This post is a continuation from a previous story “Designing a re-souL Collection: What if?”
Back in July of last year, we had the idea of “what if we designed our own women’s shoe collection?” It was a question that became the answer to our initial dilemma. How do we remain relevant, novel and exciting in a constant changing global marketplace? As a small business, if we want to continue to grow (let alone survive) we have to be willing to change and creating our own shoe collection just seemed like a natural progression. So we set forth on this journey and we’re ready to share our story.
In our shop, we constantly felt there was a void in our offering for seasonal “must have” styles of shoes. I wanted to create a capsule collection for Spring that would help fill in some of those missing items that our customers were always asking for; like the perfect ballet flat, the essential lace-up oxford, an everyday sandal. You get the picture. So I started to do some research, collaborate more with our customers and ultimately started to sketch.
A couple of drawings in my sketchbook.
I will admit it had been a long time since I sketched a shoe. Too long. My first couple of attempts were less than stellar. But as I continued to keep drawing, it started to come back to me and I remembered what is was like to create patterns, soles, and toe shapes. I really enjoyed using my sketchbook again and was inspired to keep drawing.
Once I had all my ideas and sketches completed, I started to think about colors and the collection’s palette. I created mood boards with images and swatches. I lived with those boards for a couple of weeks and played with the colors, and then narrowed it down to what I felt would be important for the spring season.
A few weeks later, I was ready to put all of my ideas to work at a factory. So, I enlisted the help of our agent and friend in Italy, Cristina. Why Italy, you may ask? First and foremost, they are the best at making shoes hands down. Second, I wanted to work with a small factory that would be able to produce small quantities and manufacturing in other countries just isn’t an option for us. We hope to offer shoes that are beautiful and a good value, we believe Italy is the best place to achieve this.
Since Cristina and I have worked with each other for years, I knew she would be able to help us find just the right resources. So in late October, I booked my flight and planned to leave armed with my sketches and mood boards for Florence. When I arrived I was anxious, nervous and excited all at the same time. The first night I could barely sleep. It was exhilarating to think that I was going to create something that hopefully would be special to our shop and our customers. I couldn’t wait to get started!
That week, Cristina would pick me up at my hotel every morning and we would make our drives to Lucca and visit the design studio, the suppliers, and the factories. We would sit for hours at a time collaborating with the modellistas to come up with the right constructions. We would know if all went well once we received our initial samples, which would take a couple of weeks to make. So, I left Italy crossing my fingers that all went well and then it was back to Seattle to await the samples.
Lucca, the design studio, the factory
When we finally received the initial prototypes it was like opening a present! I could not wait to see how everything translated from a sketch to a 3 dimensional item. Some styles turned out great, others not so much. I refined some patterns and asked for some tweaks. Not everything always turns out the way you expect and that’s okay too. You learn to weed out what would be “nice to have”versus what you “must have”. What’s worth the time to re-visit and what should be “lascia perdere”, Italian for “forget about it”.
So again, it was up to the manufacturers to get things right,. We were sent round two of confirmation samples to approve. We chose the styles, wrote the orders and all went into production. That’s pretty much it! So now we wait for the collection to come into the shop and online this March. We cannot wait to see what you think!