We think it’s important to let you know what goes on behind the scenes at Barefoot Tess. We’ve got a fabulous group of dynamic, stylish women keeping it all together! Every few weeks, we’ll be bringing you a new team member interview and profile. PLUS, get a chance to win the pair of Barefoot Tess brand shoes picked by each team member as their favorite! To enter, share the interview on your Facebook page, then drop us a note on ours with the name of the Barefoot Tess shoe picked as the current team member’s favorite (don’t forget to “like” our page!). Winners will be selected at random by Saturday, January 12, 2012.
Meet the Team: The Owner and CEO, Karen Williamson
1. What made you decide to start Barefoot Tess?
When she was growing up, my youngest daughter Tess always wore a larger shoe size than her peers or sister. It was frustrating for both of us, and impossible to find her shoes that fit properly. The best analogy I can think of is that, for her, it must have felt like trying to go bathing suit shopping if you’re terribly overweight. The same feelings of guilt, shame, and frustration apply. We would go to stores together (particularly Nordstrom because they claimed to carry some larger sizes). But as it is with teenagers, she wanted the shoes her friends had and wore to school, and Nordstrom would invariably disappoint. Naturally they had the shoes she wanted, but never in her size. Their selection of larger size shoes was boring, uninspired, and not trendy; the opposite of what might suit the needs of a trendy, teenage girl. On those trips and during this time period, I realized that there was a niche market for fashionable, trendy shoes in larger sizes, and that no one was filling it. At that time, I didn’t even realize just how broad the niche really was. Once we started the business, I fathomed just how many women actually wear larger sizes (by the way, I categorize a “larger” shoe size as anything above a 10). It remains difficult to get the shoes we want made in larger sizes, insofar as vendors and department stores are totally focused on getting the most return for their investment, and although larger sizes are a much more common niche than we had originally realized, they remain an outlier, so oftentimes, companies and factories are still unwilling to make them. We frequently get our orders cancelled. However, we refuse to give up and are tenacious to the point of ferocity about having the kind of shoes that we want to sell made for us. Part of the challenge for us is that we are required to purchase such large volumes of a style of shoe that we want to sell that we just can’t always get all the styles we want from a particular vendor. Some vendors limit the styles we can choose from within their brands. This is a big part of the reason why we started our own line; it allows us to be in control of the styles, and permits us to choose what we want.
2. What’s one major misconception the fashion industry has about women who wear larger shoe sizes?
I think the fashion industry continues to underestimate the size of our customer base. Shoe sizes have changed from an average of a size 5 at the turn of the century to today’s average of a size 9, which means that a size 11 is statistically the same distance from the average as a size 7. Additionally, the one really common thread among women who wear larger shoe sizes is height (typically, if you wear a size 10 or above, you’re going to be tall). You’d think the fashion industry (an industry that is not only replete with tall women, but which actually seeks out, emphasizes and encourages height) would pay attention to that.
3. What new trends are going to be huge for Spring 2013?
The hidden wedge sneaker is a huge new trend, and we’re so thrilled to be getting these made for us. The technology involved in having these made has been really challenging; we tried for 6 months before we finally found a great factory capable of handling the task in Brazil. Flats are also going to be huge (but not necessarily ballet flats). This spring, the “new” flat has a ½ inch square heel. While the pure ballet flat is still wonderful, the new trend is to have something a bit sturdier and with more structure. The cap-toe is a huge trend, studs are still around, huaraches, as are wedges in general, and there’s a new kind of pump for spring. In the last 4 years, the only pumps women would wear were serious platforms. That trend is on its way out and is being replaced by a trend that’s actually a throwback to the mid 1990’s: the slightly pointed-toe pump with no platform and a 3-4” heel. Look back at magazine or runway shot from 1995 and that’s all you’ll see.
4. Any new designers you’re working with? What can we expect from Barefoot Tess in the future?
Yes, we’re bringing in a few new designers for spring 2013. We’re incredibly excited about our own new collection that’s being made in Brazil, as well as Diba (also made in Brazil, but developed in Italy and designed by the Dutch), and we’re thrilled about a new line called Aspiga. They’re beautifully beaded sandals that are designed in the UK but actually hand-made in Africa and India. The beauty of working with this company is that they create jobs for local men and women and provide revenue for local communities. We’re also getting some really cool beaded mocs and dock siders from a company called 2568 shoes. I think they’re going to be a huge hit!
