Hetty Rose - The Emotional Experience of Bespoke Shoes

In this guest article for Urban Times, designer Henrietta Rose Samuels tells us about her ideas and inspirations which she is transforming into bespoke shoes for her label Hetty Rose.

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In this guest article for Urban Times, designer Henrietta Rose Samuels tells us about her ideas and inspirations which she is transforming into bespoke shoes for her label Hetty Rose. Henrietta will be demonstrating the process of shoe making at Bid for Better and two of her unique kimono handbags will be auctioned off in our silent auction.

My mother says on my very first day of nursery school she asked me what my teacher was like and all I talked about were her shiny red shoes! So I knew from an early age I was very taken with footwear. Following my childhood obsession, I went on to spend four years studying Footwear Design and Development at Cordwainers (London College of Fashion). I worked for other designers after graduating, but knew I wanted my name inside the shoe. I set up the Hetty Rose brand in 2007. An ethical, handmade shoe company based on a theory of re-using and re-working vintage materials in a creative and sustainable way, hand making shoes to fit.

A pair of bespoke kimono shoes. Image source: Henrietta Rose Samuels

I primarily up-cycle vintage Japanese kimono fabrics, each holding different meanings shown by their use of colour and graphics. Using such interesting genuine materials means these shoes go deeper than aesthetic glamour. The vintage kimono fabrics from Japan have stories behind them, the colours and designs have different meanings, for example if something has a big cherry blossom on it then that’s really lucky. I love telling each client about the fabric they have chosen for their bespoke shoes. They have an emotional attachment to their purchase, it’s more of an experience as they are involved in choosing the fabric, the style, heel etc. I send them photos as I make their shoes so they can see how they are developing.

The colourful “Kiki” shoes. Image Source: Henrietta Rose Samuels

The shoes are mainly created by up-cycling vintage Japanese kimono fabrics. I was travelling in Japan about 6 years ago and came across some tiny shops selling vintage kimono fabrics. These fabrics have already been un-picked and are panels, which lend themselves to shoe patterns. Therefore, I left my clothes in Japan and filled up my case with kimono fabrics and started to experiment with them in my workshop. I love it when I find a really beautiful piece of fabric. As the fabrics are one-offs they cannot be re-produced, so when I find something gorgeous, I have to do it justice by making it into something really wonderful. I go back each year to source more fabrics and be inspired by the beauty of the country.

Hand making in London. Image source: Henrietta Rose Samuels

I find influences and inspiration from many places. I am a self-confessed hoarder. I keep everything that inspires me or that could be useful, whether it be a picture, trinket, fabric swatch, vintage artefact or modern art sculpture. The idea of wasting something which could be transformed into something functional and beautiful is the reason I do what I do. Sustainability in the fashion field can be a challenge, so by having a concept which adheres to ethical and ecological sensitivities, I can be free with my designs. Objects, places, colours and dreamt-up ideas inspire me more than people or trends. My magpie tendencies often lead me to be inspired by trinkets and found objects which usually result in shoe designs.

I am also inspired by people. I worked with some designers during and after university including Georgina Goodman, where I learnt a great deal about bespoke shoe making and how to create a desirable and credible product. My biggest influences would be my mother for her incredible vision and ability to create something very unique with many hidden meanings. And to my late father, whose engineering background and photography talents helped me enormously to grow my business and learn how many things are constructed and still inspires me everyday to stay true to myself, my talents and goals.

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