When I first received news of Sophia Webster’s debut shoe collection, I dismissed the “inspired by Brazil” reference. The shoes were brightly coloured and I thought the link represented the usual cliché. Well, I was wrong. Having researched the brand further, not only does Sophia herself have some strong credentials, but she has also produced the collection in Brazil.
On closer inspection, her debut spring/summer 2013 range looks like it should belong in a sweet shop, so vibrant and delicious are the colour combinations. Sophia studied at the famous Cordwainers College in London, whose alumni include Jimmy Choo, and assisted the very talented Nicholas Kirkwood. This led to NEWGEN sponsorship - funding from the British Fashion Council - for her 2013 collection.
In a recent trip to her factory in Brazil, Sophia told Vogue.com: “Everyone paints their houses in mad bright pastels which inspired the colour palette. I spent some time in Rio between factory visits and really loved it there. Even in the parts with the most extreme poverty the people and the landscape is so lively and colourful and I wanted to reflect that in the collection.”
In writing about Sophia, I was reminded of Kat Maconie, another shoe designer who manufactures in Brazil and whom I’ve written about before. I spoke to her this week for a feature I’m writing for Drapers, but we got talking about Brazil and I learnt that she accompanied David Cameron on a trade delegation to Brazil in October. “I think I was chosen as the token small business!” she told me, modestly. “I was there with major corporate companies like Diageo and it was a great networking opportunity. It was really good for my brand portfolio and I made some useful contacts. David Camerom was very interested to hear about the advantages and challenges of trading in Brazil.”
Kat has now started to licence her brand in Brazil. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you could do worse than manufacture your shoes in Brazil, as these two up-and-coming designers know all too well.