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Sophie Gittins: luxe British footwear
Freitag, Dez. 3, 2010, 15:07 / London, United Kingdom
British footwear designer Sophie Gittins has struck a winning combination – her luxe design, business discernment and gracious nature has swiftly cemented the label as one of the United Kindgom’s most exciting new brands.
Since debuting her first collection during Autumn/Winter 2009 at age 25, the Cordwainers graduate has gone on to design collections inspired by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (AW2010) and British artist Edward Bawden (SS2011), with prices ranging from £500–£1100. We spoke with the designer about what it takes to launch an independent label during a recession.
TribaSpace: Why footwear?
Sophie Gittins: I read about Cordwainers merging with London College of Fashion while I was at school, but prior to that I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that you could actually study something as specific as shoe design. I’ve always been drawn to the creative process and I loved the idea of turning an initial sketch into something three dimensional and learning to balance the demands of aesthetics and practicality.
How do you balance the demands of business and the creative need of your work?
That is one of the hardest things, as one of the main reasons for starting your own business is to have complete creative control but the day-to-day demands of business can quickly soak up all of your time. You have to be very disciplined to make sure you allow time for designing as often as is possible, otherwise you can end up doing less designing than you perhaps would working for another company.
You founded your company in 2009 during the recession. What did you take away from that experience? How has it affected future business decisions?
In lots of ways it was the best of times and the worst of times to start a business. As everyone knows, funding for small businesses was non-existent at the time, but I started the business with a small inheritance and so I didn’t need to seek outside funding.
That said, it would be reckless not to have tailored decisions to the economic circumstances. Working in market conditions as they are, you get to know every part of your business inside and out – I learned very quickly where savings could be made and where they could not. With shoes especially, you cannot skimp on quality of manufacturing or materials, yet you have to maintain a competitive edge. If you seek to establish confidence in your brand, this is true whatever the economic situation.
Can you tell us a bit more about your manufacturing process?
I am very fortunate in having found a great Italian factory so early on. It is family run and they take a really personal approach towards every shoe they develop, always considering what can be done to give the best finish both aesthetically and technically. I go there regularly each season and we all sit around a table discussing and working through each element of each shoe. As an independent designer it’s fantastic to feel part of a team and be able to draw on their decades of experience.
Sophie Gittins retails online at Young British Designers. Do you have any plans for online retailing within your own site?
Not for the time being, I’m keen to firmly establish the business through wholesale before taking any steps towards direct retailing.
You participated in On|Off at London Fashion Week this year – what was the experience like?
SG: Jimmy Choo viewing the collection was fantastic. As a young designer it’s amazing to be able to have your products in front of key press and such well respected figures in the industry.
What do you consider your professional highlights to date?
Reaching the finals of Fashion Fringe Shoes was such a highlight as my designs were chosen by Manolo Blahnik, Rupert Sanderson and Colin McDowell. All of which I admire tremendously, so it was a fantastic opportunity to meet them.
Can you offer any advice to upcoming designers?
Be patient, the market is very different than five years ago. Opportunities are sparse, buyers are cautious and competition has intensified. Now more than ever it’s essential to be proactive and try and set yourself apart from the crowd wherever possible, be it by additional courses in languages or postgraduate work experience.
STUDIO – SOPHIE GITTINS
17 Westgate Street
Suffolk CO10 7DS
PRESS – HARRIET SPENCE H PR
Studio 15 Archer Street Studios
10-11 Archer Street
London W1D 7AZ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 0074
SALES – CHARLOTTE RUSSELL STUDIO THIRTEEN
123 Ledbury Road London W11 2AQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7243 9395
Melisa Gray-Ward | TribaSpace
Ready-to-Wear, Footwear, Shoes
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