I think it is the journalist in me but I’m always fascinated by people and want to know more about them! I am proud to stock a variety of labels at The Shoe Garden but who are the people behind the brands. This is the first in an ongoing series of Behind the Brand — speaking to designers to learn more about their inspirations and ideas in creating gorgeous shoes.
Cushla Reed is the woman behind the bold, bright and never-boring Minx shoe label. From her New York-style loft warehouse in Auckland, she creates gorgeous shoes for women who are fun, feminine and individual – just like her! Cushla took a break from designing the Summer 2013 range to have a quick chat with Carol.
Q: First, let’s start with the big, important questions… how many pairs of shoes do you own?!
Cushla: I really don’t know, but it has got to be 100s…… 🙂
Q: Describe your journey to becoming a shoe designer with your own label?
Cushla: I’d always had an interest and a flair for colour…that’s really how the whole Minx thing got started. As a woman I felt that there were so many male designers already, and I wanted to add a feminine touch to shoes…after all, it is women who are buying and wearing them!
Q: Is there a common misconception about your work or job? Now’s your chance to set things straight!
Cushla: That designing shoes is a full-time job, when running a business is actually the full-time job. Designing is obviously the most important and favourite part, but without a solid business chugging along beside you, it would never work!
Q: Describe your office or where you do most of your work.
Cushla: White and light… it resembles a New York-style loft warehouse.
Q: How many people work for you and what are their roles?
Cushla: My immediate team are made up of three enthusiastic, passionate, shoe-loving, champagne-sipping women, but a large part of my staff are contracted out, including agents, a sales team and a logistics group…as well as my seven fair trading factories.
Q: Take us through the process of creating a season’s range, from inspiration to arriving at a retail store many months later?
Cushla: Inspiration is gathered throughout the year from varying sources. Sometimes it’s as simple as watching the pavement, listening to your own intuition, customer feedback or observing global direction. These ideas are then translated into design segments within a collection and from here we flesh out each segment into concept drawings. After annotating these concepts, I travel overseas four times a year to hand-select materials, buckles and embellishments before sample production begins. Six to eight weeks later, samples begin to arrive. These are then photographed, catalogued, priced and prepared for our selling agents to launch. The sell takes approximately eight weeks and then we go through the heartbreaking process of crunching the numbers. Sadly, roughly 10% of the collection is eliminated though retailer selection. Then production begins, which takes three to four months. From concept to market takes 11 months, which means we are always having to work 12 months ahead of the season.
Q: Any interesting places you’ve been or things you’ve seen that have inspired a particular Minx shoe?
Q: What is the hardest thing about designing shoes?
Cushla: Factory and material limitations.
Q: What do you take into consideration when selecting or designing longer shoes?
Cushla: Firstly the construction of the shoe, but we also take into account a lot of the feedback from our larger sized retailers and customers. They are usually quite specific about the aesthetics of the shoes that they want to wear.
Q: Why are sizes so inconsistent across all the brands? Is this more common in the longer sizes, do you think?
Cushla: This is all to do with last shapes i.e. toe shapes, heel heights, shoe widths. There is no global sizing standard, which does make it very difficult in a niche market.
Q: How would you describe the typical Minx shoe?
Q: And the typical woman who wears a Minx shoe?
Cushla: She is an individual. Confident, outgoing and loyal.
Q: What are your other loves and hobbies outside of work?
Cushla: Painting. Walking. And my local farmers’ market every Saturday morning.
Q: Who is your hero and why?
Cushla: Coco Chanel, for her sense of contrasts and daring before her time.
Q: What is your favourite:
- movie? Under The Tuscan Sun
- colour? Red
- food? Soft French cheese
Q: Everyone knows how much I adore CC, my Maltese. Do you have any pets?
Cushla: I live on a lifestyle block and I am in love with my two laying chickens, Henny and Penny, plus we have Powder and Puff, our two sheep, and The Murrays – four murray grey cows.