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That’s Shoe Business with Aruna Seth

Entrepreneurs 07-05-2018

Aruna Seth’s renowned in the fashion world for her comfortable, yet stylish, footwear. She tells Asian Wealth how she achieved her vision through a lot of hard work and a life-long dream.

Marilyn Monroe once famously sang that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but when it comes to any self-motivated, empowered woman, give us a comfortable, yet sexy, pair of heels any day. Diamonds may look flash (and, admittedly, we’d never say no to them!) but it’s our heels that allow us to walk tall and give us plenty of attitude.

And that’s where Aruna Seth comes in. For the past eight years, Aruna has been expertly designing and creating the most exquisite range of women’s footwear. As well as a bestselling bridal range, she creates boots, heels and flats, and last year branched out into children’s and baby shoes and women’s accessories. Her brand signature is the ‘farfalla’, meaning ‘butterfly’ in Italian, which is present in many of her designs and symbolises, as she puts it, “femininity and sophistication”.

ONCE UPON A TIME…

Aruna’s love affair with shoes harks back to childhood. You could say it’s in her blood.Her father Geoff is the founder of British footwear brand, Ascot. Her school holidays were spent working in the family business, learning the ropes and working across all the different departments. “My father felt it was really important that I understood every aspect of the business,” says Aruna, “not just the creative parts, which I enjoyed. So, I did everything from work on reception to the stockroom.”

Even though she had a burning passion to set up her own footwear business, she knew it made sense to get a solid foundation in business first. She studied business and languages at university, before working for financial services giant Morgan Stanley for a year. “I was always very focused in what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a shoe brand,” she says.

Aruna’s inspiration came from her own experience of wearing luxury shoes, where she felt that style always gave way to comfort. “I’ve always loved shoes and used to buy high- end brands, like Jimmy Choo, but always felt, as much as I loved them, they weren’t very comfortable. At £700-£800 per pair, I wasn’t getting the full experience that I should have been getting. If you’re spending that money you want to feel excited about it; you want them to feel comfortable.”

GOING IT ALONE

So, in 2009, Aruna Seth became a brand of her own. Her mission: to create wow factor shoes, which had the comfort of a pair of slippers. Following in the footsteps of top shoe designers before her, she found herself in Italy, Venice to be precise, collaborating with the world’s best artisan shoemakers to help realise her vision.

“We created shoes which have what we call ‘cashmere-like comfort’,” she says. “They’re so comfortable because the inner soles are made of nappa leather lining. This means your feet can breathe and be super comfortable. Other brands don’t do that because they don’t want to spend the extra money on the inner sole. They’ll use it on the outside, but not on the inside. So, that’s our USP, what makes us different.”

Aruna Seth’s headquarters are in Surrey but she has a brand presence worldwide, particularly in the Middle East, China, and of course, London. In the UK, she stocks exclusively in Harrods, with her own flagship store soon to open in Knightsbridge. She says her target market is: “Mothers and daughters, ranging in age from 23 to 70. Independent, working, focused women who know what they want in life. They know luxury and want to feel beautiful and feminine.”

BUILDING A BRAND

She has her fair share of celebrity followers too, including mother and daughter movie stars, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson, as well as a certain royal sister-in-law, Pippa Middleton. “Celebrity endorsements are really important, particularly over the past 10 years, but I’d say that our most important channel for brand awareness is social media,” she says. With over 51,500 followers on Instagram, Aruna Seth has quite the brand profile.

But, a brand profile is nothing without the product to back it up, and that’s something that Aruna has in spades. She’s involved in every aspect of her range’s production – from the design and production, to checking the samples, to showcasing the seasons’ collections to buyers.

“Each a season we make between 25-45 different shoes,” she says. “It’s always exciting when we have a new collection.”

As we talk, she tells us she’s currently producing the samples for the spring/summer 2019 collection, which she’ll take to buyers and potential stockists in September. What comes across is her absolute love and passion for what she does. She’s dedicated, focused and, much like her shoes, constantly one step ahead of the game.

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS

Who do you admire in business?

Karren Brady (entrepreneur, sporting exec and politician) is really inspirational. Also, Victoria Beckham has overcome a lot to become a respected international designer. She’s fought to get where she is. Also, my dad, he’s been my biggest mentor. It’s interesting to see how he’s had to adapt and change to stay ahead in business.

Where do you get inspiration?

From my travels. From saris in India to beautiful buildings in Paris, I’m constantly being inspired. It’s about femininity, keeping things simple but with a wow factor.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Every day is different but if I look at this Thursday, I did a photo shoot with AWMin the morning, then I had a lunch meeting about my website. I then went to the Berkeley Hotel to speak about a future bridal event. Then I went to the gym. Working out is really important for me as it helps me mentally focus. Then I had a conference call in New York, followed by another call about our new spring/summer 2019 campaign.

Best piece of advice?

Don’t try to do too much too quickly, focus on one thing and do it properly. Also, it’s key when you’re starting in business to get as much experience as you possibly can.

Photographs: Kam Parmar
On Location: The May Fair Hotel, London

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