2 Years In The Making

I think I was probably sitting in the kitchen drinking my tenth cup of tea, possibly day dreaming, definitely looking at a big pile of washing up… But I distinctly remember the feeling of…. This is something that people need.

I had the idea to start a shoe brand after I had Ziggy… My third child but my first boy…. “Oh” I said to myself…. “So it’s not just girls shoe shopping I find annoying, its boys too…”

But my maternity leave was coming to an end, and I didn’t think I had the headspace to cope with 3 kids, a full time job and thinking about starting my own business… But head space or not, I couldn’t stop thinking about it… I had worked in fashion for over 20 years… As a head of buying, you were responsible for a lot but the financial risk was not yours… I’m not an entrepreneur, where do I even start?? But in the end you have to trust your gut… So I stopped procrastinating and left my job…

So what does it take to build a shoe brand from scratch?
Time, patience and a lot of help…

It all begins with the last

The last determines the shape and fit of the shoe.

A lot of shoe brands will use an off the shelf last, and get straight into sampling and production. But I wanted something unique that not only looked good, but also performed for both fit and function. Thanks to my friend Stephen, I found @springline, the UK’s only remaining last maker in Northampton, once the home of UK footwear production.

There I met Mike James, the master of his craft… He listened to my ideas, looked at my inspiration and set to work hand carving the original Zig+Star wooden last.. well two lasts to be exact, one for Infants and one for Juniors, to accommodate differences in growth patterns. These lasts would be the foundation of all future development and so it had to be perfect.

It took quite a few rounds of sampling but I believe Mike created something unique… one optimum width with a shape that not only worked for growing feet, but looked good too.

A high quality, trusted factory 

Having spent over 20 years working in footwear, I had the benefit of working with some of the best factories all over the world. The decision on who to work with had to be based on trust. Having worked with them for most of my career, I knew I could trust their quality, professionalism and forward thinking attitude. And they had to trust I knew what I was doing, as a project like this would take time, hard work and a lot of sampling! They have been supportive and committed to the project from outset.

A top-notch designer 

We were friends of friends... Vicks had said she was the best designer she had ever worked with… She wasn’t wrong...

From the minute we met, myself and Jane (@doodleshoe) were on the same page. An experienced designer, and mum too, she shared my frustration with the kids footwear market, understood my vision and brought it to life.

Podiatrist approved

For Zig+Star, the priority was that it had to consider all aspect of kids foot health and therefore I had to find an expert in Paediatric Podiatry.

Tracy Byrne (aka @speedymum) from @holistichealthhackney has been an absolute legend. Throughout the development process, we had to make sure she was happy with all aspects of design, fit and function, and wouldn’t confirm anything without her approval. She was so generous with her time, and her enthusiasm for the project reassured us we were onto something special. Every aspect of Zig+Star product has been approved and endorsed by Tracy.

Foot technologist

This is ESSENTIAL! Not only to ensure the styles fit and work as they should, but also that they meet the rigorous requirements in terms of durability, function and REACH testing… Something, thankfully, Sarah Dixon Hodeib knows all about…

She helped fit all the samples, undertook the mammoth task of creating the testing framework for all Zig+Star products and was another step in ensuring Zig+Star products was of the best possible quality.

Expert opinion

So we know it works and looks good…. but will it sell?

I tentatively approached Kirsty and Arancha from @windmill_kids shoes in Crouch End.. I hoped they might give me a bit of feedback on my samples… What I got was an amazing sounding board for all aspects of the brand… Again, so generous with their time, they cast their professional eyes over the product and gave feedback on everything from fit, colour, price, even packaging. They have firsthand experience of what their customers want from a kids shoe... 

Creative

I worked with @jimmyjamesmac on all things design… first my logo, then shoebox, and now this amazing website, a very talented man.

Then @judiabbot helped bring to life my idea for the Zig+Star print, each icon representing something important to the brand… sustainability, equality, exploration, freedom…

Then there are the friends...

Who have listened, encouraged, talked me down and generally been there for me on this journey… Vicki, Sophie, Anna and Sara, you are all legends...

And family too... Tom who’s become a reluctant logistics expert... Kids who probably never want to try on another shoe again!

When I look back on this whole process of getting the brand ready for launch, it makes me realise it’s all been about collaboration…

I’ve worked with amazing, talented, generous people who have got me this far…. Zig+Star wouldn’t exist without them.
Ali
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