As autumn settles in, the mornings are chilly and summer seems like a distant memory. However, it’s not all drizzle and dark nights; this season is actually the favourite time of year for many women… at least from a sartorial point of view! Think rich autumnal colours, layering, shopping for your winter coat, and of course… wearing your boots. Whether it’s those timeless leather biker boots, a stylish pair of over the knees, or your live-in pair of brogue ankle boots, a pair of well-fitting boots is an essential part of our autumn wardrobes. DuoBoots’ Autumn Winter 18 collection offers a fantastic choice of styles, but as you zip up your favourite boots, have you ever wondered how their design started life?
We caught up with our in-house designers – Jo and Becky – based in our Head Office in Frome, Somerset, to talk inspirations, upcoming trends and of course, how to achieve the perfect DuoBoots fit.
1. How long have you been designing boots?
Jo: The first time that I put pen to paper with it actually resulting in a shoe was in 2000 - my second year of college. It’s been an adventurous roller coaster ever since! My first ever design sold on the high street was a black slouched knee high boot that was designed for a high street brand in 2005. I’ve also worked in Devon making traditional cowboy boots and I've travelled all over Asia to work with factories for a number of large UK brands developing all sorts of footwear, from kids school shoes to a ladies size 13 over the knee boot!
Becky: My passion for designing started at a very young age; I’ve been sketching for as long as I can remember! I’ve been in the footwear and apparel industry since 2010; my first job after completing my design degree was in America, where I worked in apparel and footwear surface pattern design and detailing. Coming back to the UK, I focused on the materials, colour and trend aspects of footwear design within outdoor performance and lifestyle, and then on active footwear before coming to DuoBoots.
2. Where do you start when designing a boot?
Becky: When I start the design process for a new season I like to think very conceptually, and research what the key trends could be for that particular season. So I look at things that may be quite unexpected to our customers. Things such as automotive design, architecture and product design can surprisingly get interpreted into what is appropriate for the DuoBoots brand before the pen to paper design process starts.
Sometimes we develop some timeless classics; for instance by choosing a new leather, or by following a trend for a heel type or perhaps by adding a detail we feel would work well!
3. What inspires your designs?
Jo: So many things throughout the day can inspire an idea. It’s a lifestyle thing whereby everything you see turns into a shoe in your head in someway or another! Then when you sit down to design, all of these ideas and things you have collected in your mind’s eye come together and fire off to fill that blank page.
When we are in the design phase of the season often I’ll wake up at 3am with the answer to one of the problems I had been mulling over on a particular design and it will just click into place.
I have a daily footwear calendar that shows a shoe design a day – from old vintage styles to some crazy un-wearable pieces of art, but what I love about it is that I start the day inspired or sometimes challenged by someone’s work, someone’s ideas. My kids and I often have a good old chat over a shoe on our calendar over our toast and orange juice!
Becky: I get very inspired from other forms of design, not just from footwear. My work naturally has a very feminine hand, so I get inspired a lot by designers with a similar aesthetic, be it in pottery or textiles, or even colour in general.
4. Describe the design process, from idea to execution
Becky: A lot of initial research is carried out to form the foundation at the start of the season. We then build from there, and balance out the range with heel heights, toe shapes, back heights, evening wear vs casual wear, etc. All of this helps to ensure our collection includes a boot for everyone, no matter their height, shape, leg length and so on. We then develop each design, further finessing the detail for each style. Our designs are then brought to life with the help of our artisan, family-run factories in Portugal who we work very closely with to create a prototype. Throughout the whole process, from start to finish, we are constantly thinking about the fit of our product.
5. Tell us about the materials used to make Duo boots
Jo: We are really lucky designers at DuoBoots as we are able to play with the most gorgeous materials pallete! Our factories are in Portugal, so each season we fly to over to visit the leather tanneries our factories work with. The area our boots are made in is a very close-knit town of shoe and boot makers, and everyone seems to know everyone! They are all very friendly; I’m even used to the strong espresso that they all offer on arrival!
