My first jobs at school and university were working in fashion. I still remember my training and having to work on the shop floor fitting women and putting outfits together. I felt like I was working in a giant doll's house. I would love to dress women up, accessorise outfits and watch people buy the styles I had put together.
One of the fashion companies required me only to wear black and white. I collected an array of different black shoes. I had patent leather pumps, leather lace-up wingtips, stiletto boots – but no matter how edgy I could find them, I still felt constrained being conformed to one colour.
"This meant that my weekend shoe wardrobe was every other colour: fire engine ballet flats, mushroom pink stilettos I'd wear for 18 hours straight, cobalt blue sandals, green wedges."
This meant that my weekend shoe wardrobe was every other colour: fire engine ballet flats, mushroom pink stilettos, cobalt blue sandals, green wedges. I remember when Nike first brought out NIKE ID shoes, and I designed my first pair in traffic-stopping red and pink.
When I left that job many years later, I carried my "no black shoe," rule with me and apart from a few pairs of black boots, I didn't wear them to work either.
Having bright red or blue or caramel shoes gave me a sense of freedom and individuality. I found a beautiful bold shoe can be paired with outfits just as a black shoe can. I am all about colour and expression, and in a small way, bright shoes gave me more confidence and enhanced the "me," in my style.
After kids, when my feet increased to the European 42/43 realm, I suddenly found myself back in the land of limits, picking through the remnants of shoes available on the oversize 40 shelf. Everything was black. But now it was worse. Stilettos were non-existent, there was no laser cut designs or funky ankle boots. Everything felt as though it was made to go hiking or backpacking in Thailand. In my mind, fashion-forward had done a u-turn at size 41.
I initially thought it was me, and I needed to up my shopping game. But my friends started telling me it was the same. Limited shoes, selling limited styles and colours. And I know now there are some fantastic shoe places out there but the range and quality still needs to grow.
So here I am, starting Chiqui Alta - a brand for big, bold, beautiful feet. I feel like I'm back in the Doll's House, but this time focused on styling with stunning shoes. I can't wait to see how my clients walk out looking this time around.