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Behind the brand: The footwear brand putting comfort and confidence first


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Sargasso & Grey is a footwear brand that specialises in making women’s shoes for wider feet. Wide fitting shoes are notoriously unflattering and unattractive – well, until Sargasso & Grey came along. Launched in 2014 by Katie Owen, this is one brand determined to prove any negative stereotypes surrounding wide-fitting shoes wrong. 


Katie was inspired to start Sargasso & Grey after her own personal experience with finding shoes to fit. She spotted a gap in the market for wide-fitting shoes and it went from there: “I have fairly wide feet, but I also found that my feet swelled up like balloons when I was pregnant so I couldn’t get my feet into my work heels. I felt like the ugly sister trying to get into Cinderella’s shoe! I went to buy some wider fit alternatives and was horrified at the limited choice. They were all granny shoes!”


Image courtesy of Katie Owen / Sargasso & Grey


Confidence and comfort …


Women’s comfort and confidence is at the very core of Sargasso & Grey. Katie explains: “Whether it’s a wedding, work, collecting an MBE (true, but not me!),or going for a night out with friends, the last thing on their mind should be painful feet.”


For Katie, the best thing about creating the brand is the customer feedback. These women have gone through their lives wearing ugly ill-fitting shoes and thought that it would be that way forever. I absolutely love delighting customers and you would be surprised at how much a pair of stylish, well-fitting shoes can make a difference.”


The personal stories she receives on the feedback section of the website are extremely important to Katie. “I had an email from a customer who has severe rheumatoid arthritis (in her 40s). She has a wardrobe full of designer heels which she can’t wear any more. She thought she would be destined to spend the rest of her life in ugly flats. Then she found our brand and bought some shoes, which she said were life changing. Of course, it’s not curing cancer, but a good pair of heels is certainly a confidence booster!”




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Female empowerment …


Another huge part of the ethos behind the brand is female empowerment. Empowering women and making them feel good about themselves is incredibly important to Katie. “Women are so strong and so capable but often we lack the confidence to make the best of ourselves and our situation. That is down to hundreds of years of being seen and treated as the lesser sex. Things are not going to change overnight but we can start by making small changes to help boost our confidence, and with confidence comes the ability to try new things, take risks and create change. We create shoes to make women’s lives that little bit more comfortable, giving them one less thing to be concerned about so that they can focus on the greater things they can achieve. We are removing the footwear corsets, so to speak!” 


Speaking of empowering women, are there any women in particular who have inspired Katie during her career? “My mum definitely gave me my work ethic. She had a career as a physio when we were children. My parents divorced when I was eight and my mum always worked hard to maintain her financial independence and to instil that in me.”


This work ethic, inspired by her mother, was a huge drive for Katie, but she admits it’s difficult to find a work/life balance, although it is incredibly important. “As a child you don’t appreciate the sacrifices your parents make and sometimes my children give me a bit of a hard time about not being around due to my business commitments, so I try and remember how I felt as a child in the same situation, and how I feel now. I do think it is important to find a balance between home life and business life. Often running your own business gives you the best opportunity to do this and maybe this is why we are seeing so many women becoming entrepreneurs."


Supporting each other…


Another big part of female empowerment is supporting other women. Katie explains about the importance of working with other women at the start of her career. She says: "I think it is important to listen and learn from other women and I am indebted to one woman in particular, who has her own shoe business and who opened doors for me. It is so important for women to support and help one another. Hopefully I have done the same for other women starting out in business.”


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Not coming from a fashion background…


Despite running a successful footwear brand, working in fashion wasn’t always on the cards for Katie. “I got my degree in American Studies from The University of Manchester. Nothing to do with fashion at all! Then again it had nothing to do with banking, which was my previous career for 20 years!”


However, when she got the idea to start Sargasso & Grey, Katie decided to go back into education. “When I decided to start my shoe business, I knew that I needed to acquire some knowledge of shoe design and manufacturing, so I took an evening course at The London College of Fashion. Short courses and evening courses can be an amazing way to help you if you want to change careers.”


For Katie, style and creating classic pieces is what interests her. “I am more interested in style than fashion. I am not one to follow trends but I get a real buzz when I find something in my wardrobe that I have owned for the last 20 years and I know it is as stylish now as it was then. They say that style never goes out of fashion!”

Top picks…

So as the owner of a shoe business, obviously we had to find out what Katie’s three top picks from Sargasso & Grey are.


1. The 'Ava' - A snakeskin and black leather lace up kitten heel.

2. The 'Grace'  - A leopard print block heel, with scalloped edge detailing.

3. The 'Sienna' - A camel leather block heeled court shoe.


Words of wisdom…


 Finally, what are Katie’s three top tips for starting your own business?

1)    1. "Speak to as many business owners as you can. Squeeze them for knowledge and advice and that will help you avoid the many pitfalls of running your own business."

2)    2. "There is an abundance of free help and advice for start-ups. Get on a start-up programme such as the Natwest Accelerator Programme (which I was on for nearly 18 months). It was amazing in helping me grow my business."

3)    3. "If you have a business idea. Don’t keep it to yourself. Shout about it and get a following on social media so when you finally launch your business you have a ready-made customer base."


Lead image courtesy of Katie Owen / Sargasso & Grey

To read more from our 'Behind the brand' series, click this link.

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