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Yeardley Smith On Comfort, Style and Reinventing Women's Shoes

Yeardley in front of styles from her fall 2013 collection. It was "gown Wednesday" in the office.
Yeardley in front of styles from her fall 2013 collection. It was "gown Wednesday" in the office.

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Unless you're a real Simpsons fanatic, you might not recognize star Yeardley Smith at the grocery store. Her face is a bit less famous than her voice, which she has used to bring character Lisa Simpson to life for more than 25 years. In addition to voice work and acting, Smith recently launched a sophisticated women's shoe collection named Marchez Vous that's crafted in Italy. This week, we headed to the Marchez Vous showroom to see the heels in person and to meet the tiny dynamo behind the line.

How did you get into the footwear business?
"Oh, just screw it, let's do it. I realized I didn't have any beautiful shoes that were comfortable enough to carry me through my day—I had a lot of clothes—and I thought well, that's sort of stupid. I met Ben [Cornwell, her COO], whose expertise was in apparel, and he did a lot of licensing deals. I think he thought it's just another stupid celebrity chicklet who wants to put her name on the bottom of a shoe and not do any of the work, that's just not how I roll. So I bring in 40 pairs of my own shoes and 80 swatches of fabric and I proceed to tell him how I'd reinvent the women's shoe. He knew a guy who knew a guy who knew two guys in Italy and nine months later I saw 13 protos of 13 shoes that I had designed. Neither of us knew the first thing about making shoes but now we actually know quite a bit."

How would you describe the aesthetic of the line, and how it's evolved?
"Well, we've had to introduce a lot more heel heights and constructions. I don't wear flats but we had to make a flat that I would consider Marchez Vous-worthy."

Why don't you wear flats?
"Because I'm short and I have fat ankles. And I think they make me look shorter and my ankles fatter. But, as I was saying, I love this flat. It's a little more formal than your folded-up-in-your-purse flat but I feel like that category is well served and I wanted to do something more elegant.

And if I had to say it in one sentence, the design aesthetic would be to take classic shapes and apply exquisite details so that your shoes last season after season after season."

How do you ensure comfort?
"Oh, we have Poron in the footbed. Poron is a dual-density foam that was invented by NASA that is like a little Tempur-Pedic mattress under the ball of your foot. We use that, we use hidden platforms wherever we can to mitigate the slope, especially a shoe with a super-high heel. But every shoe has Poron, even the flats. And also the heel strike. None of them are needle [thin]. Because psychologically you'd look that and think it's a car-to-the-bar shoe, that can't necessarily carry me through my day. It's a process and we're constantly trying to adjust. I wear all the shoes and if I arrive home and there's blood coming out of my eyes we've not done it! And we hear from the customers. The reaction is 90% so positive."

Would you ever do more than shoes?
"We just designed six bags for spring 2014. I'd love to do belts. If I could only have one accessory it'd be a belt. I would love to do a lot of dresses because I feel that there are five parts of a woman's body that she has an issue with—maybe not all five at once but there are five things that we worry about: our bust, the hemline, waist, hips and arms. So each garment, theoretically, would take care of at least two things. And because there are generally two body types in the world for women—you either have big hips and a big bum and a small waist or you have narrow hips and a thicker waist—so based on that very simple paradigm you could actually come up with a solution to several problems."

Marchez Vous shoes are available online and at Fred Segal Feet on Melrose, Bellagio Shoes in Santa Monica and Solecomfort in Newport Beach.
· Marchez Vous [Official Site]
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