Boden b**locks

I got the Boden catalogue through the post yesterday and just out of interest, I picked it up and had a flick through its glossy, well fed, happy, well adjusted pages. I have a thing against Boden (not even against the clothes, although they are a bit ‘Boden’), it is mainly against the catalog and the styling, those models:

“Tatiana – best trait in a man: ‘his own estate in Gloucestershire’’

” Anoushka – favorite place to be: ‘my family’s private beach in the Maldives’”.

It makes me want to rip my eyes out as I read. In this seasons catalogue they have different sections, one of which is a mummy section, yet another way for them to set themselves firmly apart from life as a normal person.

The images show pictures of a ‘mum’ – she is gorgeous, smooth skinned, happy, even though her ‘children’ are apparently tearing a library apart, because obviously she’s the kind of mother that spends time in the library with her kids rather than in the park hoping to wear them out enough to be able to go home and have some peace and quiet, and she’s tearing around after them, in beautiful clothes, there is not a hair out of place, the kids are happy, life is great, she’s not worrying about money, or what to do with them next or their behavior yesterday at her friend’s house and what that friend might think of them now and dinner isn’t a problem because her kids eat anything.

I know it’s a catalogue and I know they are not going to show images of that kind of normality, but I refuse to subscribe to that kind of mentality. It is the images that companies like Boden portray of motherhood and also the scrutiny that our newest, most famous mother is going to be under in the next few weeks that make me cross.

Kate will be expected to be a Boden mother. She will be expected to enjoy every minute, value every second of the endless feeding and changing and napping and screaming. I think back to the early days of me being a mum with my first, and all I did for about 3 weeks was leak and cry. Maybe longer.

Imagine if she feels like that?! I do have sympathy with her (although I’m aware that she’s going to have more help in the first few months than most people have in a lifetime). Every line on her face is going to be scrutinised, every tired smile analysed and heaven forbid she ever admits to sometimes being bored or frustrated. Boden mothers never feel like that, although I suspect that Boden mothers have Au pairs in the beginning and Nannies as the kid gets older too. And Kate has got quite a family to contend with. Imagine having the Queen as your GMIL.

Boden have also pissed me off because they are selling boots which I would chew my right arm off for, but of course not in my size. They get a lot of their clothes and shoes right and I think if you mix them up a bit you can avoid the ‘Boden’ look. These boots really do cut it for me – lovely soft leather, the heel is the right height, the toe the right curve.

Boden Boots Boden tunic

Damn you Johnny Boden and Tatiana and Anoushka, you present me with a lifestyle I cannot dream of having, and frankly, don’t want to have and yet you tantalise me with offerings like those boots and those tunics which I don’t want to like but I do. It’s no wonder I start throwing the catalog around the room.

Of course if I were a Boden mother, me and my gorgeous children would cut the catalog up and make wonderful, creative, fun collages out of the pictures of the beautiful women.

Hang on – where are those scissors……

Must not’s

I’m on twitter, which for the most part I find funny and sometimes informative, often annoying. One of the most annoying aspects of it is being constant bombarded by companies telling you what you should be buying and when. It’s all done in a chatty, informal way and it is something that I do too – social media is, after all, one of the best ways to promote your business these ways.

But, I’ve decided to change my ways. Today I got a tweet from a brand who I like, whose clothes I have bought and whose marketing I generally respect, telling me that this seasons ‘must have’ is a maxi dress. It may be because I’m tired and possibly a little bit hungover (am enjoying the Dark & Stormy’s at the moment) but the phrase ‘must have’ made me see red. ‘Must have’ is water. ‘Must have’ is food. ‘Must have’ is safety. A maxi dress is not a ‘must have’. Its something which, if you like it and have the money to buy, you could purchase, and it will make you feel happy and possibly better dressed. It will not enable you to be alive.

Another phrase which I’ve become increasingly annoyed with is ‘go to’. “These shoes will be a go to staple in your wardrobe”. ” A go to dress for summer” etc. I’m guilty of it, I know I’ve used it quite a few times in the last few months, but as a phrase it doesn’t really make sense and it is now badly overused. So, from now on, I will try to use different terminology in my marketing.

Instead of saying ‘go to’ I will say something like, “you’ll find these shoes really useful and wont know how you lived without them” or something equally as snappy. And if I ever say ‘must have’ about a pair of shoes, my caveat will always be ” you can totally live without these shoes, but they will enhance your life and make you happier”.

Right, glad I’ve got that cleared up, I’m going to look at that maxi dress now. I’ve been thinking my wardrobe is lacking in something like that for a while…


Business is a winding road

the long and winding road-pi-192_800x600x0

I know that retail is a funny old game, a point compounded the other day by the news that a Peckham stalwart, Fenton Walsh, had closed down after 12 years of business on Bellenden Road. I was in the shop the week before, having a lovely chat with Maria, the founder and owner of the business, who was full of sage advice about being in the retail/fashion industry.

