A Birmingham shoe designer specialising in bridal footware is optimistic about the debut of her first own-name collection in independent wedding boutiques across the country despite the difficult retail backdrop.
Harborne-based Rachel Simpson attracted intense interest in her collection among visitors to the NEC and Earls Court National Wedding Shows and has a bulging order book ahead of the launch in January.
She has also enlisted a growing number of independent bridal shops nationwide who are keen to stock her designs, which focus mainly on vintage-inspired bridal footware with a few special occasion shoes.
“My shoes went down really well at the shows - I couldn’t have asked for a better reception.
“It’s strange because you spend months developing the collection as you want it but then you basically just open it out for everyone to have a look.
“We’ve got a lot of people on the mailing list because a lot aren’t getting married until next year, some even in 2010.
Ms Simpson launched her label in April this year after working as both a freelance designer for companies supplying big names such as TopShop and Office as well as working in-house at Next and shoe firm Rombah Wallace.
Despite the encroaching recession, Ms Simpson is upbeat about her prospects although she acknowledges brides-to-be are changing their spending habits and thinking differently about how they budget for their weddings.
“To be honest people have said I’m crazy starting a business now but the National Wedding Show attendance was up 14 per cent on last year.
“People still want their fairy tale wedding but the difference now is that people will take longer to get there.
“They might have to save a bit longer and have a longer engagement. When it comes to girls and their shoes I don’t think it’s an area they will cut back on.”
Her vision for her own-name label is to offer a collection of shoes that differs from those available at the multiples, taking inspiration from the shoes of the twenties, thirties and forties.
“We’re aiming quite deliberately at just independents at the moment. We’re aiming at high-end bridal boutiques initially and to roll that out to non-bridal next year,” said Ms Simpson.
“We’ve got around 25 stockist confirmed and that’s growing all the time.”
Ms Simpson said the lack of footware manufacturing capacity in the UK meant she had opted to get her shoes made in Spain.
“It was a deliberate decision - the high street is full of copycat fashion from the Far East and it was a definite decision to get a high-quality product made within Europe.
“People want a product that is going to last and is not seasonal - they can get it out of the box after a few years and still wear them and they are still comfortable.”
Although the collection focuses mainly on bridal footware at the moment, Ms Simpson hopes to expand into the special occasion range including mother-of-the-bride shoes as well as shoes for other wedding guests.
A bag range to complement the shoe collection is also in the pipeline as well as a capsule men’s collection of shoes for weddings and special occasions.
But Ms Simpson is keen not to lose sight of her main area.
“I don’t want to go to quickly and run before I can walk - I want to get well-known in bridal first.”
Rachel’s shoes are being showcased at an event called “Style yourself for Christmas” at the Radisson SAS Birmingham, organised by Ladies Who Socialise, the Midlands-based women-only social group.