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They’re the winged sole mates that flutter WILDLY and weightlessly through many a bride’s dreams (you know the dreams – where the complexities of the wedmin are suddenly non-existent and you’re simply lounging about in a plume of tulle, champagne coupe in-hand). They’re the shoes that flash that signature ‘Wifey For Lifey’ slogan as you spin out across the dance floor. They’re the bridal shoes that are laced with that ever present, ever electrifying creative magic. They are of course, Sophia Webster.
With a series of prestigious accolades glittering in her wake, not to mention a bridal collection that has me (and I suspect, the entire population) hooked every time a new arrival rocks up, Sophia Webster is – without doubt – a true powerhouse of a shoe label. Endlessly fuelled by Creative Director and Founder, Sophia’s truly extraordinary creativity and vision, she’s a designer who repeatedly delivers what brides want: shoes to fall endlessly in love with. I managed to catch up with Sophia herself, to talk about her business journey for Sophia Webster and her version of Taking The Plunge, including the highs, the lows, the first jobs, the worst jobs and the tech she can’t live without…
Name: Sophia Webster
Business: Sophia Webster Ltd
Date you took the plunge: Around spring of 2012
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“Fashion shoes, handbags and kid’s shoes with lots of personality, and for anyone who loves to make a statement and isn’t afraid of colour.”
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“A couple of seasons into launching my business and around the time I myself got married, I began designing and offering a bridal range of shoes and then later bags. The bridal part of my business just keeps going from strength to strength.”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“Since I was doing my undergraduate course at Cordwainers – the leather accessories making and designing part of London College of Fashion – I knew I wanted to start my own brand.”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“I was working towards my vision of starting my own line for years before the momentum tipped me into taking that step where I actually found a factory and got samples made for my first collection. Prior to that I grabbed every opportunity I could to do work experience, learn on the job, entered every competition I could. With hindsight I realised how important these steps were in the build-up to launching my business, as I had already started making a name for myself in the industry and building a network. I don’t think you can just wake up one morning and say you’re going to start a business, you have to learn about the landscape, trade and craft. I was fortunate in having a supportive and wise life partner – Bobby – who was running his own business when we first met. Bobby believed in my vision and he was a great sounding board. He has gone on to become my husband and CEO of my company.”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“I honestly can’t say that there was one defined day when everything switched from not having a business to having one, it was more an evolution from a vision and taking one step at a time. I think the bank approving my loan was a big moment though and the responsibility of making my idea a success became very real.”
#6 The highs – what have they been so far?
“The journey is full of endless highs mixed in with a lot of pressure. Seeing one design come to fruition can bring me so much pleasure, so can sharing moments with my team like at our notorious Christmas parties. Getting feedback from a member of my community saying that my shoes have brought them joy gives me huge highs. Then there are bigger moments like winning industry awards; being recognised always feels rewarding as does seeing my shoes on my A-lister heroes like Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and Gwen Stefani. But probably the greatest celebrity high was knowing that Oprah was wearing a pair of my shoes when she was delivering her #Timesup speech at the Golden Globes in 2018.”
#7 The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“I think from a young age I developed the ability to cope with failure. My dad always made me brush off disappointments with a ‘you win some you lose some’ attitude. And when I was a young teen I did a lot of competitive dancing which also set me up to cope, as knock-backs were part of the process, but my passion kept me going.”
#8 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
“Mostly lessons my husband has taught me along the way:
No.1 What is the ONE thing that I need to prioritise? I wish I’d learnt the art of focusing on one thing earlier on. Sometimes you want to do everything but you have to stay focussed on the sure-fire winners and make them great. I have in the past put myself under too much stress trying to manifest too many ideas.
No.2 Rome wasn’t built in a day – for those moments when I felt frustrated by not achieving everything I wanted at once. You need to have long term vision and stamina for the journey and sometimes plenty of patience.
No. 3 Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress – my personality means I can get bogged down with tweaking an idea but I’ve learnt that usually this isn’t the best way, and can really spoil momentum!”
#9 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Get up? Meditate? Read?)
“If I am awake because I am having clarity about something or an idea, then getting it down on paper is a great way to park the thought. Otherwise podcasts are a great way to zone out from the voices in my head.”
#10 Your top organisational tip?
“I’m not naturally organised but have learned to lean heavily on my notebook, as well as the people around me.”
#11 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
“I think the legacy that Miuccia Prada will leave is incredible. She always beats to the sound of her own drum and has always seemingly run a successful business without compromising on creativity. She puts art first, which I think is a great way to centre yourself in the fashion industry, I really relate to that.”
#12 An app/piece of tech you now couldn’t live without for your business:
“I started designing exclusively on an iPad in 2017, and now that’s how my whole design team works. It means I can rotate through endless ideas and colours very quickly. The software I use is Procreate, a very affordable yet powerful piece of software!”
#13 Your first ever job was…
“Silver service waitressing.”
#14 Your top social media tip?
“Be authentic, I think audiences are more loyal and engaged with accounts that aren’t faking it.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why…
“I’d love to work with an Italian heritage brand, many of them have really similar spirits to me.”
#16 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTree? Etc.)
“I’m loving TikTok at the moment, it reminds me that spontaneity and playing is very important.”
#17 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE:
“Do the ground work before getting started and manage your expectations so that you can cope when things don’t go your way, which inevitably happens.”
Read the full interview with the bridal editor here