Katherine Theobalds created and founded her brand Zou Xou in 2015 in NYC. Inspired by the artistry of local Argentinian shoe design, Katherine cultivated her vision for fashion footwear and launched Zou Xou in 2015. It is an extension of her unique and laid back style, redefined and elevated for the modern day woman. Katherine spends her time traveling between Buenos Aires, and New York City designing and showcasing the collection. When she is not touring the globe, Katherine is giving her shoes a rest in the sculpture garden of the MoMA.
What was your first job?
I have a really weird work history! My first one wasn't the weirdest though. I was a shop-girl in the gift shop of George Washington's estate on Mount Vernon Plantation. I was 15 or 16. I remember my co-workers were two friends from high school and a couple of stern older ladies. My friends and I would stand across from each other behind cash registers all day being goofy to pass the long hours while the older ladies tsk-tsked us. It was like being in church or a library while trying to suppress explosive giggles. It was always either really boring and slow or slammed with busloads of tourists. Before that, my first gig was selling Girl Scout cookies.
What does "Zou Xou" mean, and how did the band come to be?
I basically started ZX to save my ass. Zou Xou's name is inspired by a character that the actress Josephine Baker played in the 1930s. Josephine Baker was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture at the time. She went on to become an activist in the American Civil Rights movement and played a role in the Anti-Nazi Resistance during WW2. I am inspired by her story of rising from poverty and adversity to becoming a major cultural and social influence. Her story inspired me to boss-up and move from a place of disempowerment to one of independence and creativity.
I started ZX about 4 years ago when I found myself near-broke and in crisis with a few pretty major things all at once: My career, my city, and my relationship. One of the few blessings I had at the time was a couple of shoe samples and contacts I had developed over the course of a few years and trips to Buenos Aires. I had reached a point where I felt I really didn’t have much of a choice. I could remain stuck and prolong the crisis, or I could take a big leap out of my comfort zone and change my life. So Zou Xou was born!
Can you elaborate on the "slow fashion", and how Zou Xou fits into this movement?
At the core of my beliefs is that handmade objects have value because they connect the past to the present through skill acquired by generations of know-how. Continuing to make things by hand preserves those skills for future generations.
I also believe It’s important to recognize the connection to another human being that objects have. Everything we purchase has an impact on another human being somewhere, and the impact should be a positive one.
For these reasons, all of our shoes are made by hand in small batches with attention to craftsmanship in an effort to make fewer, but better fashion objects. Ones that will spark joy, inspire confidence and last longer. Consuming less lowers our carbon footprint and raises the bar for large fashion manufacturers. We pay a fair wage because the labor that goes into each pair is a skill that took the person who made it years to perfect, and that is not to be undervalued.