An Interview with Iona Jones of Rakish Heels.
Let’s talk about your background – how did you get involved in shoe design?
IJ - I made some very bad roman sandals when I was about 11, out of some leather my mum had in the house. She was a seamstress and there were always bits of material lying about. I did wear them out which provoked some comments, being from a northern industrial town near Liverpool, where everyone’s got an opinion.
When I was at art college my strengths were fashion and textiles but I didn’t want to go into pure fashion. I remember seeing a shoe design course listed at Leicester Polytechnic and knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I was worried I wouldn’t be accepted into the course as I didn’t have a plan B. It was shoes or nothing!
What type of woman wears Rakish Heels?
IJ - For the last 7 years I’ve been running a design consultancy in London, working for many UK and international brands. The experience I’ve had working with other people has meant I’ve been involved in diverse areas of the market.
Rakish Heels is aimed at an area I feel is not well catered for. We design for stylish women who are looking for individuality but not at the expense of quality.
Women who like Rakish Heels are looking for something distinctive but that won’t quickly date or fall apart. We keep a very close eye on current and emerging trends but try to keep our styling first and foremost identifiable to the brand. We hope this means that our shoes can be worn to compliment a wide variety of outfits without looking tired or outdated.
What brands sit well alongside Rakish Heels?
IJ - We see Rakish Heels as sitting alongside United Nude on one side and Chie Mihara on the other. Kurt Geiger occupy a similar place, pricewise, in the market but with a different product.
Having been involved in men’s product, I also see comparisons to what Paul Smith and Jeffery West offer the men’s market as to what we offer women.
Where do you have your shoes manufactured? How difficult has it been finding the right manufacturers?
IJ -They are now manufactured in the Far East. We started off in Spain but we couldn’t produce the shoes in the quality of materials we require, at accessible prices. This was a big and expensive learning curve! We have found people in the Far East more willing to support our brand. Their attitude is very refreshing. They will make small quantities to a high standard, to help grow the brand.
Tell us about your new website. What has been your biggest challenge?
IJ - We’re now relaunching our website to include a new shoe boutique. This is very exciting and also technically challenging! Hopefully the new site is much easier to navigate, the shop is now at it’s heart. We welcome the feedback we’ll get from selling direct and the interaction with our customers which will help focus future collections and also further develop the website.
To be honest, everything about setting up a new brand is a challenge although undoubtedly one of the biggest difficulties is finance. Trying to establish your name before funds run out. I think it would be very healthy for the industry to take a few risks and provide support for fresh and different talent.