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Meet The Small Melbourne Brand Reinventing The Humble Gumboot

Creative People

Unless it was on a farm or at a music festival, chances are you haven’t worn gumboots since you were a kid. But if you look down next time you’re in a park or on the street, you might start to notice the colourful and practical shoes of local footwear brand, Merry People.

Founder and CEO Danielle Holloway started the business in 2014 after looking for a versatile pair of boots that could withstand Melbourne’s notoriously unreliable weather, while still being work-appropriate.

Now, her trendy take on the classic gumboot is available in three different styles, with more than 8000 five-star reviews! We caught up with the entrepreneur to hear more about how she made the leap from her corporate life to running her own business with purpose.

2nd December, 2022

Merry People founder and CEO Danielle Holloway along with two of her team members. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Danielle started the brand in 2014, leaving behind her corporate job to create her dream gumboots! Danielle wears the Lavender & Navy Bobbi Ankle Gumboot. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

 

The ankle boots were the first Merry People design Danielle sketched up, before writing up a business plan and booked some flights to China to meet some potential suppliers. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The Billie Clog, alongside the Bobbi Ankle Boots. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Danielle now leads a small team from their Collingwood HQ. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

‘We try to have a mixture of bright, neutral and dark colours, so there is always something for everyone. I personally really love the bright and bold colours – you’ll rarely see me in a black boot!’ Danielle says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

While the clog was originally launched in an Alpine Green, they’ve just expanded the range to include black, chilli, lavender and sky blue in time for summer ahead. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

‘I find inspiration everywhere and I am always thinking and looking at colour combinations in everyday life.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

‘We’ve also grown in such a short amount of time and I want to ensure our foundations are stable so that we’re still growing, but at a pace that we feel comfortable and prepared for.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

All the shoes are designed here in Melbourne, and made by an ethical, and industry-leading manufacturer in China. The family-run factory assembles our boots by hand, making each pair unique! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Christina Karras
Friday 2nd December 2022

The idea for Merry People‘s modern gumboots all started on Danielle Holloway’s daily commute. She was working at ANZ at the time, and found herself constantly ruining her work shoes on her travels to and from the office in Melbourne’s wet weather.

‘Growing up on a farm in South Gippsland, Victoria, I was familiar with just how useful gumboots can be but couldn’t find a pair that bridged the gap between city and country life,’ Danielle says.

Like most creative entrepreneurs, she decided to find a solution herself, creating the first Merry People style: the now-bestselling Bobbi Ankle Boot made from natural rubber with a neoprene lining. They’re 100 per cent waterproof, like the practical gumboots she recalled from her childhood, just a little bit more grown up.

‘When thinking of a brand name, I kept coming back to the idea of happiness,’ Danielle adds. ‘It was why I wanted to start the business and it was how I wanted my customers to feel when they wore their boots. Gumboots and splashing through puddles or mud takes me back to my childhood. It’s a moment to be spontaneous and break free (even just for a moment) from all the daily stresses that come from being an adult.’

She started out selling the shoes at farmer’s markets and working on the business on nights and weekends before she left her corporate job to ‘take the plunge’ and give Merry People her all. ‘I chose the path that I could see myself being happiest in and I have no regrets,’ Danielle says.

‘I did have some tough days. It was hard because I was in my early 30s and I was living week-to-week and at times having to sell my possessions to pay for my rent.’

Since then, Merry People has grown from a grassroots start-up to a successful business based in Collingwood and sold across Australia, New Zealand, US and the UK. Her niche of functional, fashionable shoes has gained a growing customer base of regional gardeners to inner-city workers and everything in between. The range has expanded too, now featuring the traditional Darcy Mid Calf Boot and their newest launch, the Billie Clog, in a range of neutral and bold colours that reflect the brand’s happy ethos.

‘Cass (our product designer) came into work one day with a Bobbi boot she had cut herself and made into a clog and said to me “Dani what do you think about this!” … and I liked it!’

“In 2023 we will be extending our size range to size 45 and moving into a more unisex brand. We are all really excited about this change and hope our customers are too!’

While Danielle says she always felt ‘so awkward’ when she told people she was trying to start her own gumboot company, these days she proudly spots someone most days wearing Merry People – and ‘it’s the best feeling’.

Shop Merry People’s full range and their new Billie Clog colourways online here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net