Husband-and-wife team Tom and Jane Walsh marry their love of footwear and travel with Mr. W & Me
Mr. W is a man of mystery. Hidden behind a camera lens, he’s an all-seeing-eye with a love for beautiful things and a penchant for the finer details. One day he might be taking his lady on a midnight flight and the next, sailing across the ocean on a new adventure. But today, Mr. W is behind the till of his Ponsonby Central footwear boutique in Auckland with his partner in crime, ‘Me’.
Tom and Jane Walsh are Mr. W and Me – the husband-and-wife team behind the local footwear label committed to providing quality in contemporary, and affordable designs. Both Jane and Tom have had a long-standing love affair with shoes. Director of photography and cameraman Tom admits to having a fetish for men’s footwear, while Jane has worked in the shoe industry for seven years as a buyer for New Zealand retailers and in London as a wholesale merchandiser for Park Lane Shoes, working closely with buyers from Topshop, ASOS and Kurt Geiger. After returning to New Zealand, she and Tom launched Mr. W & Me in 2013.
Working together was something the couple had always aspired to do. Jane had travelled extensively in her different industry roles and, as a cameraman, Tom was constantly globe-trotting – following the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra around Europe, filming a Republican convention in Minnesota, exploring Egypt, or chasing the Loch Ness Monster with New Zealand TV personality Leigh Hart. “It’s been a wonderful job for travel but you get to a point where you think, ‘Jane should be here to experience this’,” explains Tom. “I guess that’s what prompted us to set up a brand and start something we could work on together, travel with together and be able to experience life together.”
So, instead of joining many young couples on the property ladder, Jane and Tom followed their passion and started Mr. W & Me online before opening their flagship store in June this year. Their shoes are manufactured in China and Italy and pricing is kept accessible – think $135 to $225 for style-driven leather boots or loafers. “I’m not a big fan of anything too fussy,” explains Jane, when discussing the Mr. W & Me design aesthetic. “I like the androgynous loafer look but I don’t like it to be too manly either. We have the Kriss Kross shoes in silver, which is kind of a mashup between a shoe and a sandal. We’re trying to have a point of difference without getting too far away from the trends we’re interpreting.”
What has surprised the pair most is the diversity of their customer base. “We have a style called High Dive and when we bought these we thought they’d be for a younger market,” says Jane as Tom adds: “Then I sold
a pair to a woman in her nineties!”
Mr. W & Me
Shop 4C, 136 Ponsonby Road
Words: Lucy Slight
Photos: Tom Walsh