Celebrity-loved shoe designer Sophia Webster talks new table tome at Emirates LitFest

DUBAI: British shoe designer Sophia Webster needs no introduction. Since founding her label in 2012, Webster’s shoes have graced the who’s who of A-list celebrities, including Beyonce, Rihanna, Kendall Jenner, and Blake Lively.

The footwear designer is at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai for two panel talks: A Feb. 3 panel discussion on “Statement Pieces” and a Feb. 4 session titled “Sophia Webster’s Fashion Empire.”

The designer is at the festival to promote her book “Oh My Gosh, I Love Your Shoes” that celebrates her 10-year anniversary in the industry. Ahead of her appearance, she spoke to Arab News about the tome.

Released in October, the part-memoir, part-coffee table book is a visual treat with 365 shoe sketches alongside heartfelt and witty anecdotes that tell her story. During the pandemic lockdown, she challenged herself to sketch a shoe a day from her archives.

“I didn’t set out to write a book. The lockdown allowed me a bit of space to reflect. When you’re running a business in the fashion industry – which is one season after another – you don’t get a chance to stop and stand still,” explained Webster.

“The challenge to sketch a shoe a day was a way to celebrate my archive of shoes in a new way. And as I started sketching one shoe a day, it brought back different memories – from childhood stories to running a business as a young entrepreneur to juggling fashion London Fashion Week,” she added.

As the anecdotes started flowing, the designer started writing them down, with the highs and lows and everything in between. Just like her shoes, each page of her book is inherently her – colorful, bold and fantastical.

“I wanted every page to be like telling a different story – a bit like I used to do with my London Fashion Week shows – how I’ve set the scene and tried to immerse somebody in my world and imagination. So, each spread becomes a mini mood board,” she said. 

Webster — who also designed the stage shoes for the Spice Girls’ reunion tour in 2019 — is known for her fusion of whimsy and craftsmanship. Her designs are often inspired by unexpected subjects like clouds, ‘90s TV shows, butterflies, speech bubbles, and even doodles.

As you flip the pages, you learn about different stages of her life as well as everything that inspired her. For instance, many of her best-seller shoes feature butterflies — namely the “Chiara” — an influence she took from her grandmother who loved butterflies. Elsewhere, she discusses the challenges of creating the 3D prototype for the thigh-high “Electra” boot. But one of the most exciting stories was when she was working on her final year project in footwear design — a professor told her it was unrealistic to have US superstar Beyonce as a target customer.

Ironically, a few years into launching her brand, Beyonce did wear her designs – multiple times over. “I think maybe they thought I wasn’t taking it very seriously. But it was serious to me. That was my dream, and I believed it would be possible one day,” Webster said. 

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