Meet the Maker: Tom Kirkhope of Alias Mae

Established in 2011, Tom Kirkhope set out to create a unique footwear brand with high end details at a more accessible price point. Alias Mae was born and has been creating incredible boots, heels and sandals ever since. Tom shares the Alias Mae story, his design process and his favourite words of wisdom with the Superette team.

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Alias Mae founder, Tom Kirkhope

                                                 

When and how did Alias Mae come about?

I launched my first collection in 2011 after being the range builder for a brand called Siren for six years. I really enjoyed my time at Siren but wanted to do my own thing and felt that the time was right.

My intention for the Alias Mae was to create a unique signature of high-end detail at a more accessible price. I saw this as being an opportunity mainly because there were now the factories in southern China that could do it. High skill factories with a real eye for detail and a passion for the product. They refer to themselves as artisans (when roughly translated).

 

How would you describe the Alias Mae customer? 

Tough one…. We like to push the boundaries with our more forward part of the range but we also make really good quality basics. I think our girl likes to make brave fashion choices whilst keeping her style somewhat refined, she is current and appreciates detail.

 

robertapecoraro

Noah Heel

 

Any advice you would give to someone thinking of starting a brand?

I’m a believer in product so I would say, make sure your resources are good and you’ve got a good relationship with them. I actually lived in China in a shoe factory nearly 20 years ago so the whole evolution didn’t come easily. Maybe some are lucky but solid relationships with factories don’t happen when you haven’t put the work in.


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Paris Sandal | Lexis Heel

 

What’s your design process and is there anything you do to help to get the ideas rolling?

Normally I’ll travel before I build a range. I get a lot of inspo from London and Paris so I’m there normally at least twice a year. Like the rest of the fashion industry, looks and trends spread like wildfire. If we’re not first in we are looking for what’s next… we don’t want to be a ‘band wagon’ brand. Having said that, a lot of the inspiration comes when working in the sample room or ferreting through the footwear market in Guangzhou. It’s a bit tough at the moment obviously so I’m relying on my amazing Chinese team to feed the inspiration over video’s and DHL packages.

 

What inspires your collections and aesthetic and how do you keep it relevant? 

Inspiration can come from anywhere really. I don’t want to put the brand signature in a box because it’s just more fun to experiment. All sorts of things can inspire us and we will just have a go at it. As long as we can engineer it to fit well and we’re utterly proud of it… I say go for it. I don’t feel as though it’s hard to stay relevant but sometimes we may overshoot the mark….haha, that happens.

 

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Knight Boot | Lilo Heel

 

Do you have a favourite style that you’ve created over the years?

There was a block heel shoe that was a little out of character for me because it was only 75mm which was low for us up until a couple of years ago. Anyway, the business was in a bit of trouble due to footwear stores going broke one after the other and our lives were half spent chasing debts. We really needed a good shoe to connect us with some good quantities. So, there was a shoe with a really comfortable fit that was really unique to us. Thankfully this shoe worked so well that ‘block inset heel with a stitched rand and belt inked upper’ was a look that I extrapolated out and it really became the whole look of the range for a couple of years. It was also the look that got us into Revolve and the USA which has just been a great opportunity for us.

 

 

What is something not that many people know about you or your brand? 

 

Fun fact, there is no rhyme or reason for why Alias Mae is called Alias Mae. I just woke up one day and those two simple words were in my mind and I rolled with it.

 

 

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Yuri Heel | Noah Heel

 

What has been the absolute highlight of your brand / career to date?  

 

I won an Australasian Footwear industry young achiever award in 2007. It was really unexpected but a very proud day for me.

 

What are you listening to right now?

I’m listening to a lot of local Melbourne producers. I feel as though electronic music production has become exciting again. Fantastic Man, Tornado Wallace, Midnight Tenderness and some great Waxo Paradiso mixes.

 

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Knight Boot

  

What’s your daily go-to outfit?

Sneakers, sweats and pretty much anything else in my wardrobe that is comfortable.

 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

 

The less you say the more you hear.

 


What should every woman have in her wardrobe?

Alias Mae shoes and if I had to pick for everyone it would be our Paris slide from this Spring Summer collection.

 kirstyfleming

Paris Slide

 

What’s your favourite thing about living in Melbourne?

Most of all it’s my family and friends. Having said that, the music culture that I miss so much and the amazing restaurants and cocktail bars.

 

Can you share with us any of your local hidden gems? (Could be food, shopping etc. any must see’s / do’s).

A small Sardinian restaurant named 'Da Noi', this place truly is a gem. Look it up and give it a try, you will not regret it!

 

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Da Noi, South Yarra

 

Where is your favourite destination of all time and why?  

Japan, for obvious reasons, the fashion, the culture, the food. A lot of our latest constructions have been Japanese inspired.

 

 

Where to from here, what’s next for Alias Mae?

Well, that is the most exciting part of being in the industry I am in, it is forever evolving and changing and as a business, so are we. To become a more internationally recognised brand is a big one for us and the UK is our next venture with stockists over there placing orders with us at the moment.

 

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