5. Which Barefoot Tess shoe is currently your favorite?
I’d have to pick the “Juneau” boot from the Barefoot Tess collection. It’s available in black and brown and I adore it because it seamlessly blends the motorcycle trend with a feminine touch and has the most amazing, super soft faux fur lining. I wear mine with everything from jeans to silk trousers to tights and A-line skirts. It’s really the perfect winter boot.
We think it’s important to let you know what goes on behind the scenes at Barefoot Tess. We’ve got a fabulous group of dynamic, stylish women keeping it all together! Every few weeks, we’ll be bringing you a new team interview and profile. PLUS, get a chance to win the pair of Barefoot Tess brand shoes picked by each team member as their favorite! To enter, share the interview on your Facebook page, then drop us a note on ours with the name of the Barefoot Tess shoe picked as the current team member’s favorite (don’t forget to “like” our page!). Winners will be selected at random by Saturday, December 15th, 2012.
Meet the Team: The PR Guru, Ricki Fairley-Brown
1. Which shoe at Barefoot Tess is currently your favorite?
Oh boy, it’s so hard to pick a favorite Barefoot Tess shoe! I guess my favorite right now is the B.F.T. by Barefoot Tess ‘Kingston’ flat in Leopard. It’s versatile, and pairs easily with black, brown, and red outfits. It’s a good travel basic and will give some girl power to a plain ensemble.
2. What tips would you give to a young woman aspiring to be in PR or marketing?
To a young woman aspiring to be in marketing or PR, here is my list of the top five most important things to bear in mind and strive to become:
- Most people think about marketing as all fun and parties and events and making commercials or going on glamorous shoots. Certainly, these are all aspects of the job, but what it’s really about is getting results and making the client happy. It’s about solving problems and exploiting opportunities. Focus on the end result to want to achieve and use the right marketing and PR tactics to get you there. Hard work and dedication will get you very far.
- Know what you are good at and don’t be afraid to strut your stuff. The right shoes will help with this J!
- Always be aware of the impression that you’re making. That first impression you make will absolutely stick.
- Don’t let anything or anyone rain on your parade. “No” is never the answer; it’s always “how.” Expect to win, and you will.
- Pay attention to this gem from Mark Twain: “Forgive me for writing a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Always write the short letter. People are very protective of their precious time, so remember to use it wisely and to never abuse it.
3. Give us a typical day in your life:
So, I have no typical day in my life as a marketing diva. This is what I love about what I do! Every day brings a different challenge and a different opportunity. The only aspect of my day that’s totally consistent is that I begin each morning by picking out which shoes I’d like to wear. First of all, one of my dear friends just decided that my shoe fetish is really a shoe hobby. I collect them. I showcase them. I sit in my closet and look at them, talk to them and try them on. Crazy, right? I got it honestly though. My grandmother was a shoe diva, followed by my mom and now me. It’s truly a generational thing that has been passed down. My grandmother used to tell me all the time, “Never trust a person with cheap shoes on. If you don’t respect your feet, you have nothing.” I do tend to check out a person’s shoes when I am talking to them. Am I over the top, or what?
I usually decide that either the night before or before I get out of bed. Then, while in the shower, I decide what I will wear with the selected shoes of the day. It’s truly is all about the shoes! If I have an occasion I have to purchase an outfit for, I buy the shoes first, then the dress. When I try to buy the dress first, I always have difficulty because I am out of my comfort zone. I have a black tie event coming up in December. My friends and I were out shopping a few weeks ago and they found the “perfect” dress for me. Knowing my pattern, though, I loved the dress, I was hesitant to buy it–sort of a flapper style in pewter sequins. I knew I did not have the right color in my shoe repertoire. The dress was a great deal so I bought it. So guess what? I have now bought and returned 4 pairs of shoes to try to match it. I actually gave up, put the dress in the back of the closet and am on to a new outfit where I picked the shoes first. I will probably give the dress to one of my daughters….oh well.
So back to your question about a typical day, all I can say is that the shoes I choose for the day are all about what I have to do that day. The factors include the weather (I adore sandals and boots!), how much walking I have to do (comfort is essential), whether I am traveling or not, and the people with whom I will be interacting. My shoes give me my mojo. They give me confidence and totally validate whatever state of diva-dom I need for the day.