Sabah: The ‘It’ Shoe Everyone Is Talking About

Sabah: The ‘It’ Shoe Everyone Is Talking About

Sabah’s is brand which celebrates travel, discovery, style and comfort is one that we can definitely get on board with. So SUITCASE sat down with Mickey to hear more about the stint in Turkey that changed his life, how ‘Sabah Sundays’ came to be and #WhereToNext.

away down a quiet side-street in East Village stands the
inconspicuous SabahHouse, an airy townhouse and showroom which
overflows with trendy New Yorkers and attractive internationals on
Sunday afternoons. Though largely there to socialise, drink rosé
and enjoy the achingly cool tunes, guests of ‘Sabah Sundays’ have
another item on their agenda: to pick up a pair of must-have shoes
for the well-heeled traveller.

Though their popularity has risen quietly and gradually, the
brightly coloured leather slip-ons – known as ‘Sabahs’ – can be
spotted just about everywhere from Cartagena to Cuba, Brooklyn and Belize. Designed with style and comfort in
mind, they’ll take you from beach to Moroccan
through to brunch in Manhattan.

The mastermind behind the brand is Mickey Ashmore (aka ‘The
Sabah Dealer’), a Texas-born Wharton graduate who diverted from a career
in finance when he realised that his part-time project of
commissioning custom leather shoes from Turkish craftsmen was
gaining far too much traction to ignore. In an age of anonymous
online shopping and cheap, throwaway couture, Mickey has carved out
a lifestyle brand that harks back to the art of craftsmanship and
the traditional intimacy between buyer and seller. Though the brand
is growing fast, Mickey still prioritises face-to-face interaction
and hospitality for his customers, with the majority of his clients
stopping by Sabah House ‘IRL’ to purchase a pair and linger for a
chat over a glass of wine.

While Sabahs are already a hit with jet-set New Yorkers, Mickey
has been taking the brand across the US, with Sabah House pop-ups
in cities from Dallas to Detroit. It’s because of this that Sabah
wearers quite literally come from all walks of life, with “hipsters
and bankers, farmers from Arkansas and surfers from LA” all
sporting them.

A brand which celebrates travel, discovery, style and comfort is
one that we can definitely get on board with. So SUITCASE sat down
with Mickey to hear more about the stint in Turkey that changed his
life, how ‘Sabah Sundays’ came to be and #WhereToNext.

How did the Sabah brand begin?

Sabah came about after I spent two years living and working in
Istanbul. While there, I dated a girl from the
southeast of Turkey. Her grandmother gifted me a pair of
traditional leather slippers from their hometown, which were
unbelievably comfortable. I wore them everyday and wherever I
travelled: the beaches of France, nights out dancing in Beirut, hiking in Morocco and work trips to
Munich, Ireland and Portugal. I even polished and paired
them with a tuxedo to a fancy Turkish wedding aboard the famed
Savarona steamship. One of the few non-Turks onboard, and the only
one donning traditional Turkish slippers, my footwear was a total
hit. Despite the fact that the shoe style had fallen out of favour
with the Turks, I, the Texan living in Istanbul, had become its
biggest fan.

I moved back to New York still wearing those shoes and decided
to seek out the maker to produce a new pair for me. I suggested a
few changes to the design and there Sabah was born. Now, almost
four year laters, we still produce every pair with those same
makers – we’ve gone from employing five craftsmen to over 20. Every
pair is still made traditionally and by hand, the same way. But
with more refinement, a better attention to detail and higher
quality materials, not to mention a more updated look.

Your approach to retail is unique – a far cry from a typical
brick-and-mortar shop. What fuelled this decision? And do you see
this changing as the brand grows?

It was fuelled by how I like to shop. I rarely shop online. I
mostly shop when I travel and mostly outside of typical shopping
situations… markets, bazaars or through friends. Ultimately, our
goal is to make a good pair of shoes and provide the best possible
service. As we’ve expanded, we are opening new locations and our
staff base is getting larger. Unfortunately, I don’t get to meet
every customer anymore.

Also, our demand is growing so much that not everyone can visit
us personally. For a long time we sold just by phone and email but
we’ve recently launched an online portal to buy Sabahs. We used
three years of sales ‘understanding’ to build an online experience
that mimics how we sell and is very user-friendly. It’s service and
product oriented – transparent and not much else.

Tell us about ‘Sabah Sundays’ and your East Village

The Sabah House in East Village is where it all started. It’s
the soul of our brand and the best way to buy a pair of Sabahs.

Sabah Sundays started as my vehicle to sell the shoes. I had a
full-time job so I opened my house up every Sunday to friends for
an afternoon party where you could also try and buy Sabahs. That
became a regular thing which grew and grew. We’d end every party
and go dancing somewhere… Now we host Sabah Sunday probably once a
quarter and it’s a pretty big party.

The Sabah House is still open every Sunday – it’s very festive
and social. People are always hanging out there, dropping by to say
hi with a bottle of wine. It’s a home first and a shop second, so
we focus a lot on hospitality and making it a great place to spend
a Sunday.

Why does the theme of travel play such an important role in the
Sabah brand?

I’ve travelled a lot, and Sabahs are great for that. I used to
travel mostly for personal reasons; now it’s mostly to bring Sabah
to markets new and old and fit customers. So I’ve tied together my
love of travel with the brand’s best interests. It’s a great

We’ve spotted men and women from all walks of life wearing
Sabahs. Is there a common thread that runs through your customers?
What do you think attracts them to the shoes?

The best part about our brand and product is that they appeal to
just about everyone. We have hipsters and bankers, farmers from
Arkansas and surfers from LA. We have all ages, of varying
socioeconomic levels, all over the world. They’re just great shoes
to wear in almost any situation. We’ve outfitted wedding parties
and we’ve outfitted people going sailing. There’s even an airline
which fits their entire crew in grey Sabahs…. how about that!

Do you have a favourite pair?

I love our camel/black option. It’s classic and simple, yet a
little different. I’m also a big fan of our baleen blue which is a
navy nubuck – it’s an awesome leather.

Apart from a pair of Sabahs, what’s in your suitcase?

A chore coat and a white shirt from RTH Shop, a good pair of
Levi’s, that day’s New York Times and a Wall Street Journal, a pair
of running shoes and gear and a handful of T-shirts. My laptop. I
pack it all in our Sabah Traveler bag which we make in Connecticut,
and I always pack light.

You’re constantly on the go, but where is home?

Right now it’s my hometown of Dallas, where we’ve just opened a

Finally, #WhereToNext?

I’m taking some time off at the end of the year to go and visit
a good friend in Egypt.

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