Polina Magiy is a UK based footwear designer who launched her brand in 2017 because she could never find the styles she wanted to buy in mainstream stores. She mastered shoe-making at the prestigious London College of Fashion, graduating in 2012 with a First Class Honors Degree, before going on to work for some of the most high-profile names in the industry.
“I embarked on a mission to create shoes that were beautifully crafted and elegant, yet with a touch of fun. I knew I wanted them to be show-stoppers, so people would notice them straight away.” Her capsule collection has already made waves among fashion industry insiders and customers alike, who love Polina’s bold and colourful designs. She has created instant classics from the collection like the Eva, a stunning stiletto that her fans soon fell in love with. Despite only launching 12 months ago, her collection has already expanded globally with stockists in New York and Moscow.
Before setting up your own brand, you worked for high profile names like Jonathan Kelsey and Alexander McQueen, how did this prepare you for launching your own business?
It gave me an invaluable insight into the design industry. I feel like I learnt the true craft of footwear design and manufacture. While working at Jonathan Kelsey, I was fortunate to be part of a small team, so it was a very hands on experience and I was exposed to different parts of the business. Alexander McQueen had an amazingly creative atmosphere, which was a great learning tool for me. In terms of learning how to launch and build my own business, I invested in extra courses as well as seeking out people who had already created what I was looking to achieve.
You launched your brand only last year which is amazing, how have the early days of your business journey been?
It’s been an extremely exciting journey and I am learning as I go along. Pretty much every day I learn something new which is amazing. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I view them as being a crucial part of the entrepreneurial journey. I had a fashion mentor who helped me to get the business going, without him it wouldn’t have been possible. I still seek out new resources to help me grow my knowledge and skills. One of the most important things I have learnt is to not be afraid and to just take a risk.
Can you tell me more about the design process and what inspires you?
I love travelling and learning about new cultures. My first collection was inspired by my travels to The Middle East. Each style in the collection resembles one or two elements from the Eastern world from architecture to jewellery. I see myself as an extremely colourful character, I have always loved colour even back when I was at college and university. When it comes to designing, I set myself a project or brief and then I explore themes in detail looking into materials, leather and textures. I am not led by current trends or shoes in general as I like to create purely from my own inspiration and imagination.
After launching my first collection and getting feedback from clients, I am now able to understand my core customer better. As I move onto my next collection I will use the insight I have gained.
Comfort has always been an important factor to me and all of my shoes have double cushioning inside to create extra comfort for the wearer. When I was researching lasts for my shoes, I visited top manufacturers in Italy and Portugal who helped me to develop really comfortable lasts that make my heeled shoes wearable all day long. I love hearing that my clients love the comfort of my shoes. It makes me extremely proud to know that I am designing not only beautiful footwear, but footwear that is wearable.
You work with artisan manufacturers in Portugal and Italy. How easy was it to find a manufacturer that understood and could follow your design vision?
This was actually the easiest part for me. I’ve been in the industry for over 5 years and have built up a network of contacts, especially with the smaller artisan factories. The hardest part has been perfecting the product to a standard I am happy with as each design is so unique. Also matching the price to the quality has been tricky.
I’ve noticed that you regularly host pop up events. Do you think these types of events are crucial in building a customer base and also attracting attention from buyers, press and influencers?
Yes, as a new start up company I don’t have a large budget to invest in trade shows, marketing campaigns and advertising. Pop ups are the best way for the brand to gain attraction and interest from potential clients. Also, as I want to expand my business globally, I see that this as being the best way for clients to learn about the brand.
How important do you think social media is for start-up footwear and fashion brands as a marketing tool?
It is an extremely important tool and a great way to engage with your customers too. My advice would be to not outsource social media and learn to do it yourself.
Do you currently work with a business mentor?
I did work with one, but not at the moment.
Are you part of any women in business/founder groups in London?
I am a part of the Blooming Founders group for entrepreneurs.
You already have stockists in New York and Moscow. Is growing the brand internationally a current focus for you and where can we expect to see Polina Magiy next?
I am looking to expand into Doha, Dubai, Cyprus. In terms of expansion these are where I would like to build the brand next.
What advice would you give to other women thinking of setting up a business?
Be brave, just do it, stop worrying, be firm, know your numbers, learn, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, be active, attend seminars, business classes and do sign up to other networking entrepreneurial groups.