With her shoes popping up all over my Insta feed this past fashion month, I became instantly captivated by Camilla Elphick’s enchanting footwear. One part whimsical playfulness, the other inventive-chic; there is no lack of style when it comes to these ingenious designs. So, delving into my Internet research and, okay, who are we kidding, a little light insta-stalking, I was delighted to learn that this mega girlboss cut her teeth under some of the best of the best in the industry – including last month’s #shoesdaytuesday designer, Paul Andrew. With that kind of pedigree and raw talent, we are excited to see what’s next for this brand. Camilla chats with us about the challenges of starting a business, working in an all-girl environment (#girlbossgoals), and being bold when choosing your next pair of shoes.
Meet Camilla Elphick
All the Pretty Birds: You’ve worked alongside some of the biggest names in the industry. Was footwear design always a career you wanted to pursue?
Camilla Elphick: Yes, absolutely. I adore shoes and as soon as I was able to, in my final year of school, I secretly applied to study fashion design at Parsons in New York – my parents were over the moon when I got in! I loved living in New York and tried to tailor my projects to shoes and accessories. I really had a passion for footwear, and decided to apply to study shoe design at Cordwainers at the London College of Fashion. I was always very keen to intern for brands I loved whilst studying and my professors encouraged me to pursue these opportunities and were very supportive. I wanted to experience a glimpse of what it was like in the real world, working in the industry and I thrived off the fast paced atmosphere. I worked alongside Paul Andrew for Donna Karan, Nicholas Kirkwood for Burberry, Sophia Webster and then Charlotte Olympia.
ATPB: When did you first decide to start your namesake label?
CE: I first decided I wanted to start my own label whilst I was working with Paul Andrew in New York at Donna Karan. I imagined it would take me years to start the line (and so he told me too!) to get enough experience to even think about starting a brand! However, once I was back in London after graduating, my shoes were chosen to appear at the London College of Fashion press evening. My “Pez” shoe design was picked up by a number of media outlets and overnight I received over 200 requests for purchase, and that was just the beginning! This was a huge opportunity and I had to go for, not wait for ten years to feel ready.
ATPB: What are some of the challenges you faced early on when starting your own company?
CE: There have been a lot of challenges along the way, and I feel very thankful that I’ve had to learn so much over the past three years. I think at the beginning it was tough. I was young and people didn’t take me seriously or understand the business. It was difficult not to take negative comments to heart. I still remember all of the horrible things people have said to me, but they’d be mad to think their words would stop me!
ATPB: You work with an entirely female creative team. What are some of the benefits you see to working this way?
CE: Yes, we are an entirely female team, girl power! But we would happily welcome male employees (I’ve actually only ever had one man apply for a position but it didn’t work out). I think we have a really strong team and we all have a positive attitude and a laugh a lot, which is a huge benefit on a Monday morning! My little dog Lulu (another female) also brings everyone together and there is always a lovely atmosphere.
ATPB: Can you share with us some tips on how to manage work-life balance, particularly for women?
CE: I definitely don’t have the answer on how to manage this yet, but I think I certainly feel the benefits of taking time for myself and switching off. Going for a coffee and breakfast on my own or going to a barre or yoga class are my favorite things to do. I go to an all female health club in London – it feels very indulgent but it gives me a boost of energy when times are tough and you feel you can’t escape from work. They also have lots of great networking events when you want to switch back to work mode!
ATPB: Take us through your design process. Where do you find your inspiration, source materials, etc.
CE: Each season, we start with a really fun theme. We all have to get that buzz of excitement in the studio or else the theme is scrapped! I go to two trend seminars a year at the Hamyard Hotel, which is such a treat – I love Firmdale hotels! I then go to Milan to a material and accessories fair to try and find cool and unusual inspirations. I order a few swatches and we go back to the drawing board. Pinterest is a huge source of inspiration; we start pinning our favorite images and materials. We then look at our best sellers of the season and work out the range plan. The designs then start flowing. We all work closely as a team, which is what I love about the design process. We are all very different and are more drawn to certain design elements, which I think make the collections appeal to our different customers.
ATPB: What tips would you share with someone wanting to break into the industry?
CE: It is really important to get experience and to set yourself apart, it is quite a saturated industry and getting noticed is key. I think it’s important to reach out to people, be polite and ask questions, people are generally happier to help than you’d imagine.
ATPB: If you could describe the aesthetic of the brand in three words what would they be?
CE: Cool-girl, Fun, Smile-making.
ATPB: Now in the age of social media, how do you feel like it impacts a business and what ways do you feel your brand embraces it?
CE: Social media has had a huge influence on small businesses and building a strong brand presence by reaching out to an audience of potential customers and followers who really want to be engaged. We embrace social media and at the studio we are all obsessed with Instagram: @camillaelphick
ATPB: What trends do you see coming up in footwear?
CE: There are lots of exciting trends coming up in footwear, especially lower heel heights, boots and shoes that are genuinely comfortable. We are launching a range of sneakers at Selfridges this month and I am so excited. It’s also hard not to notice the glitter trend at the moment. I am all about the new Silver Lining boots in glittering Disco Pink (available December 1) which are perfect for daytime at the office and for parties, they literally twinkle at night and for serious sparkles try using the Kira Kira app!
ATPB: What are some of your favorite pieces from your current collection?
CE: I love the new surreal butterfly sandals in silver! I love anything with a simple front and then a hidden detail at the back that wows people when you walk by! I’d wear these with socks this fall or bare legged at night for a party with my big Shrimps coat.
ATPB: If you had one tip on how to live a more stylish life what would it be?
CE: Be bold with your footwear and have fun, wear a style that is unexpected, that is when you’ll feel most stylish.