Silvia Torres is the founder of New York-based leather footwear brand Mala Flats. A Texas native, Torres worked as an account manager for a tool manufacturing company before taking the big leap forward and moving to Brooklyn, where she launched the small footwear business earlier this year. “I couldn’t find the flats I truly wanted, so I decided to create them,” she says. Each pair of flats is designed in Brooklyn and handcrafted in León, Mexico, the “shoe capital of the world since 1645.” Torres currently runs Mala Flats on a part-time schedule. Designing footwear for a great cause, she donates a portion of the brand’s earnings to Mexico-based children’s shelter Proteccion Integral de Juárez A.C. “I’m going back to Juárez for Christmas, so I’m excited to make Mala’s first official donation when I’m there,” says the footwear designer. Get to know more about Torres in our exclusive Q&A below.
What’s a typical day for you? I still have a full-time job at a charter school in Brooklyn, so I use my daily subway commutes to stay on top of emails for Mala, and listen to business podcasts. When I get back to my apartment at 5PM, I try to fit in 3 hours of work for Mala. Depending on the day, that can be anything from shooting product pictures and developing marketing strategies, to packaging orders for shipping.
How has your life’s purpose influenced the launch of Mala Flats? Even though I come from a family of entrepreneurial spirits (my mom is a salesperson and former business owner), I still never thought that I could start my own business. However, when I moved to Brooklyn and started meeting so many amazing entrepreneurs who are making their business thrive through sheer hustle and hard work, ideas and possibilities started opening up. I’m driven by creating great products and building a business with the financial resources to have a significant, positive impact.
Does the name “Mala” mean something? Mala means “girl” or “daughter” in the Tarahumara language. The Tarahumara people are a native tribe from northwestern Mexico. Specifically, the state of Chihuahua where my family is originally from. It’s a name that has always been special to my sister and I.
Tell me about your team. How did you find the right people to join the movement of Mala Flats? I got lucky. My boyfriend Tyler has ten years of online marketing and technology experience, and my sister Angelica has operations experience. She’s also a lawyer in Mexico, which has been invaluable for working with our factory in León and taking care of things like importing our flats. We all have a complementary mix of skills, and we continue to learn as we go along.
How will your donations to Proteccion Integral de Juárez A.C. impact the children’s lives? When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to visit several shelters and learn that what’s needed most are really basic things like socks, underwear and food. I was able to see that even small contributions on a consistent basis can really improve the children’s lives.
Where do you hope to see yourself and Mala Flats in the next five years?The first step is to grow Mala to the point of being my full-time job. From there, I see the company moving into an office and warehouse, providing jobs to the people that I love. It’s also very important to me that as we grow, we’re able to continue doing more for the children who need it most. In the short-term, we’re perfecting the designs for our next two styles of flats, so I’m very excited to debut those at the start of 2016!
Want to join the cause? Shop Mala Flats.