Meet the Maker: Sophia Webster
Maybe it’s the physical resemblance to Lewis Carroll’s title character from Alice in Wonderland; perhaps it’s the dreamy, almost mesmerizing kaleidoscope of color, texture and pattern in her designs. Whatever the reason, British footwear designer Sophia Webster possesses an inherent—and utterly charming—ability to lead fashion down the rabbit hole to her wonderland of whimsical, ultra-feminine shoes.
The former protégé of the revered Nicholas Kirkwood and the first-ever shoe designer to receive the British Fashion Council’s New Gen award, Webster debuted her breakout namesake line in pre-spring/summer 2013 with aplomb.
Now available here across the pond, the line skillfully and surprisingly combines pastel shades and vibrant fluorescent patents with big, bold prints and almost-outrageous details. Frilly, playful and girly in the best possible sense, Sophia Webster shoes and accessories also embody the free-spirited nature of the designer herself.
“I think fashion is about personal freedom, to express who you are through the clothes you wear,” she explains. “The Sophia Webster girl is confident, independent and strong-minded, but she likes to have fun and doesn’t take herself too seriously.”
To celebrate the arrival of the line at Nordstrom, we sat down for a tête-à-tête with the wunderkind to learn what makes her tick, why she has an obsession with Narnia and what the must-have Sophia Webster shoe for fall is.
THE THREAD: How would you describe the general aesthetic and vibe of Sophia Webster?
SOPHIA WEBSTER: I would describe the aesthetic as playful, colorful and feminine. The shoes are for spirited women who love life.
Why footwear? What was it about shoes that first intrigued you?
I have always been intrigued with the ways in which shoes can transform not only an outfit but also the attitude of the outfit’s wearer. High heels emphasize femininity—they change your posture and the way you carry yourself in general.
Color-happy: Sophia Webster goes wild with her pre-fall collection
How did your apprenticeship at Nicholas Kirkwood influence the designs we see today? What was the most valuable lesson you learned?
He influenced my entire attitude toward shoes. If Nicholas has an idea for a shoe and if suppliers or manufacturers tell him it is not possible, he will exhaust the possibilities until he can prove them wrong. If he believes something is possible, then he always finds a way to make it happen.
He was also a great influence in terms of his approach to design and his capability to balance his technical knowledge of shoe production with his creativity—without letting one restrict the other.”
The bold and the beautiful: Sophia Webster ‘Rik 03’ Sandal
Which design are you the most proud to see come to life?
The ‘Rik 03’ shoe, which is my best seller, was one of my first shoes I designed on my master’s course at the Royal College of Art in 2009. At college, I was very strong-minded in that I only wanted to design shoes that were wearable and commercially viable. I always believed that if you cannot wear a shoe and walk in it, then it is a sculpture rather than a shoe with purpose.
What were a few of your inspirations for your autumn/winter collection? We’re especially intrigued by the use of bold patterns and color.
I was inspired by my favorite childhood books and films: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edward Scissorhands and Clueless. The collection has Cher Horowitz-esque plaids, rainbow Narnia-inspired heart polka dots printed onto hologram leather and polka-dot pony skin.
I love incorporating pastel colors and vibrant fluorescents with neutrals. I feel that it adds more visual texture and a fresh and uplifting perspective. I studied fine art before I started designing shoes, so mixing color has always been a passion of mine.”
On the dot: Polka-dot booties from the 2013 London Fashion Week Presentation
Tell us about the thinking behind your London Fashion Week Presentation last February. What did it say about your line?
I wanted to create a rainbow Narnia forest, dressing the models as unicorns complete with horns made of plaited rainbow hair. The entrance to the presentation was through a wardrobe, so it created a dream-like experience when you entered the forest. I love creating an imaginative setting to showcase the new collections. I think it gives people a chance to immerse themselves in the crazy Sophia Webster world.
Magical land: Sophia Webster’s fanciful fairyland presentation in London
We’re rounding out our fall wardrobes, so we have to ask: what are a few of your favorite designs for everyday wear?
For everyday wear, ‘Liza 4’ is a statement pointy pump, a classic shape with a metallic polka-dot twist. It’s comfortable at work and dressy enough to carry you through to after-work drinks. ‘Liza 4’ will definitely be a main part of my fall wardrobe… I also couldn’t live without my ‘Finn’ shoes, ‘Amis’ boots and ‘Suki’ wedges. They are super-comfortable and are the perfect day-to-night shoes.
Photos courtesy of Sophia Webster