A fairy tale of sorts is brewing on UK’s fashion streets. The brewer is a glamorous, young shoemaker of Indian origin who evokes thoughts of fairy tale princesses with shoes that come typically encrusted with thousands of crystals and cost — breathtakingly — thousands of pounds.
Think Aruna Seth and immediately the image of Pippa Middleton — famously, the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister — stepping out in a pair of strappy silver sandals with rhinestone accents comes to mind.
Consider this: the British designer was also the top contender for designing the bride, Kate Middleton’s wedding shoes. That didn’t happen though she did end up designing white slingbacks for the Kate Middleton bridal doll by British toymaker, Arklu, that sold at Harrods.
But post the Royal Wedding, after Pippa hand-picked Seth as her shoe designer, Seth’s life hasn’t been the same. The London-based designer — born to an Indian father and a Jamaican mother — is going great guns with her three-year-old eponymous label.
Her shoes are being worn by the glitterati — actors, singers and A-list socialites. And her fans include Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson, Amanda Holden, Sophia Bush, Pixie Lott, Paris Hilton and Carrie Underwood.
“Designing shoes is in my bloodstream. I have grown up working summers with my father in his shoe shop,” says the 28-year-old referring to her father, Geoff Seth, whose multi- million pound footwear company is internationally renowned and has offices in China, Russia, India and Italy.
What makes her shoes uber-glam? Well, you could check them out yourself in the soon-to-release film, Decoy Bride. Or look out for her signature Rochelle ballerinas on Gossip Girl, the popular teen drama series currently on air on Indian and American television.
If you are a motor sports buff, you might even catch a sight of Seth at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Delhi late this month. After the Grand Prix she intends to stay on in Delhi for a while for work. For, Seth has been custom-designing shoes for her Indian clientele and is looking at bringing her top-of-the-line shoes to India some time next year.
Signature footwear by Aruna Seth is for keeps. Her prized offerings include the Cinderella shoes that look like they have been dipped in a pot of crystals. Encrusted with 3,000 Swarovski crystals, the shoes are available on a made-to-order basis and take 10-12 weeks to be delivered.
A showstopper from Seth’s collection is the Farfalla aqua platform heel that’s embellished with a Swarovski butterfly.
Buying them is akin to making a small investment considering they cost a precious £ 2,500 pounds (Rs 1,90,000). Goldie Hawn flaunted them at the 2009 film premiere of Nine, which had her daughter Kate Hudson in the cast.
Seth’s intention is to wow you with her range of evening shoes, ballerina pumps and bridal shoes. They come with feminine frills and furbelows, apart from generous sprinklings of Swarovski crystals, diamante, Chantilly lace and expensive leathers. The base price for her collection is £ 250 (that’s Rs 19,000).
Instant showstoppers from her collection include the 5-inch Cerise wedge heel in red satin (a clear red- carpet number) and the Farfalla platform heels. Their oomph factor isn’t just about the embellishments. Seth says firmly that she is designing primarily for comfort. The Nia Frills for instance are the perfect partying shoes, made as it is in soft Nappa leather.
“I design shoes that would make the woman wearing them smile all evening instead of wondering when she might fling them off,” she says. To which end she quilts the inner linings of her shoes, or pads them with Nappa leather inserts to pillow the soles.
Seth, who studied footwear design at the London School of Fashion, after graduating with a degree in European Studies from Liverpool University in 2003, goes the full length with exclusivity. “I travel to Northern Italy where six shoes are handcrafted at a time by the best artisans in the shoemaking business. It is the same region where Jimmy Choos are made,” notes Seth.
Seth retails from prestigious stores such as Harrods but she also offers personal shoe fitting sessions at London’s posh West End hotel, The Cadogan, over tea and cakes.
“You can custom-make your shoes so you can choose the style, the material, the works. And we will get them to you within 10-12 weeks,” says Seth.
English actress and presenter Amanda Holden sports Seth’s Nia Frills, the perfect party shoes made in soft Nappa leather and finished with feminine bows and crystals
The attractive designer lives the high-life of the swish set with an apartment in Chelsea, one of London’s smartest districts.
And yes, she’s quite the shoe fiend herself. Seth owns some 250-odd pairs of shoes. “I never travel without 10 pairs of shoes,” she says laughing.
Seth travels every two weeks to fashion capitals such as Paris, Milan and New York, for various trunk shows and fashion weeks. Later this month she will be showcasing a bridal collection at the New York Bridal Week but there’s something else on her mind at the moment. She says: “My pet project is to open up a standalone boutique for shoes in Chelsea, London.”
So is it time to let your inner Cinderella rule? If yes, go invest in a pair of Aruna Seths.
(This story was published on October 9, 2011, in The Telegraph)