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Emerging shoe designer a hit with celebs

Katie Owen

Wide-fit shoe designers Sargasso & Grey have caught the eye of A-list celebrities, stylists and a member of the royal family

Launched by Katie Owen in 2014, the company, which produces classic and timeless luxury leather shoes for ladies with wider feet, has supplied shoes to Hollywood’s Jennifer Garner and TV presenters Holly Willoughby and Lorraine Kelly. A prominent royal has also been spotted in the shoes (but discreet Katie refuses to spill the beans!).

The 41-year-old shoe designer learnt her trade at an evening course at London College of Fashion after a meeting with Janan Leo, the founder of ballet flat shoe maker Cocorose, sparked her interest in making shoes. Katie was working in banking at the time and struggled to find shoes to fit.

She said: “I’ve always had wide feet and could never wear nice shoes like LK Bennett. Then when I had my first child my feet got even wider – I went back to work, and half my shoes didn’t fit.

“Janan is delightful – when I complained about not being able to find wide stylish shoes, her business partner put me in touch with a factory and before I knew it I was on the path to becoming a shoe designer. It wasn’t the right factory for me but eventually I found a one in Spain which suited our needs.”

Bespoke wide-foot lasts (shoe moulds) had to be made because, like most factories, it didn’t cater for wider feet.

Recent market research by Saragasso & Grey found that 53% of the 900 women they surveyed said they needed wider fitting shoes.

Katie added: “Given how many women have wide feet, it’s incredible that shoe manufacturers haven’t adapted to cater for them. It means many women are squeezing their feet into uncomfortable shoes.”

For a while Katie, who has two young sons, continued with her main career as a private banker while running the shoe business on the side, gradually she reduced her hours at the bank, but the reality meant still receiving work calls on her day off.

She added: “It took a long time to take the plunge from a high-paying job with a lot of security. I was putting so much effort into the shoe business and really believed in it. I knew that if I didn’t give it my all I’d really regret it. So, two months ago I left and now I focus solely on Sargasso & Grey. It’s a big lifestyle change, and it means I can be around to take the children to school more.”

Sargasso & Grey’s shoes often feature leopard prints, velvets, suede, snakeskin or glitter. Styles include stilettos, court shoes and kitten heels. They’re a popular purchase for wedding guests and Katie’s constantly receiving emails from customers delighted with the shoes’ comfort.

The company was named after the book The Wide Sargasso Sea (with ‘Grey’ added for artistic license). They’re among those benefiting from Natwest’s Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme which offers support and mentoring to promising start-ups.

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