Situated on the north coast of the Greek island of Crete is the beautiful Chania, a rich community filled with artisans handcrafting the modern and extremely desirable Maria Farro leather sandals. Maria Farro not only has you covered for gorgeous Turkish towels but has managed to create the most sought-after modern footwear incorporating skillful traditional techniques mastered by one of the world’s oldest civilisations. We sat down with the female founder behind the brand, based in none other than Bondi Beach (Sydney) to hear more about her incredible story.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia where I studied fashion design and journalism. I did whatever I could to gain experience in a fairly limited industry at that time in Perth. I interned at local newspapers producing fashion news, and at one of the only local fashion brands. After deciding my future was not in journalism or styling, I saved up to move to London working with international brands and at high-end fashion shows – the experience was invaluable. I then worked for Opening Ceremony which was – at the time – one of the best retailers in the world. I finally settled in Sydney where I have been working in fashion PR and wholesale ever since. For the last six years I have been working on growing brands such as Reliquia Jewellery, Hunza G Swimwear and Blanca Studios to name a few, and have seen great success while doing my own brand part-time. Maria Farro is demanding more time from me, and I am now focused on working for myself.
Take us back to the start, and how Maria Farro came about?
My husband is Greek-Australian and his family is from the island of Crete, which is where my sandals are made. We used to travel to Crete a lot prior to 2020, and like most I developed a love for the country. When I saw how much the people and refugees were struggling due to the financial crisis, I decided to start a business that could help bring more money into their local economy. It hits home when you hear the wage disparity in countries such as Greece, compared to many Australians.
As Greeks have been making sandals since ancient times, I adapted the designs to suit the Australian beach lifestyle and, of course, utilised my skills in fashion wholesale, PR, and design. I also wish I could live in summer 100% of the time, so a summer-based brand is perfect for me.
Your product is grounded in supporting unique communities and celebrating traditional craftmanship with a modern twist. Can you shed some more light on the mission, vision, and values behind your brand?
There are just so many talented craftspeople in the world, and the process of finding and creating product with them is so rewarding. It is a lot harder working on physical product remotely, but you pretty much always end up with something unique whilst also helping people in the process.
There are so many sandal brands in the world, and I love that my product is handmade in a small factory, with only a few sets of hands creating any single pair. Also, the process of developing relationships with small factories and the makers is so special. I am working to find more makers in the area for beach towels and other summer lifestyle products; it’s a slow but fulfilling process.
How did you become an entrepreneur? Is there anything you can share that encouraged you to start your own entrepreneurship journey?
I have never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur to be honest. I think I am just someone trying to work for myself and create product that I love. I always saw myself working my way “up” in a successful fashion company but as I grew and experienced more in the industry I realised I wanted to work for myself and work to my schedule.
To others looking to start their own business I would say go for it! Make sure your product has a point of difference, but if it doesn’t, be sure to have a point of difference in your marketing strategy.
What were/are the biggest challenges in your career, and how have you overcome these?
Naturally, it can be really challenging to design unique products that people want to buy. Footwear is largely lead by trends which quickly come and go. I love to design unique sandals, but it can be a bit of a juggling act between trends and staying true to what I want to wear. I want my sandals to be timeless and worn thoroughly—not discarded because they aren’t on trend anymore—which I think I do well.
How did the DISSH x Maria Farro partnership come about?
My dear friend and one of the coolest people I know recently joined DISSH, and she introduced the team to my brand. I sent over some samples for the team to wear, and the brand was well received… so here we are.
As a female founder, what drives you?
Being able to work for myself and always support myself. Whilst I am married and my partner and I are a team, I always want to make money on my own. I want to be able to work to my own schedule and be able to take a day off to relax and reset if/when I need to. I want to be able to help people where I can and hope to continue championing those who make my product or work for me, over avarice.
What are some of your favourite pieces from our latest High Summer collection?
There are so many things but some of my favourites are…
- The Evans Stone Silk Slip Midi Dress
- The Athena Black Knit Midi Dress
- The Gaia Houndstooth Midi Dress
- The Fraya Stripe Sleeved Shirt
Can you tell us what’s next for Maria Farro?
To keep making amazing sandals that people love! I am also looking to grow my towel offering and turn Maria Farro into a one-stop brand for all your summer needs. Whether it be beach bags, clothing, bathers — you name it, I want to make it.