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Claire Russell: Head of Design at Start-Rite Shoes

Start-Rite have recently launched a new range of shoes with children in mind and we sat down with a cup of tea and spoke to Claire Russell, the new Head of Design at Start-Rite Shoes.


What inspired you when designing the new range?

At the start of the season, our Design team puts together a Seasonal Stories document, which is designed to communicate clear stories to help merchandise the range from an early stage – so that the final range gels together so to speak. The inspiration for these stories is comprised of extensive research in to fashion trends (both adults and kids), and new technologies (not just confined to footwear technologies but anything and everything new that can be translated into footwear). We also look at popular culture – what’s trending for kids now in terms of films, toys, social media etc. The underlying inspiration is always rooted in understanding how children live and move today, and what new and exciting resources are available to make that happen.

What do you believe every child’s shoe should have?

Every child’s shoe should have – in varying degrees, depending on use – protection and support, whilst allowing the child freedom to move and grow. And more and more these days, it’s about helping the child express themselves. We not only fit the foot, but we fit the child. We want to enable the child to #keepexploring and, at the same time, give their parents peace of mind.

Which materials make a good shoe?

Materials have to be of quality and usage specific. For instance, a shoe for a birthday party might have a shiny patent with child-friendly appliqué detailing and only be worn on special occasions, because it’s a little bit more delicate, whilst a shoe to play outdoors in would be more robust and have quality materials geared toward outdoor play – like an abrasive material to protect the toe and prevent or reduce scuffing, or extra padding around the ankle to provide comfort and support as the feet are pushed to their limits. The more we look at how the child moves and lives, we can tailor the materials to suit their usage. We also look at the developmental stages of the child’s growth too – very young feet need soft leathers that gently protect and never hinder the growing foot, whilst a much older child would need more robust leathers that target different areas of the feet, engineered to give the right amount of comfort and flexibility, but with targeted support.

Which is your favourite shoe from the new range?

Oh, that’s a difficult one to answer! They have all been lovingly created, and it’s a bit like be asked to pick your favourite child! When push comes to shove though, I’d say it’s a tie between Tidal and Launch from our AW18 range launching this summer. I think they really communicate where the brand is now headed – how we want to stay true to our roots and be experts in little feet, but really start to push the boundaries on how we are perceived as a brand.

Why is it so important to buy good quality shoes?

Just as a Mum or Dad would want to protect and nurture their growing child through life’s challenges, we want the same for their feet! We are proud to be experts in little feet, and it’s important to allow natural development of the foot, but also to ensure it has the right amount of protection and support throughout development. Good quality shoes should take the worry out of growing up, for both the child and the parent.

Start-Rite have won multiple LovedByParents awards and are truly loved by parents. What do you love most about working for the brand?

That’s so good to hear. I love so many things about working here! It’s a really exciting time for the brand, and these days we are known as a relatively conservative brand – the reality is that in the 1940s we were the brand that challenged perceived wisdom about children’s footwear. We carried out the country’s first nationwide survey of children’s feet, and we fundamentally changed the way children’s shoes are made. Our new identity returns this sense of pioneering spirit to the brand and hints at the pioneering spirit we aim to support in the children who wear our shoes. For me, as a Designer, it’s not just about updating some very cool heritage product with the latest looks and technologies, but it’s also about having, in effect, a blank canvas to design something completely new and shape our future. And all geared specifically to understanding how children live and move today. The Start-Rite Twins are about exploring, about setting off on a new journey, and I feel so privileged and excited to be a part of that journey too. It’s all about the child, but also the parents, and that reflects in the fact that we are all just one big happy family here in the office too!

You can check out the new range of Start-Rite Shoes here on their website:

3-veg mac ‘n’ cheese

Child-friendly slow cooker chilli