UK journalist, Francesca Baker, interviews Sarah Watkinson-Yull for her series on Entrepreneurial Women in Fashion exclusively for Stylehunter.com.au.Sarah is a UK-based shoe designer and fashion entrepreneur.
Can you give a brief background to your work / how did it all start?
Absolutely! I am a ladies shoe designer and manufacturer and I launched Yull shoes in 2011 whilst I was still at university. Before this I studied at Philip Green’s Fashion Retail Academy in 2009.
Yull is one of the only independent shoe brands manufacturing high heel shoes in the UK. I have always wanted to be my own boss and having worked closely in the family business for a few years, I have learnt a lot of invaluable skills, with a particular focus on importing and exporting. I took the decision to combine my creative side and love for fashion with my business knowledge and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 2012 I received funding from the Prince’s Trust to set up manufacturing in the UK which was huge as producing my shoes in Britain is something I’m passionate about. The concept of Yull is very much style over fashion, a break from the current trend-following flow of impracticable and ephemeral shoe brands.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I am very much inspired by all things British. It could be anything from the Royal family, lovely British traditions, or my favourite places across the UK like Cheltenham or Mayfair. Each Yull shoe is named after and inspired by one of these places, which makes each pair unique and personal.
Is it something that you seek, or something which comes organically? My inspiration is definitely something that comes organically to me, a lot of the time I have the name of the shoe before I’ve even put pen-to-paper on the design.
Who wears your creations?
I love my shoes so much that Yull shoes are the only ones I ever wear. But apart from me, Yull shoes really are accessible to all ladies. When I’m designing I envisage a classic and sophisticated yet fun woman. They are simple, classic and elegant and very transitional. Not only are they stunning, but they are also so comfortable – you could walk miles in them, honestly 😉
Who inspires yo
The Duchess of Devonshire.
Where do you create?
I create at home or in my office or wherever I am when I have my laptop with me.
What is it about the place that you live that drew you there? – I live in Canary Wharf which has the most amazing views of London and it’s right by the Thames which I love.
Can you tell me about a typical day, or process of creation?
A typical day would consist of writing and responding to emails, monitoring sales and the website, social media and some blogging. The process of creation would be to consider the season, then design something that is of course different to my other shoes and then draw in some British inspiration.
What are you wearing? (Not a seedy question, as in what is your personal style?!) – I would say that my style is classic yet fun, I like to wear colours and patterns but will also wear an LBD when necessary and then complete the outfit with a pair of Yull shoes.
What has been the hardest part of starting the business?
Who deals with your less creative aspects – accounting, marketing etc?
I have full control of the business and I’m involved in each and every aspect of it.
How do you tell people about your work?
Social media is a fantastic platform to tell people about Yull. I’ve really harnessed it in to the business and it’s great because it means we can share the fantastic journey we’re on, with all our followers.
I do a lot of exhibitions and shows, in fact I’m at the Best of Britannia exhibition at the Farmiloe Building in Clerkenwell this week, which has been manic but great fun!
Where can people buy what you make?
Yull shoes are also available in Europe via independent shops predominantly in Italy, France and Belgium. Thanks to social media, I can research all the shops and generally get a really good feel for them. I don’t simply sell to wholesaler, and let him or her sell on to anyone. The damage to the brand could be horrendous.
What advice would you give to women in similar positions?
To accept help when offered, don’t be afraid to ask for help and dare to be different!
That’s a taste of what shoe wearers are loving in London, and what entrepreneurial women in fashion are up to. Are you a two-tone (or three-tone) shoe wearer? What do you think are the best aspects of wearing colourful shoes?