A lot of people start a business or career out of something they love. I started one out of something I loathed: shoe shopping. The thought of it alone is enough to make my toes clench and anxiety heighten.
From the first time I stepped into that terrifying electronic steel foot measurement machine in Clarks -- only to be informed that the pretty shoes with the magic key in the sole did not go up to my size -- I have hated every single second of it. By year 7 I'd already outgrown my chance to own chunky-heeled Kickers, and resigned myself to the fact that the only secondary school status symbol I would ever own was a Morgan bag.
I do feel at this point -- and while I'm on a redraft -- that it's worth pointing out that I am aware of the larger issues in the world. But allow me to indulge in a little self-pity for a bit. We've all seen that over-shared Marilyn Monroe quote "Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world". And while this might sound trivial, how is a woman supposed to feel confident and perform at her best in a job interview, on a date or at an event, when all she can find to wear are frumpy courts and men's trainers?
Shoe shopping hasn't become much easier since my childhood, though I do think it hit peak levels of frustration during my late teens and early twenties, before internet shopping was really a thing. What I found most infuriating, was that the brands that did have the good sense to carry the odd larger size, didn't bother tell their shop staff which styles they actually came in. A typical pre-internet conversation in a shoe shop went something like this:
Me: Do you have this shoe in a size 9?
Shop Assistant: Erm, gosh. Let me just check... we don't stock all our shoes in a size 9. It's a very large size. [Cue long-winded conversation on walkie-talkie or extended trip to the stock room]. No we don't have that shoe in a size 9. The biggest we have is a 7. Would you like to try that?
Me: Erm, no thank you. So what shoes do you have in a size 9?
Shop Assistant: I'm not actually sure... but if you pick a shoe you like, I can tell you if it comes in a size 9.
Me: Ok. Do you have this one?
Shop Assistant: [Checks] No.
Me: This one?
Shop Assistant: No.
Me: This one?
Shop Assistant: No.
Me: Thanks for your help. Goodbye.
EXHAUSTING. And even more frustrating when shops ceased to create larger size shoes due to 'lack of sales'. The demand was there, it was just the big neon sign saying "FYI, THIS SHOE COMES IN A SIZE 9/10/11/12..." that wasn't.
Methods of shoe shopping have improved a little in the internet shopping age; there are filters for example on websites, that helpfully allow you to shrink the selection from 1,092 pairs of gloriously bright and beautiful shoes to the four pairs of plain black shoes that come in your size. Hooray.
So these are some of my "whys" for starting Otto + Ivy. Every time I start to work on a new shoe, I think about how flattering it will be on a long foot. But I also think about whether a person with size 6 feet would buy it too. Because this isn't a brand that's just about buying shoes that are 'big enough'. It's about buying shoes that make you really bloody happy.
I'm wearing the Emilia in Fuchsia from www.ottoandivy.com
I have lost count how many times I have had the same conversation with shop assistants.I used to go shopping every 6 weeks with my close friend on a Thursday evening when our local shopping mall opened until 9pm.
Every time I would watch my friend try lovely size 6 shoes on, grab sale deals and fill her wardrobe with every shoe I could ever wish for. The one thing that used to shop me buying a lot of different types of clothes was getting the right shoe to go with it, colour options were a hard thing and style, I mean who wants to wear granny style loafers with a cocktail dress.
One shopping trip my friend was trying on some boots and much to my delight they stocked a nice selection of size 9’s In store as a lot of stores now only offer a size 9 online as apparently people with big feet don’t go to stores to try on shoes ….. hmm anyways, as my friend was trying on her shoes I thought why not it says they have size 9, I asked the lady in the store which boots came in a size 9. To my delight, there was three pairs. They all fitted like a glove, I took them to the til and said I will have all three. My friend just looked at me, all three pairs she said, yes I said, but two are the same just different colour was her reply, and what’s wrong with that. ????!
She thought I was mad at how much I was spending as boots aren’t cheap, but my point was that finding a size 9 was like gold dust, especially nice ones. Her daughter now has large shoe size and I think she understands my pain more.
I thank you for offering shoes that make us larger feet size ladies feel like we matter too.
I only hope on day you can have a little store so that we can try on shoes while out shopping.
Thankyou for this, it is exactly the journey that I have gone through with my fabulous feet for the past 49 years! School days in old lady, sensible shoes, squeezing my feet into shoes that didn’t fit so I looked good, searching and searching for something to wear to special events( including my wedding) being told time after time, sorry we don’t do that size. I have always said there is a market for someone to create beautiful shoes in bigger sizes so huge congrats and thanks to you. Looking forward to ordering my first pair 😄x
Thanks Rach I will do. Yes, there have been too many awkward conversations with shop assistants and waaay too much Granny-ness! xx
Ah, THAT conversation. I’m a lot older than you but I missed most of the shoe trends up to doc martens, which were mercifully unisex but deeply unflattering! My mum found me a long-footed shoe store when I was 14, nothing but granny styled sensible shoes. But these days so much more is happening! Yiu should connect with Georgie from Willow shoes. Shes a start up entrepreneur just like you, passionate about same stuff. It’s so great to relate with other tall peeps through your blog. I’m glad you are blogging again!