/ If The Shoe Fits

If The Shoe Fits

Jun 28, 2013

The fairy tale story of a luxury shoe designer who designs footwear fit for a princess

Aruna Seth grew up in Surrey, United Kingdom, playing with her mother’s shoes and testing out her father’s footwear brand on the playground. Her first marketing lesson came from her dad, who encouraged her to sell his Ascot International brand of shoes to her school friends. To Seth, shoe design and entrepreneurship were a natural career choice. “I’ve been brought up with shoes in my blood,” she says. But Seth wanted her shoe line to be different from her father’s. Having spent huge sums on shoes that looked great but weren’t comfortable, Seth decided to design heels for women that maintain the wow factor yet put an end to foot pain.

In her mid-20s, Seth felt equal to the task. She completed a footwear design course at the London College of Fashion and rounded off an investment banking stint in London. “[It] helped a great deal in teaching me to be organized and efficient,” Seth says. The icing on the cake was her father’s advice and mentorship, but coming from a family-run shoe business didn’t mean Seth received her business on a silver platter. She worked hard for a year before launching her own label. Seth chose the experienced artisans of northern Italy to manufacture her shoes. “I spent a great deal of time in Italy, practically living in the factory, without sleeping,” she remembers. The result was a collection of 40 pairs of beautiful shoes that were launched under the Aruna Seth brand in 2009. Four years down the line, over 50 retailers in the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia and the United Kingdom are selling Seth’s brand.

For Seth, her clients’ feedback is invaluable. “If a few people pick up one of my designs and say it would look gorgeous in another colour, then I’ll make it in that colour,” she says. She also believes in researching the market and fashion trends. “I head to Selfridges and Harrods to get inspiration for what is in fashion. But, at the same time, our brand has a certain ‘Aruna Seth’ look and we like to stay loyal to it,” she adds. A lot of time and detail go into making Aruna Seth shoes. “Each shoe starts with an idea drawn on paper,” Seth says. With highly experienced artisans from Padova, Italy, and Italian satins, Brazilian grosgrain ribbons and French Chantilly lace, the shoe manufacturing process takes about 12 weeks from start to finish. “Our shoes are made in small batches to maintain their quality,” she says.

The quality of Seth’s shoes is remarkable. Fine stitching and attention to detail make each embellished shoe gorgeous. The designs feature strategically placed plush padding that gives even six-inch heels cashmere-like comfort. If a client wants a shoe tailored to her preferences, custom services are available, adding to the Aruna Seth charm. It’s no wonder Kate and Pippa Middleton, Princess Eugenie, Kate Hudson and Olivia Munn have rocked Aruna Seth shoes. But Seth’s list of customers includes more than celebs and royalty. From 18- to 50-year-olds, women from all walks of life wear her brand at proms, weddings and even work because of Seth’s dynamic combination of style and comfort.

Priced from £200 (approx. $300 CDN) to £2,500 (approx. $4,000 CDN), Seth’s footwear is available at www.arunaseth.com and stores like Harrods in London, Kleinfeld Bridal in New York and Powder Bridal in Woodbridge, Ontario. Seth is currently concentrating on the Asian market and looking for ways to expand. “Ladies in Asia enjoy shopping and love the quaint Englishness of our brand,” she says. She has two roadshows planned to market her products. “We will also be developing our handbag line,” she says. “Our Romina handbag was adorned by Pippa Middleton and received rave reviews.”

Like many designers, Seth finds inspiration from her trips around the world. “I gain a great deal of inspiration from my travels and always keep a notebook handy for ideas,” she says. An example of her travel-inspired shoes is the Antonia sandal, which the people of the Italian seaside town Portofino influenced. “Ladies out there have amazingly detailed swimwear and kaftans,” Seth says, adding that she also draws inspiration from the dazzling colours and rich materials used in India.

The brand’s bestseller is the butterfly shoe. Seth chose the butterfly emblem because it represents freedom and independence. The design has been so coveted that Seth now offers it in a range of colours, from ivory to black, and diverse materials, such as pure and patent leather as well as satin. Seth’s own favourite, however, is the cerise wedge with Swarovski crystals nestled inside its bow — the first shoe she ever designed. “We spent weeks perfecting the grosgrain bow on the back,” she says. “Whenever I wear this shoe, ladies chase me down the street asking where it is from.”




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