January 1, 2015

There’s something about college roommates and Harvard that seems to bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in people (most famously, of course, with the birth of Facebook). That spirit seized history and government majors Alexa Buckley and Sarah Pierson, now both 23, their senior year. Their quest? To create the perfect pair of flats. Ballet flats, to be specific. “We were inspired by the modern woman,” explains Buckley. “We understood that running from the subway, to the gym, to work, to dinner, to drinks is not always so easy in heels, and we wanted to reinvent ballet flats—all so a woman can really feel dressed and not feel like she has to do the shoe shuffle.” The result is a collection that reflects the clean, classic aesthetic of its founders, with styles in suede, calf hair, and even a limited-edition version with whimsically feminine ribbons to tie around your ankles.

That inspiration has taken them into the realm of not just designers and business owners, but true innovators. In addition to standard flats that can be ordered by size, Buckley and Pierson have developed a simple made-to-measure system that women can use at home. The kits are free and include everything one would need to establish the perfect fit, including a tape measure, a sizing manual—even a pencil to jot down each foot’s stats.

Starting a business is such a roller coaster. You have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

So what makes two recent college grads such experts? As Pierson explains, vision and expertise are two separate things. “I think one of the best things that we did for ourselves in the beginning was admit that we didn't know what we didn't know, and there were a lot of things that we didn't know much about. We sought out people who could bring skills and knowledge to the table. Starting a business is such a roller coaster. You have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and they can be…” Buckley chimes in, “Within hours. It’s business school boot camp.”

A shared vision and finishing each other’s thoughts are just the beginning with this duo. They are also best friends who explore their new city together on weekends—despite long hours at their New York design studio—and they even admit to dressing alike. “There have been many days where we come to the office, head-to-toe, in the exact same outfit,” says Buckley. (On the day of their Estée Stories interview, it happened to be matching trench coats.)

They don’t differ much on the beauty front, either. “We definitely take a skin first approach,” Buckley says. “I wear Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair serum at night because my skin is dry. On a day-to-day basis, my go-to is a lot of moisturizer. I love a dash of mascara, especially black mascara—I love Sumptuous Knockout. And I love a nude lip gloss. At night, I just add cat-eye liner and a little bronzer and blush.”

“Similar to Alexa, moisturizer is the most important thing for me,” Pierson says. “Then, especially since I have skin that freckles really easily, it’s SPF—wherever I can put it. Then makeup-wise, a great tinted moisturizer, of course with SPF, and just a little bit of concealer. I also am a convert to Sumptuous Knockout mascara. It's awesome—you can get definition and separation, almost with every single lash. It's not clumpy at all. And my little lipstick [she reaches to pull it out of her bag] is [Pure Color Envy in] Insatiable Ivory. It's like the perfect nude color. It's not too shiny. It's just a little bit of pink.”

Buckley and Pierson hope to one day develop Margaux into a total lifestyle brand, but in the meantime are inspired by their beloved ballet flats and are focused on staying grounded. “Sometimes riding that roller coaster up and down, it's really tough; you kind of have to find ways to unplug, to find equilibrium one way or another,” says Pierson. “Even if it's just taking a yoga class in the morning before work once or twice a week. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Top