Generating buzz around a new label can be a tough thing, no matter how talented the designer. But every once in a while a collection comes around that resonates with editors and shoppers alike without really even trying. I love the energy of Sophia Webster's collection so much that I recently bought a pair of her spring heels. It helps that—while still delivering on aesthetic, fit and quality—the Nicholas Kirkwood alumn's prices are about half what most designer shoes cost these days. Webster told me her story at the launch of the line's resort 2014 collection earlier this week.
Fashionista: Your launch was pretty well-documented, but would you like to give us an abbreviated version of how you got started? Sophia Webster: I had been working with Nicholas for about three years as his design assistant. We sort of came to an agreement that I would start my own line and stop working for him. Nicholas and Christopher, his business partner, decided they wanted to help me get it started. I knew that it was the right time. I had a real, clear idea of where I wanted to position myself in the market, the price point. And then it was just the case of finding the right manufacturer that could achieve the quality and finish I wanted at the right price point.
Your prices are really good compared to your competitors. (Most Sophia Webster shoes cost less than $400.) Why was that important to you? I didn't want to be at the real top, top-end price point. I wanted my line to be fun and accessible luxury. It suits it—it's very colorful, it's playful. If they were £600...it's easier to buy something as detailed and colorful when they're not at that price point. It just felt like the right sort of thing to do. If you're saving up to spend £300 on a pair of shoes, you're not saving up to buy £600 shoes.
How long did it take to find the right manufacturers? I knew that Italy wouldn't be an option. A lot of times, young, smaller brands get pushed in the back and it's quite difficult. So it was between China and Brazil, and I just started going to Brazil. I spent a lot of time out there. I got in contact with a few different factories—some much bigger, some smaller—and then just sampled the same two shoes. I picked the factory that I felt was the best quality and understood the line the best.
Do you feel like your collections have been inspired by Brazil because of your work there? Yes, spring 2013 definitely was. Everything is really colorful, the people are really vibrant. Even the houses are painted crazy, pastel colors.
You're lucky that you've got great support around you, but all designers have challenges. What are yours? That's a hard question. I think that I'm definitely fortunate to have that support. You really have to put yourself out there in the first place. I think the challenge was more up to that point. I interned for shoe designers, I've designed for high street companies to fund my degree. The challenges keep changing. You have to be brave.
You have such a strong point of view. How do you keep it fresh while still maintaining that overarching vision? I don't do that self-consiously, it's not in a contrived way. I just do what I want to do and it comes together in the end. It's intuition.
So what's next for the brand? I'd really like to push it into other categories. I don't think the timing is just right yet. I'm still trying to get the distribution and manufacturing right with the shoes and bags.
Collaborations are such a big part of the fashion business. Is there anyone you'd like to do something with? In fashion, or in anything?
In anything. Maybe Apple.