Aside from the fact that she told me not to invest any more money in the business at this stage, she was positive and helpful and I thought quite upbeat, despite having serious issues with the new tax computer system (I feel I should be more knowledgeable about this, considering that I am going to have to submit information to this same system soon, like, for example, its purpose….)

I went back a week later to find the door firmly shut and notice up saying she’d had to shut up shop and close down due to various issues including the tax system and shit weather. A real shame as it seemed to me that she had a lot to offer and contribute to the local area. This led to the question of price points and what people consider to be an appropriate amount of money for certain items.

I feel that I have a moderate attitude to the amounts I spend of items of clothing and am quite happy to do a cost per wear comparison. For example, I have been known to spend hundreds of pounds on jeans, because I literally live in them and feel that for items which you rely on so heavily to provide comfort and cover, you should be prepared to spend money on them. The same can’t be said for more seasonal clothes, like t-shirts or jumpers, because they are more prone to be trend led and so different from one season to another. I would love to be able to spend £500 on a classic cashmere jumper which would get handed down to the next generation of our family, but that isn’t going to happen. So I go to H&M and spend £20 on a jumper to wear with jeans in the knowledge that the following year I will be buying another, different jumper for the same purpose.

Shoes are difficult though, as, unless you are buying from New Look, they are going to be more expensive than other items of clothing, due to their very nature. It’s been difficult for me to price my shoes because I pay in dollars, which changes in value and I import them via various different carriers, the cost of which varies according to the shipment value, weight etc. I for one do not like wearing really cheap clothes or shoes. Things that do not cost much in monetary terms usually have a high human or environmental cost. I also find I don’t look after things very well if I have not paid anything for them. It’s like they are disposal. So they tend to get left on the floor in a heap, or be put on hot wash rather than a cool wash, as recommended on the label.

But – as demonstrated by the closure of Fenton Walsh, it’s tough out there in the retail world and people do not have money ( I know that’s a generalisation but in general I think it’s true) . So retailers have to get the balance right.  We have to demonstrate we are selling a valuable product that is worth what we’re charging, for an amount our customers are prepared to pay.

I think it’s a balance that is hard to strike. As a long term purchaser of larger than average shoes, I know that as a customer base we have to expect to pay more than average for our footwear. Paying upwards of £120 for a pair of leather heels and anything from £150 – £270 for a pair of leather knee high boots is pretty standard for us larger footed ladies. Obviously now, I don’t have to pay that, which is good, because I wasn’t able to buy more than a pair of those shoes every three years and I haven’t had a new pair of leather boots since my feet grew in size (strangely the Hobbs boots that I bought in 2003 still fit me now despite being two sizes too small, although I think that I have to accept they have finally reached the end of their particular line)

The business model I have adopted in the last few weeks for Shoes for Ruby, is designed to keep the cost of the shoes down as low as possible – in gathering enough orders to put a big order through to the States, I am paying much less for the shipping and it takes up less of my time – all things to take in to consideration when working out how much to sell the shoes for. When I set up SfR, I also knew that I wanted to keep the cost of my shoes to the customer below £100. This is possible as long as I’m not selling leather boots, which I will be in the autumn.

In an ideal world I would have a few loyal customers, who buy from me once or twice a year and could rely on me to provide them with the shoes they like to buy for the money they have to spend. One of the key bits of advice I was given at the beginning of this road, was that it’s better to have 10 loyal customers than 1000 fickle ones – and as an ethos, that agrees with me.

So I’m continuing along this rather bumpy track, keeping my eye on the horizon and trying not to get diverted from my purpose – to provide women in the UK who have larger feet with trendy, affordable shoes.

To anyone who hasn’t seen it, the shoes are up for purchase at

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Thanks x

I wrote code!

To anyone that didn’t know ( you obviously have to care too) my new website is now up and running. I have built it myself (with not a little help from the kind people at Shopify, who make very nice templates and also offer good support and guidance) and although it is rather basic, I’m quite proud of my efforts.

The shoes now take pride of place on the site, with a separate tab for the blog. If you just want to read the blog you will now need this URL:

My methods have changed slightly too. I am putting weekly orders through to the States, which keep shipping costs down nicely. This means you need to wait a little longer than is usual for the shoes, but no more than 12 working days. It’s less time than you’d be waiting if you were ordering directly from Barefoot Tess, you’ll be paying less for the shoes in total and you’ll have the peace of mind that you can send them back to me if they don’t fit.

The shoes that get sent back to me are my ‘shoes of the week’ which means they are in stock and on sale!

I’ve got these lovely sandals in stock in size 10 at the moment, as well as the wedged espadrille, both of which would be prefect for the coming heatwave we’re expecting in the next week.  Order them today, get them for the weekend!

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