Rachel Simpson introduced Mimosa – after painstaking design and prototyping – in 2013. Little did the designer know then that it would become a defining shoe for her brand, worn and loved by countless brides on their wedding day
Words Libby Norman
Rachel Simpson celebrated its tenth birthday in 2018, and to mark the occasion the team created a very special pair of Mimosa ‘Papillon’ heels, in collaboration with British accessory brand, Laurel Lime. Hand decorated with Swarovski opals and crystals, pearls and beads (a process that took days), they were won in a special birthday competition. These one-offs show the amazing versatility of what has become Rachel Simpson’s signature shoe. How Mimosa came about is very much part of the brand story, with seeds of the design within the original collection created in 2008.
Rachel had always loved fine art and design and, after studying footwear design at De Montfort University, she worked as a freelancer at the fast-paced end of fashion, for a number of high street brands. But she kept her hand in as a shoemaker. “One of the first things I did when I left university was to buy myself a couple of old leather sewing machines so I could continue creating shoes myself.”
The sewing machine served Rachel in good stead. She made commission pieces for friends and clients, including her sister’s wedding shoes. Word spread, and her business idea developed. “I knew wedding shoes were special, brides wanted dream heels. But there seemed to be a distinct gap in the market, a lack of choice.
With her trusty sewing machine, Rachel started producing wedding heels – one of her first commissions was for her sister’s wedding day
Rachel’s task was not easy. She says: “Creating shoes that don’t compromise on quality at an affordable price can be a challenge. Comfort and style are both critical. You have to get the balance right for comfort, but also design so that women who don’t have tiny feet (and I’m one of them) look down at their shoes and feel elegant.” Eventually, she found a small artisan factory in Spain that could produce her designs to her standards, and the first collection was launched in 2008. There was a ready audience among brides, who loved the elegant shapes and vintage detailing, the fine soft leather and the lovely use of colour – always integral to the Rachel Simpson look.
“We’re all very attached to Mimosa – it still feels fresh and is a part of so many brides’ wedding days that we think of it as a classic”
Mimosa was introduced in 2013 and, says Rachel, was a breakthrough moment. “It’s our most famous design – the most pinned and shared – and we’ve produced it in multiple colourways over the years.” In fact, the seeds of Mimosa were in a much earlier shoe – Mimi – part of the launch collection and still available today. “Mimi is a T-bar with subtle Deco detailing. I wanted something built around that idea, with extra elements,” says Rachel. What she created is a sandal with intricate teardrop motif. This appears on the T-bar and back of the shoe as a cutout. Where it becomes really complex is on the toe of the shoe, with three interlinked curved shapes on either side. From above, the effect is almost of a butterfly wing or flower petals.
The design was a technical challenge for Rachel and even more so when it came to be prototyped. “It took a while to perfect the design, getting the proportions of the teardrop shapes just right. Eventually, I made them more prominent, with contrast metallic underlay to really emphasise the outline– and knew I had really good shoe. But when I got the design to our factory, the team there said: ‘really?’ because it was so technically complex to get the shapes placed exactly right. They’re used to me and my intricate designs now though!”
The factory rose to the challenge and the first Mimosa – originally available in three colours including mint – was a resounding hit. Over the years, it has been produced in multiple hues, from lavender and lemon to the fabulously sparkly Quartz variety and jewel-encrusted birthday ‘Papillon’ heels that will be worn by one lucky bride getting married next May.
Rachel Simpson’s collection has expanded over the years, and designs to appeal to the chic city bride or red-carpet occasion goer are a growing part of the mix – with exciting new additions in velvet and glitter. But that perfectly balanced wedding shoe with a vintage dance-shoe twist remains a bestseller. “We’re all very attached to Mimosa,” says Rachel. “It still feels fresh and is a part of so many brides’ wedding days – we think of it as a classic.”