London based shoe brand La Paire is making waves with its handmade leather flats. Distinguishing itself from other shoe brands by offering sandals all year round, La Paire offers gorgeous shoes. I sat down with founder Amy La to hear more about her brand and tips for starting your own shoe brand.
1. Before starting your own brand you’ve worked in finance and worked for department stores like Selfridges. What made you decide to start La Paire?
It was frustrating not being able to find comfortable and nice sandals for my summer holidays and that’s where the idea started. I took some time off after leaving my role in retail buying and enrolled in several shoe-making courses. These courses taught me a lot about design as well as the technical aspects such as pattern making and grading and this certainly fuelled my interest in shoes even more. While doing some research as part of my course-work, I found that there was a gap in the market for fun yet classic-styled sandals and that’s when I decided to start La Paire.
2. What makes a great sandal?
When I’m buying a pair of sandals, I always look for a classic-elegant design that’s well-made and comfortable.
3. You are originally from Sydney, Australia. Does your background influence your designs?
It does to a certain extent. Coming from Sydney where we have wonderful weather, we want to be comfortable when it’s a hot day especially during work hours. Wearing high-heel shoes can be very uncomfortable as your feet tend to swell in the heat and flip-flops are too casual. Given the right pair of sandals, they can be just as dressy as high heels.
4. What sets La Paire apart from the other brands in the market?
We’re a shoe brand that specialises in flat sandals and ballet pumps. Because this is all we offer, it allows us to focus on the finer details of these particular styles setting them apart from what the high street and designer brands offer. Comfort and the use of quality materials are also key focuses. In addition to this, our sandals are available all year round, which not many brands offer.
5. Who is the La Paire girl?
Someone who is fun, stylish and loves to travel but also values good design and quality craftsmanship.
6. Who and what influences your designs?
Lots of things inspire my designs – it could be anything from artwork, patterns and colours to buildings and places. Our customers also influence us and we try to incorporate their feedback into future designs; it could be a colour preference or the lengthening of a strap, it’s all very useful.
7. What do you hope to have achieved in the industry, five years from now? And where do you hope not to be five years from now?
I would love for La Paire to be recognised as a go-to-brand for summer sandals and ballet flats, and to have grown the business both within the UK and internationally. As for where not to be in five years, I hope the brand would have grown from where we are today.
8. Can you describe your brand in five words?
Comfortable, fun, elegant, quality, stylish.
9. What’s the most challenging part about designing shoes?
The most challenging part is coming up with different designs each season and also being mindful of what our customers like. Even though I have creative freedom, I still have to make sure it’s a commercial collection so that it sells. One other challenge is that designs can turn out completely wrong; sometimes the idea is just better on paper!
10. Can you tell me a bit about your new collection?
“Dusk” is our new collection for AW/14 and as the name suggests, the theme is centred around this magical time of the day. With this collection we wanted to inject some colour into a season that can often be dark and dull. Our colour palette is inspired by the dusky colours of the Autumn night sky and we’ve used glitter fabrics and metallic leathers to add another dimension to the designs. We especially love the two glitter styles, which are perfect for the Holiday season.
11. What’s the greatest advice you have ever received and who gave it to you?
The best advice I received was from my grandmother – she always told me to be kind and work hard. Kindness is a great quality to have, it shows that you care and are respectful of those around you. My grandmother came from a poor upbringing but despite this, she managed to successfully set up and run various market stalls and food carts, which allowed her to provide for the family. Her sheer determination and hard work made this happen and this is something I always reflect on when I’m going through a challenging time.
12. If there is one thing you could do differently with starting your own brand what would that be?
I’ve probably wasted a lot of time with menial tasks. While I enjoy doing everything myself, it can also be incredibly time consuming. Too much time can be spent on writing shoe descriptions or tinkering with website imagery. I’ve since learnt to prioritise work better and plan ahead. I’ve also come to realise that asking for help isn’t a bad thing, so I now have a few people to perform certain tasks for me. Being distracted by too many activities can often leave me exhausted, frustrated, and with little results to show. Time is valuable, especially when you’re running a business on your own so it’s important to run it efficiently.
13. What advice can you give to someone who wants to start their own shoe brand?
To start a shoe brand like any fashion brand or business, you need to be passionate about your product. Determination and hard work are also fundamental and all three attributes are what help you achieve your objectives. There are other aspects to consider as well and these include finding a manufacturer, sourcing components such as lasts, materials and soles (some factories can source this), storage and tradeshows. There are a lot of upfront costs well before the brand launches so having the funds to cover these costs is very important.
14. On what items should people splurge and save on?
I’d say splurge on handbags and shoes. These are items that you use and wear everyday, especially shoes. Ill-fitting shoes are bad for your feet so it’s important to buy a pair of comfortable quality shoes. The high-street nowadays offer some great choices for jeans so that’s definitely a save.
15. Lastly, what do you have in your handbag?
Designer handbags are my guilty pleasure…today I’m carrying (Amy rummages in her bag) my Iphone, house keys, Burt’s Bees lip balm, wallet, coin purse, notebook, pencil case, shoe samples and a La Paire catalogue.