people in the industry, so I was able to send them a pair and ask what they think,” she shares. But because Larroudé is a self-funded company, she didn’t have a huge budget. “It was very a mouth-to-mouth brand that we were building up,” Marina adds. After her fashion friends had tested out the goods, Marina began making inroads in Hollywood. Fans of Larroudé now include Amy Schumer, Drew Barrymore, Alicia Keys, and Mary J. Blige. As the brand has gained steam, it’s expanded into handbags and clutches—one which First Lady Jill Biden famously carried (and was subsequently sold out on Larroudé’s website).
Within a 12-month period, Larroudé has also had no less than eight high-profile collaborations, including Oscar de la Renta, Barbie, LoveShackFancy, and Melissa. The range of partnerships is a reflection of Marina’s personality—her affinity for both high-fashion and emerging designers. “I always worked in the fashion industry, but I never took myself too seriously,” she says. Larroudé’s latest collection with jewelry designer Jennifer Fisher launched December 1. “[Jennifer] is someone who loves fashion so much, and she was like, ‘We need to do a boot.’ So we thought, ‘Okay, what do women like us want that we cannot find at our price point in quality and comfort?’ That was when the collection came together,” she says of working with Fisher.
More brand partnerships are indeed on the horizon, but Marina is remaining tight-lipped about them for now. However, she has some dream collaborations in mind—a sneaker with Nike or something with Uggs since they’re “so cute and fuzzy” and are “having a moment” themselves. She also hopes to expand Larroudé into a full-fledged ready-to-wear brand. “We view Larroudé as a Vince Camuto—a bigger company that can host other brands,” Marina says. “That’s where we see ourselves in the future: growing beyond our own name into a multifaceted type of group.”
Ilana Kaplan is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She covers music, culture and entertainment and has written for Rolling Stone, The New York Times, NPR, GQ and more.