Interview with shoe designer Laura See

Read how her husband’s death – just five months after they married – helped fuel Laura See to follow her passion – and launch her shoe design business, Laura See London.

What’s your career background?

I worked for an interior architect firm for 14 years, mainly as a health and safety consultant. I always wanted to work within a creative industry yet was never creatively fulfilled in my role.

A background working with architects in the design and build world has held me in good stead for a career as a shoe designer – the two go hand in hand. Without a solid design and structure, the shoe will not work!

When did you get the idea for your business?

I have always wanted to do something creative, I painted with oils from a young age and still do. I have a love of shoes which started at a very young age, and sadly it was a tragic circumstance which made me combine my two passions.

My husband passed away from cancer after five months of marriage, and whilst he was being treated I taught myself to sketch shoes as a therapeutic past time. I then decided to switch careers and move to Florence to learn how to design shoes, and I have never looked back.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I think it was always the ‘dream’ to become a shoe designer and have my own brand but I had no idea how to make that a reality. I did the usual internship applications after my studies but just found it so hard to get a break, companies either not getting back to me or wanting a years hard work for no pay, which wasn’t ideal.

I had a niggling voice in my head telling me to go it alone and just see what happens. I kept in touch with my tutors and maintained a good relationship which I think Is so important in business. I started working on a small collection and then when lockdown hit, it gave me the time and focus I needed to look into branding, social media, refining the collection etc.

It then kind of started moving forward organically. I just decided it was all in or all out. I had nothing to loose and thought what’s the worst thing that can happen?!

What’s your USP?

I think my story behind the brand is pretty unique. I have a very raw and honest story which made me start the journey and launch the brand and I think that is key to finding the right consumers. People often buy into a person and like a real story behind a product – something that has been created through sheer grit and determination.

I also put an injection of my artwork onto my shoes. Splashes of colour add personality and give a real original and vibrant feel. After all I wanted to design shoes due to the sheer joy they bring me when I wear them and I want to give that feeling to other strong and fearless women. I want them to feel part of my journey.

Who’s your target audience?

Women who want to feel free to wear whatever they want to any occasion. They are on their own personal journey. Positive, fun and fearless women who aren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd and try something new. Women who understand quality over quantity.

I don’t like to put women into an age bracket – that shouldn’t define what they can and can’t wear.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

I struggle with social media but I use mainly Instagram and LinkedIn and recently twitter. Word of mouth is also important, and I am working with some PR professionals to push my brand story out there ahead of the product launch. It is difficult with COVID-19, everything is much slower!

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

I think lockdown has had its ups and downs. On the positive side, due to the crisis more companies are willing to work with start-ups, on the down side, getting factories and contacts in Italy to respond is slow as some factories are closed.

And your proudest moment so far?

I think actually graduating from the course in Italy! I was lucky to be trained by some of the finest craftsman in the world of shoe making and I feel very privileged that I was able to do it. I think when the shoes arrive I will probably cry!

Why is work so important to you?

I think it is so important to do what you love. You get so much more from it than just financial security. I left my job and had no income for a year. It was tough. But it is so important to not live with a regret.

Work hard and treat people well, and I truly believe doors will open… and I want to walk through them wearing fabulous shoes!

Who inspires you?

I have very strong women around me within my family and friend group so I always draw inspiration and energy from them. I also love Iris Apfel’s no nonsense and completely fearless attitude and sense of style.

There are so many amazing women to draw inspiration from… Emma Watson, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lawrence – amazing women who are showing a new generation how to be a strong and fearless woman with a voice.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

I’ll give you four!!

  1. Follow your gut and just go for it!!! I once read that when you jump, the net will catch you. So so true…..
  2. Ask questions! Realise you can’t always do it all alone so speak to other professionals who can offer advise and point you in the right direction – and be willing to take that advice.
  3. Work hard. There is no such thing as overnight success.
  4. Finally, don’t take no for an answer. You can do whatever you set out to do if you go about it in the right way and treat people as you wish to be treated.

You can follow Laura on Instagram (@lauraseelondon) and find out more about her on her website.