It sounds Italian but luxury footwear brand Moda in Pelle is Yorkshire born and bred. Moda, as it is known by shoe lovers everywhere, was launched in 1975 by owner and founder Stephen Buck and his father, Joe, who had been making women’s shoes at his Leeds factory from the 1950s. Joe decided to buy some shops and Moda in Pelle – Italian for “fashion in leather” – found its name during a family conference around the kitchen table when Stephen spotted a magazine and suggested they name it after that.
They opened their first shop in the Merrion Centre in Leeds in 1975, managed by Stephen. Now the brand has more than 40 stores and concessions in the UK and a large presence on shopping channel QVC. In 2020 Stephen Buck won the Drapers Footwear Award for Lifetime Achievement, recognising his success in turning a small family business into a multimillion-pound retailer and wholesaler. His brother Daniel owns Yorkshire retailer Daniel Footwear, which stocks Moda in Pelle.
Design manager Harriet Sloan-Eddolls has worked at Moda for four years and has a BA Hons in Footwear Design from the London College of Fashion, where she studied footwear making, pattern cutting, the history of fashion, fashion marketing and business. Her final project was a hand-made shoe collection that was exhibited in London.
Harriet led the design team behind Moda in Pelle’s spring/summer ’21 collection, showcased here in a studio shoot using an exotic garden backdrop.
“We used to travel all over the world for inspiration for the collections,” she says. “Spring/summer ’21 was inspired by a trip I took in February 2020 with the junior designer Pip to Paris. We were inspired by street art, Monet’s Water Lilies and the fabulous window displays in Le Bon Marché. These themes filter into our colour palette and we source leathers from Lineapelle in Milan to enhance our collections.”
She adds: “We are unashamedly feminine and we love to include little details like sparkly rands and metal trims. We like to reinvent classic styles with a twist, like driving shoes in bright leopard.
“I like to incorporate colours and prints across the whole range, so that if you walk past the window and see a fabulous pair of court shoes in a printed leather, you can buy into that look even if you’re not a heels girl. We offer matching scarves and bags which are hand-drawn and designed in-house by the very talented junior designer Alicea.
“We love to incorporate bright snake leathers, fun leopard print and pretty shimmery suedes.”
Harriet often goes back to the Moda archives for design inspiration. “I also work really closely with our quality manager to ensure all of our shoes fit and feel as comfortable as we can make them without compromising on style. Our customer services manager is our fit model and she gives us invaluable feedback. Her daughter even helped film her for us so she could fit the shoes from home mid-pandemic.”
Moda’s head office is just outside Leeds city centre. Harriet says: “We actually have our main warehouse downstairs, which is great because it means we check all of the stock when it comes in.
“It’s so exciting to see a shipping container come into our loading bay and see those new shoes sent straight out to our stores.”
Throughout the pandemic, Harriet has been working both from home and at HQ. “I love being in our office with the design and buying team,” she says. “It’s full of all our shoe samples from past and future seasons, and we also have a great design room full of swatches, leathers, trims and cork boards on the walls where we pin up all of our inspiration images.
“We worked on Zoom but it was frustrating to show colours, ideas and materials on screens as it doesn’t have the same impact as seeing it all beautifully displayed in our showrooms. I missed the buzz and collaborative way of working – when a new box of samples comes in and we see all the gorgeous new shoes arrive, it’s like Christmas.”
Moda in Pelle shoes are made mainly in Europe, the Far East and Brazil, and the firm has worked with some of its partner factories for more than 25 years.
Harriet says: “There are always a few styles each season I am obsessed with. In SS21, our Milleni three-strap sandals in Parisian snake leather are my favourites. I designed and developed this leather from scratch, and it’s really special with layering of applications of colour with gorgeous blue and pink highlighted with metallic gold running through.”
Harriet says she thinks fashion will become more dressed-up again as people embrace being able to go out, although sporty styles with comfort will continue.
“Fashion can be a form of escapism and fun for a lot of people,” she says. “I know I am fed up of sitting in my loungewear at home and I am ready to get back out there, dress up, look good and feel good.”
The SS21 Moda in Pelle collection is now stocked online at modainpelle.com, in concessions and in the brand’s standalone stores including in York, Ilkley, Harrogate and at the Victoria Quarter in Leeds.