Sophia in Conversation with Drapers
A huge thank you to Drapers Online for the below article.
From selling double glazing to becoming one of the UK’s most successful footwear designers, Drapers catches up with Sophia Webster.
Sophia Webster is known for quirky women’s footwear that packs a punch.
Her signature butterfly motif appears on every style, from flats to four-inch stiletto heels, and her bold and colourful creations are not for fashion wallflowers.
Webster launched the label in 2013 and now sells through a direct-to-consumer website and more than 160 stockists worldwide, including Selfridges, Net-a-Porter and Harvey Nichols in the UK.
Webster lives in east London with her husband, Bobby, who is CEO of her company, three daughters and stepson.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I usually get woken up by one of our daughters or the dog, so attending to their needs is the first thing I do.
What was your first job?
Double-glazing telesales when I was 14. I had a lot of different jobs throughout school so I could buy and do what I wanted.
How did you start your career in fashion?
I did a lot of internships and entered a lot of competitions when I was at college, and I think that was instrumental in helping me learn about the industry and get me noticed within it. My first job in fashion was designing shoes for a major Chinese shoe brand. I used to design around my studies and it helped me fund my masters degree. [Webster has an MA in fashion footwear from the Royal College of Art].
How would you describe the brand in one sentence?
Celebrating creativity, inclusivity, optimism and empowerment through our products.
What’s your coffee (or tea) order?
Oat milk latte.
What, apart from Covid-19, is the biggest challenge facing the fashion industry right now?
Inclusivity and sustainability are ongoing challenges that the industry has been facing for years. I think Covid-19 has definitely made us more conscious about how we practise.
How has Covid-19 impacted the running of your business?
Working remotely has meant that my whole team, myself included, have had to be much more precise in what we say and do. The challenges presented have been multi-faceted, and the only way we could address these was by being really focused and purposeful in everything we do. It has been hard, but ultimately we have optimised ourselves as professionals and as an operation, and therefore have taken a step forwards.
What do you think the fashion industry can learn from Covid-19?
Definitely to be less wasteful and more wise about the seasons, to ensure product launches better reflect the time of year.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
I’ve hardly bought anything for myself recently but for my kids it’s Mini Boden and Stella McCartney. I love Etsy for sourcing personalised, unique items, and I love Ebay for bargain antiques.
Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?
Stick to your gut. There will always be existing ways of doing things, but if you think it can be done another way, then arm yourself with information and do what you think is best.
What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
Owning a business means that you have to have your mind on a lot of different things, so when I can sit down with time to myself, there is nothing I like more than sketching and working out a design on my iPa
What has been your proudest moment since you launched?
I’m really proud to have launched our extended size range [a selection of 28 shoes now go up to a UK 13]. It took a lot of time and effort but it was something I was determined to achieve.
What’s the last book you read?
Bobby, my CEO and husband, started a company book club earlier this year, so the last book I read was from this. It was The One Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papsan. It’s about focusing on one important goal and trying to cut out the noise. Making our team members conscious about how they work has been on Bobby’s agenda since long before the pandemic hit.
Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?
Patrick Cox [Canadian/British womenswear shoe designer] has been an inspiration to me ever since my sister first brought a pair of his jelly wedges home. His designs really resonated with me because of their playfulness and joyfulness. I recently did a loafer collaboration with him and through this process got to know him better. He’s a lot of fun to be around and really astute about the shoe business.
One piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Try to take the emotion out of business dilemmas.
Who do you turn to when you need advice?
Always my husband Bobby, whether it’s about our business or personal life. He always looks at a situation objectively and uses evidence and common sense to resolve problems. We’re very different personalities but we have the same values and when it comes to our business we are both equally emotionally invested, so he understands where I’m coming from.
What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?
Since the pandemic hit I’ve been really focused on speaking to my audience and delivering really succinct, wearable collections, so I look forward to seeing the development of these. Growing my TikTok following is a big one. I launched our account recently and love learning how to use it.
Thank you to Gabriele Dirvanauskas and the team at Drapers Online for writing and sharing with us.