Rachael Laine on bringing U.S. footwear staple Salt-water sandals to the UK
Interview: Helen Baron
Tell us about Craftymothers?
Craftymothers looks to launch and build brands that don’t exist in the UK and European markets. I only concentrate on what I can get truthfully passionate about: this means all the brands I approach are focused on family lifestyle and they must have a unique selling point. After having my kids I realised how much stuff is sold as ‘essential’ but just clutters our lives needlessly. We’ve actually just started distribution in Asia as its been going so well and Salt-water is up for two industry awards with Drapers Footwear – for Women’s Fashion Brand and Kids Footwear Label of the Year. We’ve worked so passionately to get this tiny, family-owned heritage brand onto the world stage – so it’s great to gain the recognition for hard work on a tiny budget. We are also about to officially launch our second label under our umbrella as a brands and distribution agency. It’s a fantastic new kids’ footwear label from San Francisco called PLAE.
What is so unique about the original Salt-water Sandal and why did you want to work with them?
I noticed Salt-water Sandals appearing on American ‘mommy blogs’ when I was on maternity leave with my second child. I was drawn to them because they were so simple, classic and plain. I hated all the glittery, embellished, squeaky-heeled offerings in the shops – I just wanted a plain summer shoe that wasn’t trying to be a toy. Plus I wasn’t keen on moulded Birkenstocks for my young daughter’s soft feet and Crocs had no support. When I discovered Salt-waters could also get wet, the love affair got serious! They’re great for the UK’s pebble beaches.
Why are Salt-water Sandals a holiday must-have?
The fact that they come in so many colours and go with every outfit (be it cut-off denims or a glam maxi dress) makes them the best chameleon accessory. They pack completely flat and if you take one classic colour and one special (metallic or patent), you are pretty much set for any occasion. They are also super comfortable, and they don’t dry up and crack after washing or getting wet. In fact, we advise you to get them wet at least once so they relax to your foot’s shape.
Why did it take so long for the product to cross the pond?
I guess I was lucky enough to ask them first and then didn’t give up until they agreed! Because Salt-waters are such a summer staple in the USA, there are no big advertising campaigns – you just go down to your local shoe store at the start of the summer and pick out a new pair. They were originally only a kid’s range of sandals but since up-scaling them to adult sizes, those grown-up kids started wearing them alongside their children. It certainly helped that celebs like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Alexa Chung are big fans. Kate Moss buys them for her daughter and Lauren Laverne and Sienna Miller also have pairs.
How long have you been working in the fashion industry? Did you always want to strike out on your own?
This is only my second foray into fashion. It was more the story and design of Salt-water as a product that got me super excited as a marketeer. You just couldn’t go wrong with an unknown launch product that has the magic triptych of an authentic history, classic design and truthful USP. After having kids, you do evaluate the hours you work and I knew that if I was going to continue at director level I at least wanted to be doing it for myself and for something I really cared about. My career path has been creative, rich and varied – TV producer, florist, events director and even writing a few kids books – but it has stood me in good stead for the many hats I now have to wear in one working day. My motto so far has been, ‘Walk slowly in the right direction, don’t run too fast in the wrong one’. I just need to be reminded of it every now and then!