Meet "bonkers" shoe designer Emily Jupp
PUBLISHED: 16:31 16 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:31 16 January 2017
Affectionately described as "bonkers" by her fans, the incredible shoes created by Norwich designer Emily Jupp are like works of art
towering heels in the style of teapots, shoes made of chocolate, personalised leather lace-up boots, cool baseball boots for a bride - her footwear brand Milly J has gathered quite a following, with the likes of Kylie Minogue among her admirers.
Now, Emily is bringing her fabulous footwear to Norwich with the opening of her first shop – All About Shoes - and as well as continuing with her wonderful one-off commissions, she is also creating a range of shoes which combines her unique designs with everyday wear.
Emily Jupp’s new shop nestles next to the Norwich Arts Centre, and is the perfect creative setting to inspire her eye-catching shoe designs.
“My mum had just moved back here and I love the Norwich Lanes area, as it is so creative, so as soon as this shop came up I decided to go for it.”
Emily’s story is an incredible one, and her background has very much shaped her drive and determination today.
“I was abandoned on a bus in Kingston, Jamaica, as a baby and taken to an orphanage. Luckily for me, I was adopted by the most wonderful white British couple who happened to be working in Jamaica at the time,” she says. “When I was four, we moved to Bangladesh and I had an incredibly interesting childhood. I was always a very creative child and went on to study drama and opera.”
It was a family tragedy five years ago, however, which proved the catalyst for Emily to launch her own business.
“Sadly I lost my brother Dan to suicide. He was an incredible, extraordinarily talented artist and his death really made me think about what I wanted to do with my life. It taught me that life was too short to waste a moment. Inspired by his art I decided to try my hand at doing something completely different. I wasn’t planning a business. I had a pair of plain shoes and one day set about painting them and creating my own design.
“I love shoes, but had no experience whatsoever in fashion or art. I created this mad design and somehow it felt instinctive. I posted a picture on Twitter and the response was incredible. Former model Jodie Marsh got in touch and asked if she could have a pair. She wore them on ITV’s This Morning show and it just went from there.”
Emily started to get requests for one-off commissions and her reputation and business began to grow.
“I buy plain, unbranded shoes – from high heels to flats and boots. Then I take bits away, add bits and create my own shoe from there. I do all the painting, clay work, sculpting and decorating myself. My studio is like an elves’ workshop. A pair of shoes can take anything from a few days to a couple of months, depending on drying times and the intricacy of the design.”
In 2014, she appeared on the BBC singing competition The Voice and her designs reached a new audience.
“While it is fantastic that some of my high profile customers have highlighted my work, I want my shoes to be something that absolutely everyone can buy and wear. So as well as working on specialist commissions, I am creating a range of limited edition themed shoes ready to buy – we just did some for Christmas, starting at around £30, and I am doing some party shoes. The shop also sells lots of shoe-related gifts and accessories as I wanted it to be a real shoe lovers’ haven.”
Since starting her company, Emily has won a host of prestigious awards – including Footwear Designer of the Year in The Footwear Industry Awards 2015. She is also a speaker for different organisations, working with young people.
“It has been amazing to win such recognition, but I want people to understand that I didn’t have a business background. Some people have a fantastic idea but feel they don’t have the knowledge to know where to go with it. I was no different. It has been a real learning curve for me, but every step of the way I have asked people questions and persuaded people to get on board.
“My mum and dad were very supportive, creative and open to ideas which really spurred me on, but it was very daunting to open my shop. Sometimes though, you just have to run with it.”
All About Shoes, St Benedicts Street, Norwich, NR2 4PG; www.millyjshoes.co.uk