Cheshire-based Cleo Barbour is the name behind Cleo B, one of the hottest footwear labels around
- Credit: Archant
If designer Cleo Barbour had one piece of fashion advice it would probably be ‘bin the black’.
‘Especially in the city in the winter,’ opines the 27 year old behind the uber-trendy Cleo B footwear label.
‘Black - I’m sick of it. I’m out to change the world. No-one should wear black, grey or brown, which is all there seems to be in the shops by the time autumn comes around. The ethos of my brand is bright colour. It’s me and I just love it. The brand is definitely a reflection of my own style.’
Cleo who grew up in Bolesworth Castle at Tattenhall, near Chester, is nothing if not outspoken, but then she was a mere 23 when she set up her company after studying shoe design at the famed Cordwainers in London and working with stellar shoe maker Nicholas Kirkwood. Oh, and although she shares the name of a famed British company , there is no relation. Her father was Cheshire landowner Anthony Barbour, himself rather a visionary, who developed the Bolesworth estate to support small businesses.
Clearly, Cleo set out not to cash in on the family wealth and has created a fashion brand that has a really cult following among the fashion cognoscenti - especially those who dare to be different.
Cleo B shoes are so cool they’re Arctic! They include cassette painted heels and hand-painted high top trainers and designs based on 80s Hip Hop. Her footwear has been worn by the likes of Jesse J and Paloma Faith.
‘Tess Daly was the first ever celebrity to wear my shoes,’ she reveals.
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‘She was on Strictly Come Dancing and came on and did a little dance at the beginning. She flipped her leg up in the air and you saw her shoes. It was really cool.’
Cleo comes across as a lady who likes a challenge, saying she opted to do shoes because they were quite hard to make. She’s also gutsy enough to confess that it hasn’t always been a walk in the park.
‘Sometimes it’s a struggle and working in fashion can be extremely demoralising as there is always more to do. You achieve something and then you’ve got to go on to the next thing. It is also really competitive, especially shoes. A lot of people do shoes.’
Luckily she has plenty of ideas for expanding the brand without compromising the luxurious quality of her footwear.
‘The latest collection is bold but more limited shoe-wise as I am going to be doing more accessories. I have just done a range of little travel card holders and I do shoe clips. These a quite a retro thing. They are clips that go onto the shoes and they can really transform the look. I do pom poms, crystal and metal ones. They are economical as well as updating the shoe. I’d even wear them on my trainers!’
She has recently collaborated on a project with a company called Beauchamps of London, designing a range of dog collars and leads which delights her totally as she’s the proud owner of Honey B, a mini Dachshund who is also her company mascot.
‘She’s the face of dog collars,’ she laughs.
But it’s a bit like enquiring about your most beloved child when you ask her to single out a favourite shoe design. In the end she owns up to liking the 1983 collection, turquoise and pink Beat Box boots with musical notes: ‘They are really comfortable, easy to wear and cool.’
‘I really like the wedges because they are really stable and comfortable and flattering too. And I love very high shoes, even if I can’t walk in them.’
Her studio is near fashionable Westbourne Park and she lives in her mother’s London house but regularly returns to Bolesworth Castle where she was brought up. She loves the quiet of the countryside there.
‘London gets too much, especially at weekends. Cheshire is more laid back in terms of the people,’ she adds.
‘And Cheshire is a big chunk of my customer base. A lot of the people who love Cleo B live in Cheshire although I also sell in Japan, UAS, UAE and Dubai. I have had a good relationship with Bottega in Tarporley and have done a few events with them but I need a stockist in Cheshire!’