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A young designer talks about her brand and her successful career on the Czech market

Fast Confession - Sabina Rich: Her orthopedic shoes are a huge success, now she's developing orthopedic heels!

Nela Štefanová
10.Jun 2019
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5 minutes

She's young, talented, and definitely doesn't lack courage. When Sabina Sádková came up with the idea to launch her own footwear brand Sabina Rich a year ago, she didn't expect such huge success either. Her handmade shoes will surprise you not only with their design, but also with their high orthopedic quality and with how environmentally friendly they are. And watch out, ladies! Soon we're going to see comfortable, orthopedic heels by her!

Sabi, how old are you?

I'm 23.

When did your dream to become a fashion designer first emerge?

I think it was in my childhood. My grandma used to always sew, so she taught me to sew, among other things. I always wanted to make things and crochet - for my dolls and stuff. It was her who taught me to love the craft. My parents wanted me to be a dental technician, or an economist, but neither of those were too attractive to me. And when grandma brought it up that I should try to apply for the Secondary Art School Of Textile Crafts in Prague, everything became clear to me.

How was it at that high school? I know they only accept a small amount of applicants and it's hard to even make it there...

It was very hard, but I learned a lot of stuff there. From printing to embroidery and bobbin lace, to figure studies and sewing. I'll admit that I was a huge nerd. I always had to be the best at everything, I wanted to learn everything quickly and I put a 150% into it even back then at the age of fifteen.

Prodej luxusního bytu, Praha 1 - Nové Město
Prodej luxusního bytu, Praha 1 - Nové Město, Praha 1

So your teenage years probably weren't all that wild...

Not at all. I didn't go out, party or even hang out with friends drinking beer. Design was terribly important to me from the start. I was a huge enthusiast. Once I got excited for something, I wouldn't let it go.

After high school you left for Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art in Plzeň. In spite of being, as you said, a huge nerd, you dropped out. Why?

To get accepted there was my dream come true, but as time went by I started to realize that it simply wasn't my cup of tea. The pace there was very chill, it bothered me.

In what way?

It was all theory, not much practice. And I have to always keep moving forward and learn new things. That was probably one of the main reasons why I decided to drop out.

And what came next?

I said to myself: "Okay, Sabina, if there's something you want to do, you have to learn it directly from craftsmen." So I started an apprenticeships with a shoemaker. I helped with repairs, making shoes. That gave me the most experience.

And you could make a living that way?

Of course not, I worked for free. I started working for TV when I was in high school, I did styling there, chose clothing and helped out. That was my main source of income. I also collaborated with the Czech brand SNAHA, where I designed shoes, that was great practice too. I learned what the real differences between handmade and industrially produced goods were. And it also taught me a lot about business.

It had to be a challenge to decide to launch your own brand. Were you afraid?

I was, but I like challenges. Naturally I was aware how hard that is to do in the Czech Republic - launch one's own brand. But I went for it!

Did your parents support you?

At first they were a bit skeptical about my career choices, but now they're my biggest fans and I actually have to force them not to defend me so passionately in comments on social media.

I knew that if I want to accomplish something, I have to do it all on my own. I saved up, put money aside and worked hard. Because it's different with shoes than it is with clothing brands. You have to have machines, components - shoe trees, soles, insoles, tops, leather, adhesives, and so on. That's the fundamental difference in capital, too, so the primary investment can be several times higher.

How do you remember your beginnings?

I was very determined and didn't wait too long to go public with my brand. I gave myself time to make everything perfect and get everything ready for launch, though, I didn't wanna go public with just anything. The whole point of the brand is a more innovative approach to making orthopedic insoles to order, and to the whole process that only takes twenty minutes for the customer.

And that's when you decided that what you wanted to make was healthy footwear?

My husband is the one who started it; he had growths on his heels and it was likely that he'd need shockwave therapy. It amazed me how little people knew about their own feet. That was one of the first impulses that pushed me towards making healthy footwear. It wouldn't be enough for me to only make "pretty and fashionable shoes" without any greater purpose.

When did you start to see returns of that big investment?

We really took off from the very start. Thanks to appearing at the Designblok design festival in the beginning, we started to gather first orders. We'd sold a half of our collection before we even launched it. To be honest I hadn't expected that, I'd thought that it would take me about five years to even make people aware of my existence.

