Tivydale - the ethical choice of shoes for the stylish lady
- Credit: Archant
For most of us, finding a pair of stylish shoes isn’t a problem. But as a vegetarian, Susannah Wright decided she really shouldn’t be buying leather shoes anymore.
After a thorough search online, she realised there was a lack of stylish non-leather footwear appealing to younger stylish women. So Susannah, 43, set about her plan to revolutionise the non-leather shoe market by setting up her own brand of fashionable footwear, Tivydale.
It’s a stark contrast to her previous career as a journalist at the Manchester Evening News. Susannah left her writing post in 2013 and 12 months later, Tivydale launched online with a collection of heeled shoes, ankle and knee-high boots. She’s since been busy producing a new spring/summer range.
‘It’s tricky starting up a new business, finding your feet and learning what works and what doesn’t,’ said Susannah. ‘I loved my job at the MEN, it was really interesting. I just wanted to do something else.’ Prior to being a journalist, Susannah ran a short film production company with a friend, but wanted to try something different this time.
She said: ‘I’ve always loved shoes. Each payday I would go out and buy a new pair. As a vegetarian, I tried to look around for non-leather but there is no choice on the high street. Stella McCartney makes lovely shoes, but they’re too expensive. I saw a gap in the market, and decided I was going to fill it will affordable shoes that I would like to wear.’
Susannah enrolled on footwear production courses in Florence and London, and spent three months in Italy learning how to design shoes by hand and on a computer.
‘In Florence, I learnt how to create shoes from hand, including the technology of producing the leather itself, to hammering and gluing the shape together. It was a difficult, complicated process and I knew creating hand-made bespoke shoes was not for me.’
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Following a couple of short courses at the London College of Fashion, Susannah found that the industrial way of producing shoes was more suited to her. ‘It was a different way of seeing how things are done. I learnt what I liked and didn’t like, and soon enough I was ready to set about designing my first collection sourced from cruelty-free materials that closely resemble leather. Synthetic materials have improved greatly over the years and are now breathable and water-resistant and come in a range of colours, prints and finishes.’
The brand Tivydale was then born, and the first collection produced in a factory in Spain. ‘It was difficult coming up with a name for my company. My surname is too generic, and I wanted something that sounded more exotic like Louboutin or Ferragamo. I settled on Tivydale, which is the name of the road where I grew up in south Yorkshire, so it still has a personal connection.’ Susannah now lives in Manchester, and has moved production of the second collection to a London factory.
‘It’s all been a bit of a risk, financially and personally, but I wanted to give it a go. I wanted to dismiss the old viewpoint that wearing vegetarian-friendly items means that you have to be a hippie with sandals made of hemp. You can be young, fashionable and vegetarian. In five to ten years time I would love to see Tivydale in Selfridges, being at the forefront of stylish, non-leather shoes that are accessible and well-priced. It would be great to branch out into accessories too.’
With positive feedback from the vegetarian community, the sky seems to be the limit for Susannah and Tivydale. ‘Lots of people go through life and for whatever reason don’t take a risk. For me, I didn’t want to get to retirement and look back with regret.I look forward to seeing what is next for Tivydale.’ n
www.tivydale.com Tivydale shoes start from £60
‘Prices for Tivydale shoes start from £60 and boots from £70. The new spring/summer range will be on sale soon.’