Emmy London founder Emmy Scarterfield was born to design shoes. She began creating them in childhood using toy bricks and trained with the best in both the UK and Italy before embarking on a business designed to give every bride just what she wants – heavenly wedding heels
Words by Libby Norman
Photos by Julie Michaelsen Photography
Britain has a long tradition of fine shoemaking, but when Emmy Scarterfield decided to establish her shoe company Emmy London, bridal shoes were something of a style backwater. The brand she has created is now a go-to for anyone in search of elegant British craftsmanship and luxury.
Emmy was obsessed with shoes from early childhood and would totter around with wooden blocks in her socks to create the illusion of high heels. Growing up in Somerset shoe country, she couldn’t escape their influence either. Her family lived close to both Mulberry and Clarks shoe operations. In particular, the nearby Mulberry shop was an Aladdin’s cave of dressing up opportunities, feeding her obsession with footwear. Its factory skip of offcut and reject leathers formed the basis for some of her earliest designer-maker experiments. Her school even had an affiliation with the Clarks factory and one of Emmy’s greatest childhood regrets was not being picked as one of the school’s official ‘Clarks shoe testers’ – a role she was surely born for.
Emmy London’s shoemaking apprenticeship
Emmy’s early focus meant she had no doubts about her future direction and, after an art foundation course, trained at the prestigious Cordwainers College. There Emmy learned the science and the processes of shoemaking and, after that, she took a somewhat unusual route. It began with a year out working for Sofa Workshop – she describes it as a “wobble” while she considered her next move, but now credits its focus on bespoke options and customer service as giving her both an excellent grounding in how a business is run and also planting the seeds of the model she would later develop.
Emmy had learned how to design and make fine shoes the British way, but wanted to gain more experience, so taught herself Italian and then spent five years immersing herself in the Italian luxury leather goods industry. She worked with every stage of the process of designing high-end shoes and accessories – including supervising factory production – spending time designing and making at both Bottega Veneta and Giorgio Armani.
After her return to the UK, Emmy saw a niche in the market – wedding shoes. Many of her friends were getting married at the time and were bemoaning the choices on offer – typical complaints were that shoes were hard and uncomfortable, frumpy or, if they aimed for glamour, wildly overshot the mark and looked outré at a formal occasion. What she decided to focus on was designs based around classic and delicate silhouettes, fine detailing and luxury materials. Most of all, they had to be comfortable and make brides feel effortlessly glamorous.
Good bridal shoes should be timeless, so the core of all Emmy London designs is simplicity and the kind of look that never dates. Her shoes come in both ready-to-wear and customised options (after all, not all brides can wait 10-12 weeks). But the bespoke experience is worth the wait if you can. You simply book an appointment and visit Emmy London’s Islington store armed with as much information as possible about your style, your dress and the look you’re after. Appointments give you the chance to try on lots of shoes – it is shoe heaven – and her team help you narrow down to the right shape, colour and trimmings. Once you’ve ordered your bespoke shoes, you are able to borrow a sample pair for dress fittings to ensure the perfect hemline on the day.
With courts, sandals, flats and platforms in the mix, these are tried and trusted styles that work with wedding fashions. All can be adapted, with customisation to colour, heel height and sizing (including the option of half-sizes). Many shoes in both the bespoke and ready-to-wear ranges have matching accessories – Emmy’s Italian experience has given her an expert touch with dreamy belts, bags and hair accessories. The company also produces occasion and party shoes. And there’s even a cute capsule range of shoes for newborns and babies. Destined to become keepsakes, they may even inspire the next generation of great British shoe designers.
Tips from Emmy London for choosing wedding shoes
- Your wedding shoes are a one-off, but it makes sense to stick with a style you feel comfortable with – look in your wardrobe for inspiration.
- Keep an open mind on shape; even if you had your heart set on sandals you may find a closed toe works better, especially with long and formal gowns.
- You should focus first on silhouette and heel height. Once you’ve settled on the right shape, then consider colour and details.
- Stick to your comfort zone – six-inch heels won’t feel right if you have never worn them. Also bear in mind the venue because a marquee in a field may require a different look and style to a grand hotel ballroom.
- Pick materials that will be forgiving and versatile – ideally you should be able to wear your heels again. Emmy London shoes are in soft suede and most can be dyed afterwards.
Emmy London, 74 Fulham Road, SW3. 020 7704 0012; emmylondon.com