Annie Abbott - CEO of habbot.

These shoes were made for walking… and Annie Abbott, Founder and CEO of habbot knows how to have some fun without compromising our treasured comfort. It shouldn’t be that hard… highly functional shoes, built for women that are on the move without compromise. The aesthetic pieces that make us go ‘yes – I’ll take them’. After working at netaporter.com as a business analyst as well as Australia's own Sass and Bide; Annie Abbot understands what it takes to have THE shoe...

Merging European craftsmanship with Australian flair, this is the concoction of Italian leather that you can trot around with season after season – without the blisters. But there is nothing ambivalent about them. Leather goods are a coveted item and are automatically deemed as an investment, no matter by whom you can never go wrong with an Italian leather bootie set. The thing that sets habbot. apart from other shoe brands is sense of duality, approach and that the greatest shoe has the highest attention to detail, and appreciation of finer things.

habbot. shoes are clean, sculptural shoes that although have fine minimalist shapes, they’re adorned with interesting add-ons and bright colour – functionality and playfulness are blended to create the functional footwear.

 

The ergonomically designed shoes don’t compromise on comfort – with pretty colours, daring design and minimalist shapes they’re truly built for women on the move. Who hasn’t been in the position where they’ve stubbed a toe, ended up with a swollen foot, or a sore ankle has come in between their day and a task that needs to be done (even if it’s changing from flats to heels in the car!)? Sometimes it truly does “just slows me down in life too much."

 

Although having little previous experience in the shoemaking process, Annie knows what a good shoe takes. With a background in business analytics at Net a Porter, her sense of duality allowed the business to grow to what it is today. With statistics and percentages of who purchases what, the creativity is firmly supported by numbers.

 

 However, when it came to production “I need to learn about how shoes are made, and I had no idea so that’s where I kind of worked for the next five years with the shoes with a company here and that was really my footwear grounding. But in terms of needing to go to the next step, I don’t think I would've got there if I had not worked at Sass and Bide and learnt about the production process which I couldn’t have applied as you would imagine to most things that get made like the different stages involved, manufacturing, how to plan a range and sort of lots of those things that are applicable to all disciplines of production”

Each shoe is made with care, by hand, by skilled shoemakers in Italy. Annie flying over yearly to ensure the highest of quality leathers are used and perfecting the finest of details.

 

“But, there’s nothing better than being in person and talking through things like the fit of the shoe or making an adjustment to a pattern or explaining a different idea that I might have.  How some part of the shoe might function or how a strap on the shoe might work.It’s much much easier to do that in person and it leaves much less room for interpretation. It then means we really only have to make one prototype of a new design and kind of work through that otherwise”

 

Annie is a hands-on kind of designer, hand-picking leathers and formulating designs with “Lots of people don’t do the stocking and they get their makers to find the materials for them which is a great and really efficient way of doing it, but I wouldn’t find the real hidden gems if I didn’t do it myself. That’s the main real reason.” Creative constraints are no hassle and are in fact thoroughly enjoyed… “I actually like them!”

With Annie, inspiration strikes from old magazines, past collections and always Italian and leather component fairs when she’s strolling through the Italian streets. “I like to go back to what we did a few years ago and if it was popular and why it was popular and not re-doing it but just taking some of the feedback and some of the praise we received at the time because I’ve always been pretty close to the customer and I can always remember what was good about a shoe or a certain material or colour and that might spark off a new idea”

 “If I’m overseas and if I’m in Italy then I'll just arrive at this amazing leather fair. It’s a leather and components fair that I go to and that’s just like a candy store […] within a few hours there’s a whole heap of ideas”

 Acting as a source of inspiration seeing new things changing the environment, this can be juxtaposed against the Australian market where the repetitious nature of trend-driven clothing, apparel and footwear can be translated in each store is not on Annie’s agenda. Although acknowledging it is something that occurs on a global scale, “most of the ideas kind of come from higher up the tree and design or brand and things like that and they kind of all filter down […] again there’s a market for that and a lot of people like the guidance and like it that way but that’s not what I set out to do." 

Further, Annie is here to design for like-minded women, and what their concerns are. Hence, customisation at habbot. was born two years ago. Originally created for a short-term bit of fun for consumers, it is now a permanent part of their collection. Now with habbot.'s most popular shoes, they can be personally customised into whichever brilliant colour selections you choose. Shown on the website or in-store and delivered to you one month after purchase.  

It’s practical, its classical, but then we can also have fun with it. Annie’s graciously given the role of colour -coordinator to her users to create something unique now with your customisation element. After the trial and a little bit of extra web tech, here we are today.

 

“The reason why we did it I think was because the customer – well she does have her own sense of style, she has quite definite ideas about things and while she loves buying from our collection that I design – we were just always getting feedback about how she might do it or how she might get it if we did it in this and that sort of thing so this was an opportunity for her to do that herself. And it’s been really successful but equally it’s been interesting to see that the women I thought would’ve really gone for it have actually said no um I kind of like you to bring it to life for me. So that’s good in a way because I didn’t really want it to take over the business, I still see myself as a shoe designer and I design a collection that has a strong theme throughout out. I didn’t want it to turn into us just being shoemakers, but it sort of worked and it’s been a really interesting experience to see how different kind of women have handled it. Some have loved it”  

Although one day it is still a goal for Annie to design men’s footwear (you can do it, Annie!) one of her first four shoes in her initial collection back in 2009 was an oxford…… One may suggest that the Oxford is a solid presentation of habbot. Classical, functional, here to get the job done but on their terms. It’s brightly coloured with contrasting colours, metallic leathers and adornments. The power and meaning behind the oxford in Annie’s words are…

 

“Lace ups have always been such a big part of the brand and to me. It’s kind of a strong looking object if you like. It's strong, it's polished but it has kind of an independence to it. It’s not like a really sexy shoe sort of trying to be something for someone else and it’s certainly a shoe that you can put a lot of character into. There’s a lot that you can do with that much leather or that much textile that you might be using. But to me the strength and character that I put into that first shoe and hopefully continue to put into the rest of them is really what the rest of the brand is about, so I’ve always loved men’s shoes […]  it definitely is that pared back classic men’s styling that I go for now.”

You may be wondering what’s in store for habbot this year? They’ve teamed up with our friends Kinnon and us for a beauty-full collaboration! . The competition ends on the 8th of May 2019. Sign up to our beauty-full gang to stay in the loop on all the going-ons at beauty's got soul HQ.

 

What’s refreshing about Annie Abbot’s approach to design is her ability to take feedback and act upon it, serving the luscious leather that we all crave on silver trays with the feedback placed right in the sole. Although Annie may not have a whole habbot gallery in glass cases, she sure makes me want to start one. 

Published on 28/04/2019 by Leonie Henzell CEO of beauty's got soul

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