Think on your Feet: Julia Grinham of Upper Street Shoes
Julia Grinham is the CEO and founder of Upper Street Shoes; the London-based label that lets you design your own quality, custom shoes with its unique online design tool. As a huge fan of Upper Street, I was eager to find out more about Julia and her experiences of running this highly unusual and original company.
What's the most popular type of shoe on your site currently, and which add-ons are most in vogue?
In previous years our customers have always been avid fans of the platform but recently we have started to see their tastes change as they opt for the more delicate sandals and pointed courts - especially D'Orsay, with or without the ankle strap. Whilst studs are as popular as ever, customers are also getting more bold with their choice of colours and designing styles in vibrant yellows, oranges and blues.
Has anything really surprised you about the styles that are most popular among your customers?
Although many of our customers still love the lower heel options we are very surprised by how brave our customers are becoming when designing their shoes with bolder colours and a heavier use of embellishments.
Will you be introducing any more shoe styles into your collection soon?
We have many exciting new shoe styles that we are looking to launch - including: ankle boots, a high caged sandal, flats and wedges.
How do you ensure that the quality of your shoes is kept to such high standards?
Upper Street shoes are handmade by a team of skilled craftsmen in our workshop in Dongguan, China. The workshop has a team of shoe makers, a technical director and production manager. My sister and co-founder Katy, divides her time between the Hong Kong office and the workshop, working closely with the team to make sure that everything is running well. We are extremely proud of the team that we have developed in China, and the shoes that they make.
We would love to produce a line of handbags as our customers are always asking us when we are going to as many would like to be able to get a matching bag to the pair of shoes that they have designed.
To produce a line of handbags would mean setting up a whole new area of production and a brand new section of the site - but this is definitely something that we are considering for the future.
How do you think that Upper Street has managed to survive during a major recession?
We've experienced really strong growth despite recession, and this is testament both to the growing demand for bespoke designed shoes, and the fact that Upper Street continually delivers on its promise of making beautiful shoes and providing outstanding customer service.
Women will always invest in something they think is a classic that will work in their wardrobe for several years to come, and us girls can always find a way to buy those gorgeous shoes that we covet!
When shopping for ready-made shoes, what do you look for?
Since co-founding Upper Street, I rarely buy ready-made shoes as I tend to design my own as it allows me to create something completely unique for me. I also can't tell you how many times I get stopped in the street by women asking me where my shoes are from. The only shoes that I will buy that are ready-to-wear are boots as we don't currently do them on the site. I always look for a pair in a classic design with a twist.
All the shoes I buy must be made in the best quality leather. This is something that is very important to me, and I never buy anything synthetic or too cheap as I know from all our initial research when we were launching Upper Street that if a pair of shoes costs £20 then somebody somewhere in the world is being exploited.
What shoe trends are you currently loving?
I can't get enough of a pointed toe court: they work well for work and for play. I have just received a new pair that I recently designed, they are nude and silver D'Orsays with a triple strap which I can't wait to wear and I've just finished designing a zebra and black pony skin pair with a T-bar.
Any you'll be giving a wide berth?
I am not a fan of the slipper. I think that this is a trend best left to the young and very fashion forward. I would look like my granny if I wore them!
Which other (footwear) brands do you regularly buy/wear?
I always have a pair of Converse in the wardrobe for when I'm running around after the kids at the weekend, plus a pair of Havaianas for the poolside on holiday. In terms of heels and ballet flats however these are always from Upper Street!