There is something very surprising behind the plain facade of the office building halfway up Bickerton Road; along with a number of other creative businesses, it's the showroom of Ruth Shaw, a professional shoe designer and her enchanting range of Harriet Wilde wedding shoes. Anyone who's ever harboured the fantasy of stepping out dressed like a sophisticated fairytale princess will simply love them.
"It's always been about shoes for me," explains Ruth. "Ever since I was a child trying out my mother's heels. When I was looking around to study art I was so amazed to find that you could get a degree in shoe design. That was it, I never looked back. Even when I tried the ceramics module at college, I ended up making ceramic shoes." Ruth went to the specialist Cordwainers College in the East End (now part of the London School of Fashion). "There's something really magical about the way you can make a two dimensional drawing and end up with a 3D shoe."
Ruth founded her wedding shoe label, Harriet Wilde (named after her great grandmother), in 2008. At first she ran the business from her home in Archway but as it began to grow, she realised that she needed a showroom. "We don't sell from a shopfront in this country; everything is done by personal consultation or by online bespoke. (But we are stocked by specialist retailers in the US, Australia and Singapore.) Our designs are here to set off probably the most expensive outfit that a woman will ever buy. People who prefer a personal consultation come from all over the world to try on our shoes. We had a customer here from Singapore yesterday and this evening we have someone coming in from the Gulf. I just love the reaction we get from brides when they come in to try their finished shoes."
"The shoes are designed by me, then made in Spain from the best leather and silk you can buy. The hand embellishments - crystals, leaves, lace, and other ornaments - even freshwater pearls - are applied by crafts people working in London."
Ruth has lived in Archway for a decade and has two young children in schools here. "We are so absolute spoiled in Archway – restaurants like 500 and beautiful independent shops like MAP on the Junction Road. I can't imagine ever leaving in the area."
Meanwhile if you or someone you know is about to choose wedding shoes...
and Harriet Wilde is a member of the archwaycard scheme - click on archwaycard above for current offers