‘SMUG’ is not usually the word to describe how I feel when leaving Browns boutique. Charmed, always. Covetous, often. But smug? This time I’d stumbled upon a seemingly well-kept secret of the fashion pack: Sophia Grace. Remember the name.
Were Carine Roitfeld a shoe, she’d surely be a Sophia Grace.
Sophia Grace, real name Sophia Grace Webster, is a 26-year-old pocket rocket (standing at 5’ 1”, her passion for all things heeled takes on a new resonance), based in London. Back in January the star in ascendance won Browns’ competition to launch a new designer in celebration of the opening of their standalone shoe boutique,. Handpicked by a stellar judging panel, which included shoe maestro, Nicholas Kirkwood, and Mrs B herself, the designer’s latest collection is the fruit of that collaboration, produced exclusively for the store.
“I design for confident women who are really in tune with their femininity and are not afraid of colour,” she muses. Were Carine Roitfeld a shoe, she’d surely be a Sophia Grace. Fierce femininity incarnate, sky-high stilettos, peep-toe pumps and finely-crafted flats finished in a riotous palette of bright colours and strong, architectural lines make up the collection. There’s a lot of fun to be had too. Grace’s research for her latest designs began with butterfly wings. Taking inspiration from her country of birth, South Africa, she focused on rare species native to the continent, and bold asymmetrical beauty became a theme. The result is charmingly playful: shoes with seemingly mismatched patterning, which makes sense when the wearer places their feet together. One pair has a black patent squiggle that goes all the way across the upper of one shoe and tapers off half way across the next. They’re delectably freakish and the perfect antidote to the sombre turn fashion’s taken these past couple of seasons. You heard it here first: this coming autumn, le freak, c’est chic.
When it comes to the style stakes, few things are more wince-inducing than a woman in shoes she can’t manage. Thankfully, Sophia Grace has got the not-so-sexy issue of comfort covered too. Though the bulk of the collection is a veritable homage to the spindly stiletto, some clever tricks ensure that the wearer is not reduced to a hobbling wreck. Take the multi-coloured leather heels. Yes, they’re vertiginous at a cool 5.2 inches and their in-your-face sophistication would attract Carrie Bradshaw like a wasp to jam, but with soft suede straps continuing up to the ankles and a secure, beaded closure, these really are shoes you could walk a mile in.
“I wanted to show a fresh collection of delicate silhouettes which embraced femininity and functionality,” the designer says. “My objective being that they were shoes to be worn and enjoyed, not sculptures or objects.”
At the other end of the spectrum are the compulsory flat sandals (even fashionistas need downtime you know). Finished in soft leather with half a bright fuchsia butterfly on each shoe front, they’re perfect with this summer’s crop of maxi dresses; the symmetrical butterfly halves making them unique enough to stand out from the crowd, quite literally.
Aside from her admirable list of qualifications and prizes in the business of creating impeccable footwear, the designer should know a thing or two about feet, having previously competed internationally as a disco dancer. “I always thought I’d have my own dance school,” she reflects, “but I grew out of that idea!” Today she works under the auspices of Nicholas Kirkwood as assistant designer at his Mayfair studio. Yet to launch her own label – watch this space – Sophia Grace pieces are currently exclusive to Browns, making them even more special. Imagine owning a before-they-were-famous pair of Ginas or Manolos. That’s what we’re dealing with, ladies.
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