Steps to footwear success
Shoes have always played an important part in Nicole Heath’s life – although she didn’t realise just how much of an integral role they would have until she began designing her own.
Nicole, who lives in Stamford, launched Goody 2 Shoes – the name inspired by her favourite childhood bedtime story – back in 2012 and has watched the success of her range grow season on season.
All her shoes and boots are made by skilled leather craftsmen in Turkey to the same high standards as designer labels, but sell at much more affordable prices online and at pop-up events.
“Having worked in the fashion industry I realised what people wanted, how much they wanted to spend, the quality they were after and that’s really how it all started,” explains Nicole, who has a fashion degree from Hollings College, Manchester.
“We look at what’s on the catwalk, as a lot of designer work filters down into the mainstream. Fashion seems to go round in circles – when toes cannot get any pointier they start to go round again.
“All my products are made in Turkey; it’s an amazing place to work, there’s so much colour and vibrancy that it’s hard not to be inspired when I’m there.
“Its craftsmen produce such beautiful embroidery too – it’s quite easy to look at something and see how it could be incorporated into a shoe or a scarf or something else.”
Nicole, who grew up in Stoke on Trent before relocating to Lincolnshire a couple of years ago, says her passion for designing and sewing comes from her mother.
“I’ve wanted to work in fashion ever since I was around ten years old,” she recalls. “My mother used to buy me dolls which I hated – I only started to love them when I could make outfits and clothes for them and that’s where it all started. My mother loved sewing and it’s certainly rubbed off on me.
“Once I finished my degree I worked in commercial fashion for brands including Aquascutum, Burberry, M&S, Wallis and Asda, on children’s wear but mainly women’s wear.
“I was based in Manchester and London but my work took me all over, to Paris and to Italy – for much of the time I was living out of a suitcase.”
It was at that point Nicole returned to her Stoke roots to help her brother run the family’s seventh-generation firm producing industrial textiles, before it was eventually sold.
“Suddenly I found myself there without anything to do. My mother didn’t want me to leave, so on a whim I bought a small building on the High Street in a very picturesque shopping place called Eccleshall, and I had the idea that I’d use my design knowledge to run a shop selling high quality designer items,” she explains.
“It was then people started telling me they couldn’t buy decent shoes anywhere – there were just no proper shoe shops anymore. Yes, there were the old fashioned family run ones selling men’s, children’s shoes and a few women’s pairs like lace up brogues, but no attractively designed shoes and that really got me thinking about where I should be taking my business.
“That was in 2000 and within eightheen months we were runner-up in the best women’s wear footwear retailer of the year in the UK, which was an amazing achievement.”
It wasn’t long before Nicole’s business began to outgrow her small premises and she moved to a larger property, only for the recession to strike.
“We were selling top quality ladies shoes which were expensive. And then all of a sudden there was the recession and nobody had any money. I became very disenchanted with the retail side of things, so I started to design my own products – it’s what I am here to do: design.”
Nicole sourced producers in Turkey who are skilled at working with leather and found experienced embellishers and embroiderers who could add the finishing touches to her designs. Working very closely with her hand-picked team, she launched the inaugural Goody 2 Shoes range online four years ago.
Her collections include high heels, women’s boots, sandals, casual shoes, dress shoes, office shoes, wedding shoes, court shoes, comfort shoes, wedges and more recently fur-lined winter boots.
“I run the whole of the UK side of the business and have a business partner in Turkey, who I call my Mr Fixit – he sorts everything so I don’t have to keep going over there.
“Turkey is a very easy country to work in, although they are naturally suspicious of Europeans, especially women. But once you are in, it’s fantastic and living here, so close to Stansted, I can be there door to door in six hours.
“Everything we produce is made to an Italian spec but the prices are much more competitive so I can give a better deal to our customers, and that’s what it’s all about.
“Our lines are adapted each season and we try to use colours, designs and techniques which follow through the season, although we always like to try and come up with something that’s a bit different too,” she adds.
As well as selling her footwear online Nicole also attends events such as Burghley Horse Trials and Ascot to help spread the word about her brand.
“We’ve only really started doing this in the last year – but it’s a great way of letting people physically see the product and the quality, and we’re finding this is helping to drive our online sales too,” she says.
And what of the future? Well at the time of our chat Nicole’s thoughts are already turning to what we’ll be wearing come next winter.
“The next collection will be finalised by April and during the summer months I’m always thinking about winter, I never seem to enjoy the season we’re in!
“A lot of people think that when you work in fashion you have got to work in London but I don’t think that’s the case at all. Thanks to the internet you can be anywhere and it’s nice to be able to bring it to a rural area.
“I love my job and I love it here in Lincolnshire – there’s no way I’d ever go back.”
To find out more or to see Nicole’s range visit www.shoesatgoody2shoes.co.uk