It’s amazing who, once you get talking to other parents at the school gates you get to meet. There are so many Mums out there who not only look after the family but, have decided to take the plunge and set up their own business. One such parent Georgie met at Harry’s school. Isabel is a Mum of two and has taken the step to start her one kids’ shoe brand, Meeny’s. Originally from Spain, Isabel knows the quality of footwear produced there is some of the finest you can get, so she designs the collection here in the UK and has the shoes made to her exacting specifications in her home country. Harry has the Safari boots which are a soft chocolate suede. Each piece is meticulously designed to make sure your little one’s feet are comfortable and supported.
We asked Isabel if she would let us into her world. She also gives some good advice for those of us thinking or wondering whether we should venture out on our own.
1. Describe yourself in five words!
I suppose I am rather particular and stubborn but also straight-forward, enthusiastic and fiercely loyal.
2. Your background is in Interior design…what made you decide to venture into kids’ shoes?
After getting a law degree in Madrid I moved to London to study at the Inchbald then worked for Helen Green in Chelsea for a couple of years until my husband’s work moved us to the Middle East. Out there I did a bit of interior design work but began wanting to do something more essentially creative. Of course, like every girl, I had always loved shoes and I saw here was a fascinating hands on shoe design course at the London College of Fashion. I thought “why not” and signed up as soon as we returned home. After the course I looked around and the biggest weakness in the UK market was kids shoes. The fact that my home country had such a strong industry in that area with great local materials made me think it was an opportunity worth exploiting.
We had just moved to Hampshire and I was struggling with all the usual trials of boxes, builders, a baby and a puppy (Meeny the dachshund) when a sample of beautiful shoes arrived from a small family owned business in Valencia. I had spent about a year and a half meeting and testing suppliers. It was very difficult trying to establish a reliable source of low volume bespoke fabrication with great quality that could be easily affordable. There had been a lot of false starts but finally it seemed I had established a source. I remember carefully checking the stitching, lining and materials against the best grown-up shoes we had ever treated ourselves to and thought – this is going to work….
5. What tips would you give parents when looking for good quality children’ shoes?
Unfortunately in a traditional retail environment the manufacturing cost of kids shoes represents 10-20% of the price you have to pay. A lot of shoes look like real leather but aren’t. Poor quality materials can make for unhealthy feet, blisters and other complications. Many brands gamble that children will grow out of their shoes in a couple of months so don’t build them to last. The problem is that children’s feet grow in spurts so often a fit could last nearly a year. Also at a time when joints, bones, muscles and posture are all developing it is essential to have a balanced and supportive shoe – especially as kids spend so much more time in their feet than adults do. So look at the quality of the lining – especially around the heel where a soft natural leather should be used. Also inspect how the upper is joined to the sole and of course that it’s not a plastic or cardboard laminate construction with a thin leather coating (you would be amazed how many are!).
6. How long does it take for an initial design to become a reality?
7. What can we expect to see from Meeny’s in Autumn / Winter 2016?
Lots more school shoes (a sneak peak at the new boy’s school shoe below which is coming soon) – the English mums seem to care most about these – we are focusing on practical every day designs with traditional elegance.