Designs on a market for 'gimmick-free' footwear
A Devon-based designer who created collections for a leading shoe label, has launched a range aimed at pre-schoolers that have parents with traditional tastes.
Roland Haynes is behind Nipperkit, a range of leather deck shoes and suede slip-ons that he is targeting at an affluent middle-class market.
Ranging in sizes to fit youngsters of between nursery and junior school years, the "gimmick-free" range, which comes in a selection of bright colours, shies away from motifs and cartoon characters,
Exeter-born Mr Haynes, who now lives in Newton Abbot, had a London career as an advertising art director, before relocating to Devon to become creative director at Oliver Sweeney shoes.
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He went on to design a number of mens' shoe collections for the brand, before the business was acquired by Amery Capital in 2009.
Mr Haynes initially aimed to start out in business with his own name men's footwear label. But with the current economic climate creating challenging conditions for securing the start-up investment, he then looked to establish a niche in children's shoes.
"Roland Haynes Ltd is still a project I'll come back to," he said. "I'd wanted to work within something I have a feel for, but that would give me an opportunity to fund other projects at a later stage – but now think I actually enjoy designing children's stuff more.
"What I'm trying to aim at, is the younger child, where it is the parent who makes the choice, although obviously, the child must like it."
Mr Haynes, who has a grown-up son, said that feedback from friends with small children had convinced him that his no-fuss designs were heading in the right direction.
The shoes, which are priced at £25.99, are initially being sold via a dedicated e-tail site, www.nipperkit.co.uk and are manufactured in China.
But Mr Haynes' long-term goal for the brand is to move into retail on the high street, with an ambition to eventually re-shore production to the UK, saying: "Things are starting to move around, now and it's becoming more and more viable.
"I can see high street stores further down the line," he added. "It's a question of having the right USPs that people can relate to."
For now, Mr Haynes is focused on establishing the Nipperkit brand and expanding the range, which will see bags introduced to the online store in good time for Christmas.