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Shoes September, 22 2011

Talking Sebago With Mdot Booji

Footwear designer Mdot Booji is really much more than just that. She’s an all around smart and creative business woman who is about to be re-introduced to the fashion world with her upcoming Sebago collaboration for Fall/Winter 2011.

After working with major brands behind the scenes for years, and even launching her own brand, Mdot’s biggest collaboration to date will soon be released. That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to meet up with the San Francisco based entrepreneur to talk about her inspirations for the collection, how it all came about and of course her background.

Mdot, would you please describe yourself in one sentence.
I care a lot about my family, friends and enjoy spending my days perfecting my craft.

What is your professional background?
I’ve always had plans to design and build furniture. Did the whole specialized I-D school. In the end, took a leap of faith & landed in the shoe world with no clue about how this industry works or even making shoes. I was fortunate to work behind the scenes, in the production side of the business as well as my focus on sales/marketing. So learning every corner of the business and the designing came years later. Having positions in development, operations, sales and design all lead to me co-managing and art directing for an independent sneaker brand, JB Classics. Following that, I decided to bring to market my own brand/label.

Read on for the rest of the interview and to see the full Mdot Booji for Sebago collection.

Where do you think does your interest for designing come from?
Growing up I worked with my father, who was a food broker and other commodities. I grew up witnessing a lot of buying/selling, importing/exporting of products. So by the time I was in high school, I looked at products differently, more hypercritical than most people I think. This is definitely where I connected my up bringing with my excitement to create products.

In 2008 you started your own footwear and accessory brand Booji. What made you want to create your own brand?

Well it was something I put a lot of thought into. Actually had some samples made at that point. Fall of 2008, I was working more on the design consulting side of the business. As I was pursuing this, I received a lot of great feedback from the booji samples I was wearing to meetings and such. This ignited me to take that next step. Even though companies globally were closing down and the economic situation was bad worldwide, I went with it. Booji is a brand that is not specific to footwear yet shoes are what we specialize in at this time. It’s for the lifestyle, and it’s about the craft of making products.

After these years, how much would you say do the expectations you had before founding Booji, meet the reality?
Well I can say, I had opportunities I didn’t even dream of in the first years. It’s been great, yes the growth is slow and controlled, I prefer that though. Since I started a company post 2008, it definitely was a challenge, as buying power changed a lot from pre 2008. Budgets are smaller, so very little room for a new small independent brand. Yet Booji had the chance to be placed at some of the best shops globally. To still be here was definitely an expectation that met reality.

Now you’ve been asked to design your own line for Sebago. How did that collaboration come about?
I met Tom Siano from Sebago (he’s cool ppl). We started talking and one email led to another. I shared my opinions about their current women’s designs. We agreed on a lot about the business and growth opportunities. Sebago asked me to assist them with their women’s business. Which then I was invited to be a part of the Artisan program and design my own line. As well as some other programs I will bring to market with Sebago the next few seasons. Stay tuned.

What were your main inspirations, when creating the line?
Sebago gave me free range, allowing me access to check out all the archive silhouettes dating back to 1940’s. After looking through everything, I decided to take their current classics and remix them for the first season. Like the Montauk model, the classic docksides with a cutout on the toe vamp. I wanted this model to be convertible. So you can wear it bare (no socks) or with contrast/colored socks, like some cute Happy Socks.

How does the working process with Sebago look like? How much does it differ from your work with Booji?
Yeah, it differs a lot. For instance, the design/development period for each season is much longer than I have for Booji. They design so far out in advance. Also, the factory was such a different vibe than I’m used to. Their factory in the DR (dominican republic) is so full of life. People are happy, they play music all day, it starts off slow with love ballads, and gets alive with Merengue music after lunch, as they rock to the beats and work, you can even catch some dancing. I have been visiting factories in Asia for years now and it’s always a very factory robotic feel. Everyone all serious and submissive, you don’t find people dancing to music. I really enjoyed the vibe of Sebago’s DR factory. Not to mention, the people are so nice and I made some friends.

In the last few years you worked with a decent amount of brands, are there any left that you would love to work with but haven’t had the chance yet?
Yes, I do mostly behind the scenes work with other brands. Where I work with them closely on color direction, design briefs, market strategy, etc. However, on a collaborative effort, I definitely would love to work with Sorel, Samsonite, & Burton to name a few. Expanding into different markets with products I love and use myself.

Interview: Misla T

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