This week Nicely Made in China stays in Shanghai to introduce its second -but very different- shoe designer: Denise Huang owner and designer of Suzhou Cobblers moved back to Shanghai from Hong Kong in 2003 with a business idea. Denise kindly accepted to answer a few questions from NMiC and talked about tradition, modernity and a good looking rooster.
Denise, how did you start Suzhou Cobblers?
At the time I was living in Hong Kong earning a living working as a free-lance graphic designer for airline magazines. I had time on my hands and had always wanted to do my own thing. I bought a pair of shoes and had them embroidered with peonies. For 6 months I carried them around and showed them to everyone I met, until I found a client. Along with the shoes, I was carrying a little book with more design ideas.
What happened after you found that first client?
Business started! It was 13 years ago! My first client was the owner of a shop in the Repulse Bay Hotel in Hong Kong. To this day you can still buy my shoes in that shop.
Where did the idea to make Suzhou cobblers come from?
I remember watching my grandmother every winter making shoes for her grand children back in the 70′s. That’s where the idea came from. I still have a passion for shoes and I own too many pairs!
Who does the embroidery?
I have a team of 4 or 5 women who have been with us for about 6 years. They work from home in villages on the outskirts of Suzhou. It takes at least a day to do the embroidery work on a pair of shoes. It has become harder lately to find good embroiderers. City life has become more exciting than doing embroidery work at home.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from daily life mostly. Sometime a conversation with a friend will give me an idea. I once got the idea for a pair of shoes called Good Morning (see picture) after visiting a friend in a nearby village who was complaining of a very good looking rooster who was waking the whole village up at 4 every morning! That’s how my ideas come. Not so long ago a friend was remarking to me how young people keep switching between lifestyles, buddhist one day, vegetarian the next. After that conversation I had shoes embroidered with vegetables. I am generally not very interested in the « 5000 years of tradition » thing. I try create something different.
How often do you come up with new designs?
Very often. We propose a lot of new designs every week. We have a client who buys them all and she says that she has more Suzhou cobblers than we have in the shop. For each design I start by making one pair that I wear to see if people like it. If clients like it we make more of it.
Can you give us an idea of how much Suzhou Cobblers cost?
A pair of slippers costs about 450 Rmb (US$ 67 / 49 euros / A$ 69 / HK$ 523 / 42 £) Prices and exchange rates at October 29th 2010.
Where can interested NMiC readers find Suzhou Cobblers’ products?
There are different places:
Online shop: here
Tel: +8621 6321 7087
10:00am – 6:30pm
Repulse Bay Hotel