Rachel Simpson Shoes burst on to the wedding shoe scene back in 2008, redefining bridal shoes and giving classic styles a contemporary twist. Here, Wedding Ideas chats to the lady behind the brand, Rachel Simpson, and reveals where she gets her inspiration…
When did you start your business and why?
After several years designing for the high street, I got a bit bored of copycat fashion. At the same time I also made bespoke commissions and had made a few pairs of wedding shoes (including my sister’s), and noticed a gap in the market for something a little bit different to the more traditional idea of what wedding shoes should be. I’d always wanted to start my own business, so in 2008 I finally took the plunge!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I love everything twenties and thirties, and love old wedding photographs from this era, as well as a good rummage in a vintage shop and a mooch through a gorgeous costume book or three. My mum’s always been into textiles and haberdashery, too, so I think some of it comes from there. I try and combine this love of vintage with current trends and shapes to hopefully get the best of both eras!
What is your favourite material to work with?
Leather and soft suede are my favourite – they give a soft finish perfect for bridal, but can be worn again easily.
If you could see your shoes on any celeb, who would it be?
Ooh tricky one. Someone quintessentially British with a touch of Hollywood glam, such as Emily Blunt or Rachel Weiss. Oh, and Kate Middleton of course – but show me a shoe designer who wouldn’t!
Where do you get inspiration for your photo shoots?
I’m so lucky to work with the fabulous Emma Case, and we get a lot of ideas just chatting! Our latest shoot had more of a stylised, fashion shoot feel to it, which came from a balloon image Emma had seen, so we had a play! Mainly we try and keep it simple, and focus on the product whilst giving an overall brand look. If you have a great team and don’t try and be too clever you can’t go far wrong!
How and where are the shoes made, briefly?
I design all of our shoes then develop samples together with our two factories in Spain. After fit testing these and making any necessary adjustments, they go into production at the factories. Very briefly… the pieces are cut and stitched by hand, then ‘lasted’ into their 3D form before attaching soles and heels. All of this is done by hand, with necessary machines for the more technical bits such as heel attachment. We have a whole section on our website explaining how our shoes are made btw..
You don’t just make shoes though, do you? Tell us about your other products…
We dip our toe (excuse the pun) into accessories, but it was never planned! As we don’t do bling and sparkle, it’s nice to offer brides this option if it matches their themes, so we developed a selection of shoe clips with the very talented Laurel Lime. These are great worn to the wedding, then afterwards you can wear your shoes plain, and the shoe clips on any shoes! This season we’ve also developed some co-ordinating twenties style headpieces with the fab Sharper Millinery too.
What’s the RS Outlet?
We launched this a few years ago and it’s a bit like a factory outlet if you like. Basically this is where our shoes go when we have slight factory seconds, discontinued styles or even shoes which have been worn on a photoshoot. It’s a great way of picking up a bargain!
What’s the most commercially successful shoe you’ve ever made, and why do you think that is?
Without doubt, the ever popular Mimi. It’s funny, when I drew it I had a feeling it would be a best seller. I think it’s just so versatile, and the t-bar is really flattering on so many different feet! And on a practical level it’s supportive with the strap and on our most popular heel height.
Who’s your favourite shoe designer?
Where to start! There’s nothing more delicious than a beautifully cut court shoe, and no one does that better than Rupert Sanderson. I love the simplicity of his designs, to which he adds just enough detail before making them in the most delicious leathers – perfect! And for something a little more quirky it has to be Guiseppe Zanotti, who I’ve loved for years and is now a bit of a celeb favourite!