While the world—and subsequently the fashion industry—has only recently placed a marked emphasis on the female gaze and what it is that women want, exactly. Tabitha Simmons has spent a decade instinctively building a luxury shoe brand that answers just that. With an ethos based on need, longevity and purposefulness, Simmons and her shoes were decidedly ahead of the curve.
When Simmons launched her namesake shoe label in 2009, it was out of a desire to create timeless, feminine shoes with a lifespan of years rather than the six-month cycle Simmons was accustomed to as an acclaimed fashion editor and stylist. “Every six months there would be new things, new silhouettes, new, new, new. I wanted to slow the process down in terms of my shoes and keep it not just to one season. I get very excited when I see people in my shoes that are several years old and they still love them. I love that and I don’t think that will change in my philosophy of the brand. Yes, we come out with new- ness, but we need to be very mindful in the newness.”
“Yes, we come out with newness, but we need to be very mindful in the newness.”
Celebrating the brand’s tenth anniversary, Simmons has never lost sight of why and for whom it was conceived. In retrospect, she was creating the shoes women didn’t yet know they would be coveting. When all the bells and whistles, sky-high heels and outlandish ideas circa 2009 had been tapped out, fashion took a sharp turn towards timelessness and women expected more from their shoes than just a show- boating accessory. “It was a reflection of my lifestyle that I really wanted to put into my designs. I was creating shoes for women to lead their busy lives in—they’re so busy trying to do it all.” A mother of three with a multi-hyphenate career and a demanding travel schedule, Simmons
is clearly her own muse. “I’ve been much more mindful in terms of what women need and I wear and test every shoe last.”
“I’ve always designed my shoes with a gut instinct in terms of what’s happening. I don’t want to say it was a fluke, but it was just what was happening and that’s the way I was feeling.”
Perhaps she also intuitively sensed the desire to be liberated from cumbersome and painful shoes, the ability to move with agility and freedom, which is what Simmons’ single soled, classic shoes provided.
While longevity may seem a novel idea in an industry built on trends, Simmons believes that has been the key to her success. “We are bombarded with different products right now. Markets are flooded and the consumer has so much [more] choice than ever before. You have to create a great product that’s of the utmost quality—that’s what consumers want. I don’t believe that they want this and then sud- denly want something else in six months.
Simmons only had to look as far as her English roots to find the inspiration and resources to guarantee that quality, longevity and uniqueness. An esteemed seventh generation English fabric mill, best known for creating the fabrics for the coronation of royal families, provides Simmons
with the unique prints for her shoe collections. “I’m British and I wanted to use great British artisan companies in England. These mills have been handed down from generation upon generation, unlike a big factory where you’re getting the same print that somebody else can buy and use in many different shoe designs. These are very unique to us and that is something that I absolutely love and hold very dearly. If somebody buys a print from us, it is ours.”
With these one of a kind prints sourced in England and the shoes pieced together in Italy, Simmons is cre- ating a brand with a level of transparency that customers today can appreciate. “It’s something that I didn’t really think about in the beginning and I guess that’s great… It’s knowing that we do have the transparency and you know where we do make our fabric and where our shoes are made…”
This mindful approach extends beyond the product and is ingrained in the structure
of her business. “I see my brand growing in the future, but we’ve been very strategic in our growth. We haven’t grown too fast, too big, too soon. Our shoes are not in every single retail shop; they’re a little harder to get a hold of. We’ve really upheld a repu- tation of being a great shoe brand that has a good quality product and I want to make sure that’s always the case.”
With such a discerning eye towards her business, does the same pointed perspective apply to the rest of her life? Does her formidable career as a fashion editor (Simmons is a long-time contributing editor to Vogue), allow her to navigate through the noise and focus on the things that she really loves?
“I’m not going to lie. I do have a fair amount of stuff because I do have a pas- sion for clothes, I absolutely love them. I have a ton of shoes because I can’t throw a pair away. When I was younger, rather than getting many different things, I would buy above my limit and make sure that it was very good quality and lasted. I still have clothes that I’ve had for many, many years that I revisit and still wear. Now I’m doing that with my shoe design philosophy. That’s just the way I’ve always been. I’ve never had hordes of clothes and consider- ing being a fashion editor, I should be in that position.”
“My most valued possessions are sentimental things that have a good memory associated to them—if I went on a travel or I had a great party in that piece of clothing, they all breathe a sentiment to them.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LANDON SPEERS
WORDS BY ELIZABETH CABRAL
MAKEUP, AIDAN KEOGH. HAIR, GONN KINOSHITA.