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Shoe Designer to Know: Sophia Webster

Shoes, Accessories, Sophia Webster, Nicholas Kirkwood, On Pedder, Hong Kong, China, Spring/Summer 2013, Fashion, Trends

Sophia Webster’s favourite Spring styles are inspired by a Rio sunset (left) and artist Kusama (right)

Like all women, I am obsessed with shoes. And while I have my favourites, I am always on the lookout for fun and hip designers that are bringing something new to the plate. Cue Sophia Webster, the industry’s next rising star, and protégée of another shoe hipster, Nicholas Kirkwood.

Everyone has been going gaga over her designs from the Net-a-porter team to Asian retailer On Pedder, who invited Sophia to Hong Kong a few weeks ago to launch her first complete collection for spring/summer 2013. Although she’s only 27 years old she has already been crowned Emerging Footwear Designer of the Year by Conde Nast Footwear News and as one of the Top 100 People to Watch in The Times 2013 New Power List.

So what is it about her designs that makes her stand apart from the rest (pardon the pun)? First of all they are high on the creativity meter with fashion forward yet playful details that test the imagination. Her spring/summer collection for example is inspired by Brazil and artist Yayoi Kusama, so expect vibrant colours (think neon yellow, pastel blue and hot pink), whimsical motifs and funky materials (cue plastic and vinyl).

Almost every pair makes a statement from the lace up style with laser cut flamingos and polka dot block heel, to the strappy sandal covered in polka dot appliqués and finished with a heel made of stacked beads. The piece de la resistance (and Webster’s personal favourite) is a sleek ankle strap sandal depicting a Rio sunset, complete with a palm tree. All you need is a margarita!

I sat down with Sophia while she was in Hong Kong to chat about her inspirations and why she loves shoes so much. Read on to find out more…

Shoes, Accessories, Sophia Webster, Nicholas Kirkwood, On Pedder, Hong Kong, China, Spring/Summer 2013, Fashion, Trends

Sophia Webster (above)

You have a background in art – where did shoes come in?
I wasn’t into fashion when I was younger. I went to art college and had to do a course on fashion illustration where I found myself suddenly drawn to shoes. Shoes to me are the ultimate accessory. They make you look taller, slimmer and they’ll always fit. They change the way you stand.

Why didn’t you set up your own label after you graduated?
I’d always been quite level-headed in my approach. After Cordwainer’s I went to Royal College where I learnt everything about shoes thanks to guest tutors like Manolo Blahnik. I met Nicholas [Kirkwood] in my first year and worked with him throughout my two years at school. I was very open about wanting to start my own line but he suggested that I worked with them for a couple of years before launching my own label. I couldn’t refuse.

Shoes, Accessories, Sophia Webster, Nicholas Kirkwood, On Pedder, Hong Kong, China, Spring/Summer 2013, Fashion, Trends

Shoes from the Spring/Summer 2013 collection

How did your stint at Kirkwood shape your aesthetic?
I would work with Nicholas on a lot of things. We’d brainstorm together and I was his design assistant. He has a strong vision of what he wants a shoe to look like which is great, but you have to do it his way. Now it’s nice now to be completely selfish and do what I want to do.

So how are your shoes different from other brands out there?
I wanted to design shoes that were colourful fun, and spirited. As far as the luxury market is concerned, they are affordable. That’s basically what I wanted to achieve. I have a very feminine aesthetic, but it’s not aggressive or chunky. I hate platforms. I find single sole shoes so much more chic.

Who is the Sophia Webster girl?
Someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously, who is colourful, and likes to have fun with what she wears. She likes to express her personality through her shoes. I would love someone like Solange Knowles to wear our shoes – she has a pair but hasn’t worn it yet! Also it’s nice for celebrities to wear your shoes but I like it when the more fashion forward people like stylist and editors wear them.  Anna Dello Russo is my dream client!

Shoes, Accessories, Sophia Webster, Nicholas Kirkwood, On Pedder, Hong Kong, China, Spring/Summer 2013, Fashion, Trends

Plastic, sequins and prints add to the playfulness of the spring/summer collection

This is just your first season – how do you see the line developing moving forward?
The autumn/winter collection is a lot more sophisticated although there are still elements of colour. There are styles that are playful, although I want to offer shoes that you can wear everyday and that match everything. Spring/summer was more of the dream collection.

How do you keep the price affordable?
The shoes are made in Brazil – the workers there are very skilled and efficient in what they do. I’ve spent a lot of time out there working with them. It’s not just the people but the place in general – it’s so vibrant.

You also have some handbag styles – why add them to the collection so soon?
I really enjoy the handbags – for me they accessorize the shoes. That being said I am focusing on a few key shapes like the speech bubble clutch and the printed vinyl clutch with polka dots. I’ll add a day bag next year. I don’t design them to be worn together – it’s just an extension of the line really.

Shoes, Accessories, Sophia Webster, Nicholas Kirkwood, On Pedder, Hong Kong, China, Spring/Summer 2013, Fashion, Trends

Speech Bubble clutch

Sophia Webster is available exclusively in Asia at On Pedder; www.sophia-webster.com

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