In the past I'd made shoes for Petra Ptáčková or LaFormela, which showed me the lengthy journey a designer must take before they get to the top. I saw how hard it was to get into people's consciousness - even just a little bit - and I was rather pessimistic. But the reverse ended up being true.

Prodej luxusního bytu 5+kk Praha 7 - Bubeneč
Prodej luxusního bytu 5+kk Praha 7 - Bubeneč, Praha 7

Who are your shoes aimed at?

Anyone who likes shoes, Czech design, sustainable fashion or has a foot defect, which is about 80% of people these days.

Why do you enjoy making shoes more than clothes?

Because they have to be thoroughly precise down to millimeters, they have to be perfect from a technical standpoint, perfectly crafted. You have to have special tools, sanders, hammers, shoe trees, usually even a special sewing machine for leather. There's a lot. I also enjoy being a part of the whole manufacturing process - I communicate with the people, with suppliers, keep an eye on parts, keep on educating myself, consult things with my PR, come up with visualizations and many other things.

How long did it take you to design your first collection?

Two and a half years.

How many shoes have you made at most?

It's hard to guess. At Designblok we made about 25 pairs of shoes in a couple days. But I went almost four days without sleep. (laugh)

What is the price range of shoes by Sabina Rich?

I told myself from the start that I can't be making healthy shoes that will be extremely overpriced at the same time and thus help nobody in the end. The income of moms on maternity leave isn't high at all, and so we wanted to make them affordable for them. We ended up with the final price of 1390 CZK for children's models and 3590 CZK for women's. Yes, it isn't the cheapest, but these shoes are handmade, made out of recycled plastics, and they're beneficial at the same time.

What are you planning next?

At the moment we're developing orthopedic heels. I found out that the market lacks them, and they can help many women. In September we're launching another collection and we have several big collaborations in the works. We'll reveal the details soon.

Do you even have any free time? How do you spend it?

No, I don't have time (laugh). When I have time off, I spend it with my husband, who's an artist too. We support each other and understand each other. I think that if somebody wants to put their all into something, they have to be a little bit crazy and also totally dedicated to it. And both of us are like that.

So no vacation in the near future?

Not at all.

Do you have any siblings?

Yes, I come from a big family. It's hard to explain, but in total there's eight siblings from three to thirty years old. There's nothing better than a big family.

Do you make shoes for the members of your family?

Yes, everyone keeps getting gifts, sometimes I don't even have time to make them all. At the moment my mother's in line for a pair (laugh).

Thank you for the interview.

Fast confession:

What did you want to be when you were a child?

A painter. Anything that is in any way artistic.

What do you consider your biggest success?

My husband, my family, my dog and then what I do, actually.

Who's your fashion idol?

Definitely Alexander McQueen and Sophia Webster.

What do you take inspiration from?

All sorts of things, mostly whatever I'm not supposed to be taking it from.

What do you like best about your job?

That I can do it while watching Netflix and drinking tea.

What kind of outfit makes you feel the best?

Whatever's black and baggy.

How would you describe what fashion means to you in one sentence?

One sentence? Fun, dreams, and I can't think of anything else (laugh).

Who'd you want to have dinner with one day?

My husband. A peaceful dinner. That'd be nice, to have the time for that.

What would we never find in your wardrobe?

Bright colors, unfortunately. We have them in our collection, not in my closet.

Which negative traits about yourself would you like to get rid of?

Well, I'd need this question to be asked the other way around (laugh). That being, which positive traits I'd like to gain. (laugh) But no, there are many, we all have many.

What do you value the most in people?

When they show their genuine feelings and don't worry about embarrassing themselves. They aren't afraid to say what they're feeling, be it bad or good.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Definitely, I even surprised myself that that's how it works with me.

Your favorite movie?

There are so many, I love any and all Netflix films. But... Harry Potter! Any one of the Harry Potter movies!

When you have a dream and a clear goal in sight, are you willing to throw people under the bus?

I'm more like a very motivated and enthusiastic person, but I've never hurt anybody. I'm determined to do pretty much anything, but I wouldn't screw anyone over.
Question by the interviewee to the editor:

Is this hard?

No, for now I'm doing well. Thank you.
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