Putting the fun back into footwear, emerging shoe designer Camilla Elphick is standing out from the crowd with her whimsical designs. She discusses her S/S17 collection, collaborating with Smiley and living in Chelsea
Everybody loves a statement shoe, but for Camilla Elphick, bright colour and some jazzy embellishment just doesn’t cut the mustard. Pez dispensers, banana motifs and jewelled beetles are just a few of the eccentric designs that adorn Elphick’s fancy footwear – so it’s little wonder that, just a few years after she launched her eponymous label, she’s already putting her stamp on the fashion industry. Handmade in Milan, the designer’s shoes are the perfect mix of luxury, femininity and fun. After her graduate shoe collection, So Bad It’s Good, gained widespread attention among fashion editors – largely thanks to her now ongoing partnership with Pez, which has allowed Elphick to transform the confectioner’s trademark dispenser into a statement heel – she set up her brand just in time for S/S15 and has been climbing the ladder to footwear fame ever since.
Her latest collection, Digital Dreamland, is sure to make you smile. Featuring shiny patent leather and metallic designs, the line of sandals, boots and pumps continues to promote Elphick’s favoured kitsch theme with flying dolphins and palm tree motifs, as well as a capsule range created in collaboration with Smiley. Here, the Chelsea resident discusses the inspiration behind the collection, travel attire and her favourite local hotspots.
When I was younger, I used to love going window shopping every Saturday. It was my favourite thing to do. I also liked to collect accessories, so fashion has always been my thing. The fashion houses I loved most growing up were Gucci, Miu Miu and Prada – girly, yet luxurious.
While I was studying at Parsons School of Design in New York, I was still trying to decide into which area of design I wanted to go. I kept coming back to the idea of creating shoes or bags. I visited Cordwainers at the London College of Fashion and had a discussion with someone who studied footwear design. After that, I knew immediately I wanted to make shoes. I enrolled on the course and did a lot of internships on the side, working at Charlotte Olympia, Sophia Webster and Nicholas Kirkwood, which only made me all the more certain that this was my industry. I think shoes are the one thing that really helps put together a simple outfit and smarten up your look.
WATCH: Camilla Elphick S/S17 created by Lucie Beecham
People love to have that one item that you really treasure – something different from anything else. My graduate collection from the London College of Fashion, So Bad It’s Good, included a pair of shoes with a Pez dispenser on the heel; they received a lot of attention. People were photographing them and wanted to buy them, so that spurred me on to find somewhere to produce them. What’s nice is that, because we now make so many different variations, you can choose a pair to suit your own personal style. For example, a French girl I work with has the poodle pair, which are very cute.
My S/S17 collection is a really fun one. I wanted to conjure up this world in which you could immerse yourself. The inspiration was Vaporwave, a digital music and art movement that happened online around 2010. I found it worked really well with our theme – things that bring you back a bit, like MSN Messenger. The range is very colourful and playful; there are flying dolphins, palm trees and Roman busts. We also did a collaboration with Smiley. My favourites are the gold boots with Smiley faces on the back. The idea is that when you look down at your feet, they’ll make you smile.
We’re always thrilled to see people wearing our shoes. It’s very rewarding; even if it’s just someone walking down the street, you get the same feeling as when it’s a celebrity. Alexa Chung has been a great supporter and our boots have been a real success after people saw her wearing them.
I’ve always thought that what really sets our brand apart is that, even though it has whimsical elements, it’s very feminine and refined, too. My number-one thing is for shoes to flatter the foot as much as possible and that they’re comfortable. Our whole team is made up of women, so we can try on the shoes and really understand what our female customer wants and will wear daily.
It’s interesting going abroad, because you’re able to see what people are wearing in different cities and countries. Travelling has definitely influenced my designs and a lot of our stock is in Paris, Italy and the US. I go to Paris every season, and visit the factory in Milan monthly or every other month, depending on where we are at with the collection. I visit New York a lot, as I used to live there and it’s always nice to catch up with friends. I’d like to go somewhere completely different too, like Cuba or Tokyo.
I generally wear our sneakers on the plane – there is so much walking in airports; you don’t realise how far away everything is! I pair them with wide-leg trousers, a black polo neck, and then my pink coat that I’m absolutely in love with, which is more like a dressing gown. Then I have my Sophie Hulme bag, which fits everything in it.
I’d choose flats over heels – I like being able to walk around. I love a high heel on evenings out as I’m quite short, but on the whole, flats are my favourites, or even something in between a flat and a heel. Today I’m wearing a pair of our mid heels with a buckle and they’re so comfy.
My perfect Sunday would probably be spending the whole day in bed. On Saturdays, I do most of my work errands and go to the gym. I usually take a class there, and then go out for lunch somewhere with my boyfriend, with a dog walk afterwards.
When it comes to dining out, I really like the Gladwin Brothers. I’ve been going to their restaurants, Rabbit and The Shed, quite a lot recently. It’s not your typical meal and there’s always something a bit unusual on the menus, so I like taking friends there. I also like the fact that everything is produced on their farm – they even have this delicious sparkling wine made from grapes grown in their own vineyard.
I love interior design; I wanted my home to look original and be a reflection of my taste. My most unique find is a painting by Natasha Law and the wackiest item is probably a porcelain poodle. I have some of the flats from the Pez collection on my shelves, too – I think of them as collectables. My favourite places to shop for homeware would have to be Anthropologie and Baar & Bass on the King’s Road. I have so many great pieces from both stores.