For some styles we use beautiful oiled leathers that give a gorgeous patina over time. This means they get more beautiful developing a rustic finish with age... We use fabulous hair leathers each season with various print patterns. We also use colourful suedes and deep timeless traditional tan and chocolate leathers. To add further interest into the collection we occasionally select velvets and other fabrics if the trend allows – for AW19 we are even looking at adding a little dash of tweed to a design… watch this space!
6. How does designing for DuoBoots compare with designing for other footwear brands?
Jo: Ooooh tricky question! The main difference is that when you work for a big company, you tend to be a small cog in a very big wheel. This can result in you not touching on as many things within the business, and spending time only really being good at one tiny element of the development process. At DuoBoots, we are a smaller independent brand, working with family run factories in Portugal and this brings so much depth to our role in the design team. We get to manage and work on the whole development process from concept through to fit, technical amends and final production. We even meet customers face to face in our store and get direct feedback, which is so great and very refreshing!
Becky: Designing for DuoBoots is a lot more in-depth than I found designing for previous footwear brands I designed for. With our unique selling point being fit, there are lots of factors that need to be taken into account when designing for so many different women and for so many different occasions. We try to accommodate all, which is quite a challenge!
7. Which upcoming trends should we all be looking out for in 2019?
Becky: For SS19 there are a lot of softer cosmetic and pastel tones coming through, along with a few feminine but bolder pops of colour to add that extra bit of energy to any outfit. Feminine detailing is key; look out for embroidery, scalloping and textured materials.
8. How do you take into account feedback from customers in the design process?
Becky: Customer feedback in unbelievably important to us. Going to our store in Bath and talking to customers to hear their feedback direct, as well as talking to our Customer Care team about what customers calling or emailing in are saying, are key factors in developing and adapting our designs to what our customers like. We also take on board feedback from our customer surveys and we run polls on social media when we need some input during the design process, for example when choosing a leather colour. We love it when customers tag their photos with #duoboots on Instagram, it really gives a feel for how our boots are being styled.
Jo: We are always so interested in our customers’ thoughts; just the other day I was in store and overheard a customer talking about a particular design idea I was actually working on, so I had a good old chat with her about the things she liked and didn’t like about the style. It is always so insightful to hear customer feedback, as the more research that goes into the pot for a concept, the better. This includes creative and aesthetic ideas, as well as thoughts around fit and comfort too.
9. How do you ensure you get a perfect DuoBoots fit?
Jo: The DuoBoots fit is unique. There are many technical elements to the fit of a shoe as it is – but at DuoBoots we’re adding the ankle and leg into the mix too. I have worked a lot on technical footwear fits in the past, but the DuoBoots fit is almost like being a shoe pattern cutter and a seamstress at the same time! We’re trying to create as close to a custom fit as possible, without being bespoke. We have very specific technical sizing we use as the basis for the first samples, then we fit the first samples on our specially measured models and we check and cross check the fit, analyse it, amend the patterns where needed and check again. We then get further samples made and go through the same process of analysis again to ensure the fit is as perfect as possible.
10. What’s your favourite style from the Autumn/Winter 18 collection and how do you like to style it?
Becky: My favourite style would have to be one of our over the knee boots - Kinver Pink. I love a coloured boot that’s autumnal and will go with lots of different colours. I wear this with a floaty boho midi dress and a black leather jacket.
Jo: I have two favourites! Midnight is my go-to for jetting about every day; I throw them on over skinny jeans and crack on without a care in the world, safe in the knowledge that even if my make up is dishevelled, from the knee down I look damn fabulous! My favourite ‘inner fashion diva’ boot is Hockley in Black and White Hair Leather. How can anyone not stop and check this boot out?! It’s awesome and I love it! I wear a lot of black dresses from COS as I adore their tailoring and pattern cutting, and this ankle boot always looks gorgeous – an easy win for a chick on the go!
Thanks to Jo and Becky for giving us a glimpse into your lives as designers!
What does your perfect pair of boots look like? How would you improve your pair of Duo boots? Let us know your design ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch on social media. Jo and Becky would love to hear your thoughts!