Cheshire designer Esmé Ertekin has shoes in her sole

Knutsford designer Esmé Ertekin tells us why she puts her heart and soul into creating shoes<br/>WORDS BY JAYNE BOOTHROYD<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

Known for their high quality and innovative designs Esm� Ertekin’s shoes are worn with a passion worldwide. Esme moved to Knutsford at a young age but has lived and worked in countries such as Italy, France and Japan  and she has absorbed their design styles. She uses her knowledge of foreign skills and fabrics to create her beautiful shoes.

Esm� grew up in a creative household: her mother and grandmother were dressmakers, and so her home was filled with fabrics. ‘They were a constant inspiration and dressmaking was part of play for me. My mother used to collect vintage clothing and pieces which I still use as inspiration now.’

She studied at the prestigious St Martin’s College in London to study Fashion and Print design, working in New York with Pep� Jeans as part of her course before obtaining a first class honours degree. After that she moved to Amsterdam, and then Paris successfully applying for a job as a fashion designer for Kenzo and then Moschino in Milan. 

Esm� started her business in 2000 in partnership with an Italian shoe producer and has now created collections in places such as Japan, and selling her shoes in shops such as Harvey Nichols. Many of her shoes have been inspired by the places she travels to. ‘I like Japanese colours and textiles. When you walk around Tokyo you see girls who are really trendy and modern but then you have others who are traditionally dressed in kimonos. The juxtaposition of modern and old, and the decoration and motifs are a synergy of my taste, which is then incorporated into my designs,’ said Esme.

‘Tokyo is an amazing place with the most fashionable people in the world. My first shoe collection, launched in 2001,  was bought by Japanese chain stores and they have been big fans of my work ever since.’

Her ‘Made in Tokyo’ range was launched last month. Based on the geometric and clean lines of the Art Deco period, the collection is rich, colourful and full of quirkiness. ‘The Japanese have such a refreshing attitude towards fashion and my designs have always been appreciated there. I decided to start producing in Japan as they are higly skilled and their exacting quality standards match with mine,’ said Esme.

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Esm� has an unusual way of working and developing her products on location spending several weeks working alongside local crafstpeople and factories. She likes to use materials and skills indigenous to that place and always sources locally.

But one of Esm�’s collections inspired a little closer to home is the Knutsford range. ‘This collection features black and white shoes, inspired by the Tudor houses of Knutsford; they are also ladylike and sophisticated which you get a sense of around here.’

She also takes advantage of Knutsford’s charity shops, buying a tablecloth for a sample of embroidery for example. ‘It’s good here for sourcing and these old things often inspire my designs. I’ll incorporate the prints or embroideries. I’ll often buy vintage shoes or visit museums for inspiration for the toe and heel shape. I absorb myself in information collecting images objects and materials and out of this the design emerges.’

Her ranges have now been sold around the major European cities, Beverley Hills, LA and of course in the UK, including top department stores. She even designs bridal footwear and snow boots, often with matching bags and belts.

Esm� has her own ‘shoe club’: a list of loyal customers who she sells to directly. ‘We know what they like, what they have bought in the past and the height of heel or colours they prefer. We ask them what they are looking for, for which occasion and send them photos of new styles. Once they have received the shots, either by email or post, they get in touch and we send the product to them the same day.

‘I love seeing people wear my shoes that’s the thing I most enjoy about this job. They have gone through so many hurdles to get from design, to a store and then someone buying them. It’s great.’ 

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