Next up in our Wonder Woman Wednesday series is award-winning British shoe designer Rachel Simpson
Rachel Simpson is known for her signature vintage style and passion for design. Over the last 12 years, the Rachel Simpson brand has expanded from wedding shoes to stunning occasion shoes, evening shoes and matching handbags. The brand prides itself on offering it’s customers affordable products without sacrificing on quality. We caught up with award-winning Rachel to discuss her inspirations and how she runs her successful business.
The favourite part of my job is designing dresses - dress design is a great passion of mine and I still get excited creating gowns 23 years on! I’m known for gowns that are ethereal and feminine, with a subtle sensuality that is sophisticated and classy. I design for the modern bride who wants her elegance to stand out from the crowd.
I’ve always been creative and can remember having a paintbrush or pencil in hand ever since I was little. After completing A-levels in Art, Design and English Literature followed by a Btec Art Foundation I went on to do a degree in Footwear Design at De Montfort University- the rest, as they say is history.
My role, as any small business owner will tell you, is ever changing. As a designer, the reason I started the business was because I loved designing shoes. As the business grows you have to take on more and more roles until one day you find yourself really far removed from what you actually do! It’s then you work on developing a great team around you which I’m lucky enough to have done, and this enables you to return to your skill set where you can be the most effective for the business. It’s kind of like an ever repeating full circle.
There are two- people and product, without a doubt. As the main brand ambassador I spend a lot of my time travelling to see customers, new and old, which I love. I also love working with my team when I am in the office, and of course chatting to our brides- largely via social media. Product wise that’s the original passion and always will be. The simple joy of drawing or choosing colours and materials and finally seeing each design become a real, living shoe.
There is genuinely no typical day for me, and in all honesty, I rather like it that way. Generally, I’ll work from home a couple of days a week, when I tend to focus on the more strategic elements of my job, away from distraction. I’ll often be in the office at least two days too, going through marketing ideas with the team, catching up on general operations and a good old catch up. The rest of the time I’m often here, there and everywhere both in the UK and further afield, visiting customers and attending events.
Integrity and passion. Not trying to be what you think you ‘should’ be but going with your gut and doing what you believe to be the right thing. That’s not always easy, and particularly in your business’ formative years you tend to listen to a whole lot of people, but later on you learn the ones who are actually worth listening to and those which are just noise. Secondly you must never lose the passion- again not always a straight forward thing as you try and run a business, but if you feel yourself drifting and struggling to enjoy it it’s vital you take a step back and find the time to fall back in love with it.
That’s such a difficult question to answer. I think I get a lot more joy from the everyday achievements than any big milestones, because often those large targets don’t feel like we thought they would, but if you celebrate the little things you’re enjoying the journey itself.
So many people but if I had to pick one it would be my mum, cliched as that may be. She has always been so positive and always has time for people, which was no mean feat as a GP with four children! She has always been incredibly creative too and has at least three projects on the go- you’d never catch her on the sofa in front of a box set.
I play the piano and used to play double bass in two orchestras. I’m a bit rusty on both but now I’m married to a professional musician there’s only so long I can avoid not getting some much-needed practice in.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Said Albert Einstein, so it must be true.
If I’m being honest, not too far from where I am now. I try to be present and enjoy where I am not where I’m going to be, as best I can. I have an amazing team at work, an incredible family, gorgeous friends, a business I love and a posh coffee machine- life isn’t bad really.
Stick to your guns and as my mum would say- have the courage of your convictions. People will always have an opinion but only value the opinions of those you trust. Don’t waste time trying to be or do what you think you ‘should’- just be you. Get the balance between taking advice and going with your gut, and you can’t go far wrong.