Before I could walk or talk I would clap my hands with glee as my Mum’s stiletto heels would teeter across our tiled floor. At kinder I would draw simple stick figures, but impressed everyone with the fabulous attention I would take to the stick figure’s heels. I took a part-time job at 15 years of age; to ‘solely’ afford the beautiful Italian Beltrami shoes I found in Midas. I then worked at Evelyn Miles designer boutique whilst I was at university, just so I could touch and smell the designer creations, and so I could afford more shoes! My enchanted shoe addiction reached dizzy heights when the glass slipper was fitted to my foot and I married into the Figgins (3rd generation shoe) family. I am confessed addict! And stand tall, in my 5inch heels!
My favourite pair & why?
I have a new favourite with every collection I build. But if my walk in robes were on fire – I would dash and grab my 5inch stiletto, Brain Atwood boots. Paneled in zebra, tiger and ocelot pony with choc brown suede fringing. The boot that unleashes ‘look at me’ power and literally purrs.
My shoe philosophy?
My collections express femininity, a fastidious attention to detail and a design quality that appeals to confident women – my philosophy being “give a girl the right pair of shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
Wake up stiff, sore and parched, with my head rolled onto passenger seated next to me! He smiles, I shudder and apologise. Captain announces that we’re landing in Hong Kong in 20 mins. Look up to see if mad dash to toilet is possible? OCCUPIED sign illuminated and a queue. Great – hold on!
HK airport. Break into a walk, semi sprint to custom’s counter. I still need a bathroom, but I want to be head of queue. Phew – quick head count 20 deep in queue; I estimate a 10-minute wait. Through!! Yes!! Quick-toilet-stop. Great only vacancy is hole in ground. I have to go. Leg squat!
Jump the airport express train into Kowloon. Call home. Arrived safely, it’s early evening chaos at home, kids fighting – ‘I’ll call you later hun’. Exit Kowloon – quick taxi ride to China Ferry Terminal. Smiling cabbie, lots of head bowing, chatty and friendly. ‘First time in HK lady?’ ‘No’ I reply ‘I’m here every 6 weeks’, ‘Oh you lucky, lucky’. I think of Kylie Minogue’s song, “I should be so lucky”. What shoes was she wearing in that clip?
Another queue – ferry ticket. Customs again, 12 minute queue and through.
Boarding China bound ferry. Outside, and the humidity smacks me square in the face. A combination of hunger, tiredness and heat overwhelms me. Just pull carry case and board. Port is choppy, plank rocking I trip – damn scratch the black suede on new wedges ASTRID – retro and sublime. (I do love a wedge!) Seated at last. Spritz my face with O2 intraceutical, the best. Bit of MAC mascara (can’t live without) and gloss. Grateful, I just lopped all my locks; short and spiky looks even better after sleeping on a plane. My Mela Perdie – good outfit choice. It travels well, crushed floaty tunic over tie die leggings and of course my wedges. I would truly kill for a shower!!
Another queue – 22 minutes exactly. Customs again! Through to exit and there he is – the best driver in China. Employed by the owner of my factory. Mr Chang, he bows and takes my carrycase. Whisks me away to his air-conditioned mini van. It’s an hour’s drive to the factory, darting crazily from one side of the road to next. Dodging overladen trucks, motorcycles and pedestrians. I want to shut my eyes, no time. Flick through development notes, get my mind charged and into gear. Focus Sarah!
Arrived! Factory gates open, we enter, and excited office staff greets me. It’s cool, inviting – my second family waiting for me. Hugs, kisses, friendly exchanges. Presents back and forth. Toilet break – a western toilet, no hole in the ground! Cool running water, I splash my face. The heat! ‘Green Tea Sarah?’ – ‘yes please.’
Work!! Sharpen pencils. Sampling. Fabric room. Sample room. Pattern room. Someone sketches while I write. I feel the perspiration dripping down my back. My legs are sliding on the vinyl chair I sit on. The air conditioner whirrs in the background. ‘Another green tea?’ ‘Yes, please’. Miss S collection is nailed. Samples will arrive in two weeks. Fingers crossed it looks amazing!
Lunch. The factory is silent, almost eerie. Workers opt to eat quickly and then take time for sleep. I pass through the pattern room, workers asleep at their desks. I pass through the production – all asleep at workstations. The heat, the stifling humidity is completely draining. We’re off to lunch. The best Chinese in the region. We gather in the banquet room – it’s cool – air con is at fever pitch. I am blessed with beautiful food. My factory owner spoils me with chilli shrimps scallops, steamed fish and so many yummy morsels. I sit remisinssing about years ago – when China was a new frontier in the shoe industry. Factories would try and impress us and order snake, eel and soup with fish eyes. Me always polite tasting and saying ‘yes, it’s lovely’ and they would order more. Thank goodness I only work with one beautiful factory these days.
Back at the factory. A wave of tiredness rolls through me. Toilet stop! ‘Green tea Sarah?’ ’Yes please’. More designs, more fabrics and scouring in the trim room. Shoo Biz collection takes form. It’s exciting. A season of colour, architectural silhouettes and a sense of femininity. Block heels are superb, the retro wedges and the fabrics / textures. Aaahh (I love what I do).
Another green tea. The girls bring out chocolates. What the heck a few won’t hurt – I crave the sugar hit! Only a few more hours to go. A wave of complete tiredness washes over me. Bridal collection. OK focus Sarah – get with the program!! The patent leather sample is breaking. What do we do? Well, source a new leather supplier. Let’s get a new swatch of colours. ‘What do we think of these trims?’ And it goes on………..
Mr Chang takes my carry case and escorts me out to the mini van. I bid my ‘goodnights’ – I will work with the factory again tomorrow, with appointments for materials / leather / trims and the markets. I hop aboard the van – 40 mins of driving – least the traffic is minimal. I fight the desire to nod off. Text home. No answer – it’s late.
Check in Shangri-La. The staff are so polite and happy. Their English is broken, but between my broken mandarin and their English we establish what floor and what my room number is. SHOWER!! Robe. Auto polite kicks in. I look down at my feet they are swollen and pudgy. Yuk. Joys of travel. Bed please! Room service – the obligatory club sandwich! Laptop – to sign in or not? Emails? Work from home? Report in? It can wait – I fall asleep – dreaming of SHOES. The pursuit of the perfect shoe xx