It would undoubtedly be easy for Deadly Ponies founder and creative director Liam Bowden to stick to his knitting. After all, the brand’s handbags have garnered a cult following far and wide. Yet, it doesn’t appear to be Bowden’s nature to rest on his laurels.
It’s been a busy few years for the brand: with various collaborations, the arrival of vegan-friendly leather alternatives, a carbon-zero certification, and let’s not forget the ambitious goal to create the ‘world’s most ethically responsible handbag’. “We’re always willing to challenge ourselves,” says Bowden. “We are constantly developing new styles, working on collaborations, and have introduced numerous categories to Deadly Ponies’ core offering, like silks and leather jackets.”
Like many fellow creatives, lockdowns, travel restrictions, and everything the pandemic unleashed meant that throughout the turmoil, there was a moment for Bowden and his team to press pause and reconsider the future of Deadly Ponies. “After such a restrictive few years, we’ve had the chance to reflect and focus on the direction of the brand,” says Bowden. “We wanted to work on something that was fun, and challenged us creatively. We’ve wanted to explore footwear for a while now, and it has always felt like the next step.”
Bowden says there’s no fundamental mindset shift that has to occur as they venture into new categories; instead, it’s all about the natural evolution of the brand. “We are constantly developing beautiful, sustainable leathers, and I’ve always known they would be perfect for a boot,” he says. “After years of hard work, we finally have the team, capabilities, and infrastructure in place to bring our other visions to life.”
Naturally, there were challenges along the way, and Bowden says to get to where they are, they’ve had to develop new skill sets; the fit of the footwear has been a considerable learning experience for the team. “We’ve had to not only perfect the style and comfort of the footwear but ensure that’s replicated across every size,” he explains.
Fit aside, Bowden says finding the perfect manufacturer to help evolve Deadly Ponies and bring the footwear to life wasn’t easy — particularly when travel has been largely off the cards for the past two years. “I think the biggest challenge in this venture was finding a factory that operated within our code of conduct and wanted to grow with us in product offerings,” he says. But they got there eventually. “We’ve ended up working alongside a small, family owned boutique manufacturer in Portugal, and to me, this team felt like the perfect fit for our business, aligning with our quality and family values.”
To introduce Deadly Ponies footwear, the brand has started with two enduring designs: the Rider boot and the Marengo boot. The first, named after Matisse’s iconic artwork ‘Horse, Rider and Clown’, is Deadly Ponies’ take on the timeless Chelsea boot and comes complete with a woven pull-tab in signature Deadly Ponies purple. The Marengo, named after Napoleon’s trusty steed, features a striking square toe, beautiful block heel, and signature brass zipper.
“When looking at footwear, we wanted to approach it the same way we did with our handbags and the collections we have built,” explains Bowden. “Deadly Ponies started as one handbag design, which led to two designs, then three, and so on. Through this process, we mastered skills and techniques, creating a name for bags that are durable and functional while having a soft, modern luxury to them.”
Launching in the winter and leading their foray into footwear with a boot made sense to Bowden. “Our goal was to create shoes that would become wardrobe staples and showcase our Deadly Ponies’ craftsmanship – I knew a boot could do just that,” he explains. “We have started with two designs that are timeless, ensuring only the highest quality and sustainable materials are used. Our footwear has been intricately handcrafted to last a lifetime while still being modern and desirable.”
While it’s very early days for the Deadly Ponies footwear offering, the Rider and Marengo boots are just the start of something Bowden promises will grow with time. The news is sure to delight the loyal fanbase Bowden says has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first two boots. “For us, it’s all about building the basics of our footwear collection. From there, we will look to surprise our customers by incorporating the fun concepts and materials we have within our limited-edition capsules.”
Over the years, I’ve invested in several Deadly Ponies pieces in a rather eclectic colour palette: lilac purple, a snakeskin print in zesty orange, rich merlot, and sunshine yellow, to name a few. Unsurprisingly my handbag collection is all the more cheerful and colourful for it.
Needless to say, I’m eager — as I’m confident all loyal Deadly Ponies fans are — to know whether the label’s penchant for the most eye-catching of colours will make an appearance in future footwear collections. Bowden tells me that the majority of leathers that Deadly Ponies develop have the capability to be crafted into footwear. “We are already working on different hues, textures, and prints for our handbags that could one day transform into a footwear collection.”
As for whether I’ll ever get that dream pair of 70s-inspired platforms heels to match my current Mr Cinch Mini in a vibrant moss-coloured shade, Bowden is enthusiastic: “Definitely,” he assures me. “We want to bring the same colour and creativity to the footwear that we have brought to our handbags.”