My parents taught me that the first thing people notice about you is your shoes. Which makes sense; when people look you up-and-down for the first time, they start with your shoes and finish with your shoes. We all do it, subconsciously or not. So it’s always been important for me that my girls are well-healed. There’s a practical point too, as their little feet are developing so quickly, it’s key that they’re in comfortable, supportive, kicks.
So I was delighted to discover the most wonderful children’s footwear brand, Papouelli, the go-to company for in-the-know mummies with stylish kids. Set up in 2003 by the amazing Nicole Robinson and Maggie Snouck, now with three shops in central London (Elizabeth St, Marylebone and Parsons Green), and stocked worldwide, this a really a brand which is going places.
It was no surprise that, when Prince George joined his parents on the Royal Visit to Canada, HRH’s feet were shod in Papouelli.
In this blog, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole, who has kindly opened up about all the wonderful inspiration behind the brand and what we can expect for the future.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO SET UP PAPOUELLI?
When my children were small, I found it very difficult to find beautiful classic shoes for them, especially for my son Max. Maggie my business partner and I met when the children were both in Kindergarten. We both love fashion and found we were having the same issue finding children’s shoes that were classic with a contemporary edge. We decided that we should address the problem head on and Papouelli was created!
WHAT SPARKED YOUR PASSION FOR CHILDREN’S SHOES?
I have always loved shoes and think they make or break an outfit, plus I think people’s shoes say a lot about them. The children’s shoes that you could buy before we set up Papouelli were either really traditional, in limited styles and colours or just not very pretty.
We wanted a child version of what we liked for ourselves. Beautifully made, classic contemporary styling and not at a crazy price.
We think children’s shoes should be versatile and like the fact that Papouelli’s can be worn in more ways than one. Our Esi Biker boot is a good example – it can be worn with smart skirts or jeans and looks as good with socks and bare legs as it does with tights making it trans seasonal.
DESCRIBE YOUR TYPICAL DAY
7.30 Pilates or 5k walks in Hyde Park. Lemon and ginger shot – is my favourite thing – I make my own, super sharp and spicy. Morning at my desk at home – I find it easier to concentrate there rather than the shops as so much always happening. Often I will be thinking about new ideas for the collection, colours, styles and leathers. We are working on SS18 right now. Then liasing with suppliers – we work with family run factories in Spain and Portugal mostly and it is so beneficial to have their help and support, good reliable production is key.
Lunch is at home or in the shop – love St Clements if I am in Parson’s Green – I sneak downstairs and have a bowl of soup and catch up on emails. Maggie and I can often find ourselves together at lunchtime; we have new Ivy and a Good Life next to us in Marylebone and that is a good time to discuss various things over a salad.
Afternoons I generally work in at least one of the three stores –always lots to do in the office there and I really enjoy meeting our customers. Feedback is important and it is a good time to engage.
I also love merchandising the stores. Maggie and I do some of the windows ourselves and like to change up the store displays. I like to colourCo ordinate the whole store and display in colours rather than styles – so I have spent many a happy afternoon doing that!
The shops shut at 6pm and I often stay until about 7pm, it works for me to finish up in the peace and quiet.
WHAT DO YOU MOST LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I love the process and the fact that most days are different.
Design is the best bit, coming up with an idea for a new style or completely changing a classic by doing in a new material. I think we updated the Mary Jane when we did it in a snake – it is such a wonderful classic little girl’s shoe – and the snake gives it a cool contemporary edge.
Maggie and I do much of this together and then go through the process of visiting the factories which funnily enough I adore, the leather rooms are my favourite place as find them very inspiring. Then to sampling, fit tests and finally to production and it arriving in store.I get a real sense of happiness when I see the shoes that we have designed skipping out of the shop on little feet.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST CAREER ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?
That is a hard one. I am very pleased that from a little idea we now have three shops in London and are stocked worldwide – often we focus on the day to day issues and we forget that we started with 1000 pairs of shoes in the dining room.
I also have to say Prince George wearing our Barnie Loafer in Canada was a proud moment. I was in Portugal at the factories and my phone just started beeping non-stop. It puts a brand like ours right on a World stage.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THOSE WANTING TO LAUNCH THEIR OWN BRAND?
Firstly be prepared to work very hard, there are peaks and troughs and you have to be quite resilient sometimes.
Secondly your suppliers are really key and it is worth finding the good ones and they are not always the cheapest.
Thirdly – for want of a better expression “ go with your gut” you just have to believe in what you think is right and more often than not it is
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM PAPOUELLI OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?
We have a wonderful new AW17 collection in production now that will be in stores August. We have updated some favourites and have some exciting new styles that we hope you will love. Think fur Pom poms, metallics and velvets woven into our collection.
We are having fun designing SS18 right now and are doing a collaboration with Melissa Odabash so watch this space for news on that.
School shoes can be beautiful too and the collection continues to expand with shoes in black, brown and navy.
We are also launching a brand new Papouelli wedding collection, which we are very excited about . This will have a bespoke element to it.
We are doing a few Papouelli Pop-Ups with some brands we love so keep an eye out for those, Initially London, Little Circle and Wiggy Kit will all be in Parson’s Green this Summer.
So all in all we are working very hard and it is keeping us both quite busy!
Love Mummy B