Inspired by people I have met over the years and also by a love of hearing about how things are made, this blog celebrates designers and their individual journey’s. First up is Alice Prichard and her business; World Secret Shoes. I was first introduced to Alice by my sister years ago at a show and immediately fell in love with her products. Colourful Kilim rug shoes and Ikat silk trainers; a textile, pattern and shoe lover’s dream. Alice kindly agreed to do an interview telling us about her story, running a small business and the wonderful world of World Secrets shoes.
In one sentence, how would you describe World Secrets?
One of a kind shoes and accessories handmade from colourful kilim rugs and Ikat Silks.
Lets go back to the start, how did it all begin and what were you doing before you had World Secrets?
I went to Art College in Cheltenham but changed tactic after a year and went to the Royal Agricultural College to read Rural Estate Land Management. It was a complete U Turn. I was torn between a love of the countryside and art and design, the two didn’t seem to fit together for me at the time. I thought surveying would be a more stable career path, so I qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and found myself selling farms, auctioning anything from old Lawn mowers to sheep at market and sifting through legal agreements for pylons!
I was travelling at any opportunity and was bringing home belts, bags, and shoes, anything that was different and colourful. Most would be completely impractical, poor quality or would lack style. The fabrics fascinated me and World Secrets developed from there. My aim was to make something different yet timeless and focused on quality.
I ran World Secrets for 3 years alongside working as a rural surveyor. Getting back from a show at 3am, unloading a lorry full of shoes and then going into the office to sell farms was not ideal. Luckily my boss was sympathetic to the odd desk snooze! I was so nervous to go self-employed, but knowing I had something to go back to if I needed made it a lot easier.
Describe your typical day.
Everyday is different! I currently live a few days a week in Wales (where World Secrets stockrooms are based on the family farm) and the other half of the week in Devon with my boyfriend who is farming. So I spend a lot of time on the M5, it’s my downtime!
The day is usually based on ticking off a long list! When I’m in Wales I’m in the stockroom packing and posting orders and packing/unpacking the trailer for shows and events. In Devon I work from my laptop designing new products, updating the website, ordering more stock and stand deign.
The most stressful days are set up days at the shows, or trying to get boxes out of customs (there has been many a tear shed!). The best days are design days or getting to see my ‘show family’ at the shows!
Where do you get your inspiration from for your products and how are they made?
I think inspiration can come from anywhere, and an idea can be based on the smallest thing, which then develops. Colours are a huge part of World Secrets and everything we make is colourful. I have been inspired by the places I’ve visited and the fabrics that I found there.
I always try to base the shape of the shoe on something I would like to wear but can’t find in the shops. It needs to be different and fun but not completely off the scale wild. They need to be comfortable and make people feel good when they are wearing them.
Everything is handmade in Turkey by two family run companies. I design the shoes and bags, which are then developed from my drawings into shoe lasts or bag patterns. When the sample product is finalised we can play around with fabrics. I travel to Turkey and spend days trawling through kilim rugs that have been sourced by an agent from Turkish villages. Only the symmetrical rugs can be used for shoes because they need to be in pairs! The others are used for bags.
What is your highlight of your career so far?
I think Chelsea Flower Show was a real turning point for us. The sneakers arrived 4 days into the show and they sold out in half an hour. No one had ever seen them before and it was an incredible reaction. And I got see the Queen (from a distance), all round a great week!!!
What is the best thing about running World Secrets?
It is so exciting when the design you have been working on for months arrives on the doorstep and it’s everything you imagined! It can be extremely rewarding when something goes right and you can look back and think, I did that, all by myself. The bonus is when the customer gets to enjoy that product too and is genuinely thrilled with their new shoes or bag.
Equally the freedom of working for myself and meeting so many likeminded people through the shows that are now really great friends.
What is the worst part about running your own business?
Never being able to switch off, you are always thinking about something you should be doing or the opportunities you are missing. You also don’t get sick pay, holiday pay…. or paid at all actually haha! I think you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to make something work, but actually its only because you care so much about what you’re doing.
We all tend to make mistakes, have you made any and how did you overcome them and what is the most challenging thing you have come across running your business over the years?
Haha so many!!! We could be here all day! I once didn’t specify the leather on the back of some ipad cases, I think I just said ‘Tan Leather’. When they arrived the guys had covered them in glitter and when asked why, the response was “The British love Glitter, no?”. Everything had to be made again but I can laugh about it now! I learnt that communication is key!!
We also once made a collection of tan leather shoes with interchangeable tassels on the front and they were so lovely but didn’t sell. I realised that they got lost amongst all of the colour and they didn’t fit with the brand. It was a lesson learnt! You can’t be everything.
The most challenging thing has been getting the product out there. I’m not naturally good at the PR side of things and don’t particularly enjoy the social media aspect of the business, but I’ve learnt it can be the most important. There is no point having a great product if no one knows about it.
What’s your go to music to work to?
Amy Wadge, Josie Dunne, Kacey Musgraves… sometimes the Spice Girls, depends on the mood of the day!
What is your favourite pair of shoes?
This is a bit like choosing your favourite family member! I think the ‘She Who Dares’ Sneakers because they have been so rewarding to design and develop and there are so many things I’ve got planned for them in the future. They are so versatile.
What is the greatest piece of advice you can pass on and where did you get that advice?
Its not necessarily a piece of advice but, my aunty gave me a sign when I was little saying;
‘What would you do if you knew you could not fail?’ It’s still next to my desk now.
Who would you have at your ultimate dinner party?
Joanna Lumley, Judi Dench, Ant and Dec, Mary Berry (I have heard she is a big gin drinker), Simon Cowell, Gino D’Campo, Michael Mcintyre, David Attenborough. And probably some of my own mates to make it less awkward.
Check out the World Secrets Shoes website in the link below