If The Shoe Fits

Friday, October 5, 2012

After 3 sell out seasons, 4 urban pop up stores and raving editorial success, Annie Abbot of Habbot shoes has decided to take the plunge into the retail scene by showing her wares in a permanent retail space in Melbourne's Armadale High street precinct.

Having amassed loyal customers across the country, a retail space was the logical step to take to ensure loyal customers could see first hand the quality and committment to detail of each new range bought out seasonally. The new showroom functions without a storeroom and showcases the boldly coloured collections against a colour palette of graded neutrals and chalky hues. Annie's extensive experience with retail giants Net-a-Porter and Sass and Bide was the driving force behind her passion for ensuring customer experience through touch and excellent service. With all shoe sizes available on the shelves, customers need not wait for the assistant to go 'out back' to find the right size - they are all there on display, ripe for the picking.

After scouring Italy for the best master craftsmen in shoemaking, Annie's latest collection is sophisticated and classical with a hint of quirk thrown in. Based on the controversial 1950’s film “Picnic” starring William Holden and Kim Novak, the Spring Sumer 12 collection takes its cues from the fruit pastel palette and feminine styling of the cinemascope production. The left-of-centre sensibility inherent in Habbott’s previous collections is met with just enough of a whiff of nostalgia. The signature “garconne” style is still part of the aesthetic but is tempered in lust worthy pinks and mauves – brogues in coconut ice - genius!

Pictured: Annie Abbot (right) at the opening of her flag ship store with Anthea O'Connor

We spoke to Annie to get the low down on what make the shoe designer tick.

Describe your style: Relaxed Preppy style.
I love to mix coloured blazers with relaxed slouch trousers and always finished with a neat closed-toe shoe.

Who are the ultimate “Habbot” girls?
The ‘Habbot’ girls are a bit of a motley crew because they can choose to work the shoes back with a classic look, or take a more cheeky approach - but whatever they do - they are doing it with some sort of colour clues. I like to think they enjoy finishing off their looks with a ‘neat twist’ and that they do this by wearing a pair of Habbot shoes. They may have never set foot on French soil, but I think they at least have an appreciation for ‘French’ dressing ... and all the other amazing culinary and cultural activities that occur in Paris (my favourite city on earth) ... it has certainly influenced me and my Habbot design style.

You worked at online behemoth Net-A-Porter, in it’s infancy, how has that influenced you?
Starting out my career at Net-a-porter has influenced me enormously in pretty much everything I’ve done since then, but especially in the creation of Habbot. Subconsciously, I think just being present whilst Natalie and her co-directors were starting off such an exciting concept impressed upon me the idea that anything is possible with enough passion and hard work. (And this feeling was re-enforced further during my time working for Sarah Jane and Heidi in the early years of Sass & Bide).

How did you start your career in shoe design?
I first started dreaming of designing shoes way back with my first buying role in London. I was introduced to many French shoe brands and loved their colourful take on classic shoes styles. I set about devising a path to take me from buying over to product development and design. It took 7 years to build up the knowledge I needed to go out on my own which seems like a long journey now that I look back on it, but I have gained so much valuable experience along the way I’m glad I took my time.

Where do you look for inspiration?
Old fashion magazines and catalogues I’ve collected over the past 10 years. Not so much for styling, but more for brilliant material and colour ideas. I usually start with a particular shape or pattern to incorporate into my designs and inspiration for this often comes from wall paper patterns – Florence Broadhurst is a particular favourite.

What was the inspiration behind the store design?
The Spring Summer photo shoot used for the look book was actually a big inspiration. The mix of chalky whites and shadowy photography was such a great backdrop for the colourful shoes, we decided to incorporate that into the store concept. It has a soft yet clean ‘gallery’ feel as opposed to a ‘sales’ space heavily laden with product. The hanging shoe lasts communicate the ‘hand-made’ nature of the shoes, and the white tiles and lighting ensure it will always feel crisp yet relaxed.

Where is my favourite shopping destination for shoes?
Paris. So many wonderful smaller brands that you don’t generally find in other cities.

Who is your style icon? 
Jenna Lyons – creative director of J.Crew. Her style is a fantastic combination of colour, tailoring and humour.

Who’s wardrobe do you covet?Alexa Chung. Even though she’s much younger than me, she has such a great collection of casual and evening wear, not to mention the best flat shoe collection I’ve ever seen. Her wardrobe would work across several generations.

Tell the truth. How do you store your shoes.
In shoe boxes with polaroids, colour blocked!

From left: Caitlin Coventry, Prue Brown Gina McNamara

Sarah Etinger with Habbot derby lace-up style shoes with brogue punched detail in Yellow and Ocean

Annie Abbot (right) with Melanie Vallejo from Winners & Losers, Channel 7