And some pretty gorgeous clutch bags too
If accessories could talk, Sophia Webster’s would sing at the top of their voices; most likely Mariah Carey. The quirky cordwainer’s joyful shoes are renowned for their fluro polka dots, and her vibrant clutches come emblazoned with irreverent slogans, mostly Clueless quotes.
The London-born designer was studying art and sculpture at Camberwell College of Arts when she discovered her passion for shoes. She cut her teeth working as Nicholas Kirkwood’s apprentice, before bravely setting out on her own.
Since her debut collection for spring/summer 2013, Sophia’s playful presentations at London Fashion Week have gone from rookie-status to a must-see on every editor’s hitlist. Four years on, she’s amassed a loyal celebrity fan club too, that includes everyone from Scarlett Johansson to Nicki Minaj.
We caught up with the designer to talk world domination, one neon-hued stiletto at a time.
Tell us about your SS17 collection?
The inspiration for this collection is Dreamgirls meets Hitchcock’s The Birds, set within a tropical paradise. My favourite piece is the ‘Firebird Sandal’ which I wore to our presentation; they are bold and full of vibrant colour, which embodies this season’s collection.
How would you define your own personal style and is it reflected in your designs?
Day-to-day I dress casually, usually a sequin or slogan tee from Markus Lupfer or House of Holland with a pair of jeans and a pair of my Riko sneakers. Although, when I’m going somewhere special I do like to dress up and keep it cute with a dress or skirt – my favourite go-to brands are Mary Katrantzou and Vivetta.
Heels or flats?
I’d say I wear flats more now that I have a two-year-old daughter Bibi-Blossom to run around after!
You’ve said in the past that you look to the art world to inspire your imaginative designs – is there an artist or gallery in particular that you find yourself drawn to again and again?
In London, I love the V&A and the Tate Modern, and in New York the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) where I visited a great Matisse exhibition. I love finding independent galleries so I am lucky to travel often and discover new places, such as Art Attack Gallery in San Francisco, where I went to see a wonderful Hello Kitty exhibition. I love creatives who use colour in a really expressive way, particularly Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and photographer Mika Ninagawa.
Do you have a muse?
Each collection is inspired by its own muse. My SS17 collection was inspired by Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Shirelles, Martha and the Vandellas, all 60’s icons who I admire for their energy and sass.
Is there a particular piece of advice that Nicholas Kirkwood has given you over the years that has stuck with you?
I don’t think there’s one main piece of advice he has given me, but when I started working as a design assistant for him there were only two employees and by the time I left there were around 30, so to see and experience that growth has been really valuable to me.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone aspiring to set up their own business?
I think it’s important to trust yourself and your own vision; you’ve got to stay in your own lane. You need to be assertive and direct in what you want to communicate. The best advice I think overall is to be dedicated to working hard and most importantly be fearless!
How would you like to see the SS17 collection styled?
Our fashion week presentation is always my dream styling of each collection, this season we even sourced a 60’s inspired sequin dress for one of the looks which was my ideal styling for SS17. However, I love looking at our tagged pictures on Instagram to see all the different ways women style my shoes and bags.
What’s your ultimate goal for your brand?
To stand the test of time.
If you could spend a day in anyone’s shoes who would it be and why?
I really wish I could sing like an R&B diva, so if I could spend the day in anyone’s shoes it would be Jazmine Sullivan who has the most incredible voice. Or maybe even Mariah, even just for five minutes to sing Emotions and hit those high notes!