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