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Behind the Business: Creating Custom Heeled Boots

5-minute read

It was 12 months ago that we first started talking about expanding our collection of custom riding boots and ballet flats, and introducing a line of heeled boots. Since picking out the last on a product development trip to Léon last January, a lot has happened! We finalized the designs in Spring 2013, and in July raised an incredible $28,550 on the crowd funding platform, Alberta BoostR, to help complete development. Since then, we have been hard at work on the many, many steps required to launch a new customizable product. Watch the video clip above for a quick summary, hear from the first few women to own our heeled boots, and read on for more details...

Last room in León - Poppy Barley

The last dictates the toe shape and heel height for all the styles you make with that last. Once you know that, you start to see how many designers' collections use the same lasts for multiple styles. For example, these two Rag & Bone sandals share a last but have entirely different looks:

Rag and Bone Sandals

It is the last that you need to test and test until the fit is perfect, and then every order component (soles, insoles, heels) are ordered in to match. The last is probably the most important design decision you make when creating a new shoe style. This is the one we chose for both The Runway Boot and The Promenade Boot:

The Alberta Last - Poppy Barley - Heeled Boots

Next, we picked out the heel styles and finish (leather wrapped vs. fake wood etc). For us, since it was also our first foray into heeled boots, this also meant vetting new suppliers and learning about heel making and heel moulds (we were lucky enough to get a tour). Poppy Barley - Heel Selection

With the main components selected, it was time to design! We did some trend research, but because we care more about style and less about trends/fashion as a company, we mostly delved into the archives and the world around us for inspiration. In the end we weeded our ideas from two main sources:

Poppy Barley Heeled Boots Inspiration

1) The t-strap sandal inspired The Runway Boot, and 2) rock icons like Debby Harry inspired The Promenade Boot (though we toned it down by making it below the thigh, since we are mostly not rock stars:)

Next was pattern and sample making! Custom Heeled Boots Sample #1 - Our First Try:

Poppy Barley Custom Heeled Boots

The first sample of The Promenade Boot looked great, but the fit of the last was off. This pair was intended for me (a size 9) but ended up fitting my co-founder, Kendall (a size 8). This was largely because we chose a more padded insole (with the end-goal that these would be the most comfortable heeled boots you’ve ever had), but didn’t account for the extra room the insole would take up.

Custom Heeled Boots Sample #2 - Our Second Try:

Poppy Barley Custom Heeled Boots

This time the fit on the foot was near-perfect! We decided to slim the last of the boot, however, so that we could have smaller ankles and an overall sleeker-looking boot (the last also impacts the ankle!). With every sample pair we create, we wear them for a few days straight to test the comfort, durability, and stability. Custom Heeled Boots Sample #3 - Our Third Try: Poppy Barley Custom Heeled Boots This was my favourite sample. You can see the difference in the sleekness on the ankle and the fit on the leg. This was also our first sample of The Runway Boot, which made us all "ooh" and "ahh" like crazy (we knew we'd be bestowing this style with a name that had "showstopper" written all over it).

For Samples #4 to #14: We made boots for our inaugural Product Development Group - twelve lovely ladies who signed up to help perfect the product before we even launched. Each member of the group provided their chosen style, leather colour(s) and measurements, and when their boots came knocking, they helped us fit and wear-test them. It was super helpful to get feedback from a wider and diverse group of shapes and sizes, all looking for different things in their "dream" heeled boot. (We’ll be releasing testimonials and profiles throughout February on the members of the group - so stay tuned!)

Poppy Barley Heeled BootsThis is the end of development. Late last week, we launched to the public (!!). What a journey it's been. We've brought in all the components we need - insoles, soles, heels, and leather - to make the first few hundred pairs of custom heeled boots (so yes - there is a chance we'll reach capacity, which is why we're encouraging you to get your order in ASAP; you'll be strutting around just as the snow starts to melt and wearing heeled boots makes sense again!).

I sincerely hope you love the Poppy Barley Heeled Boot Collection. Please feel free to email me with any feedback and/or comments about what’d you’d like us to work on next at: justine@poppybarley.com

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