Meet Anita Flavin, Neet and Minette
This week we stumbled across girly shoe heaven in NW8. On a quite corner by Violet Hill Park where Macca and other local celebrity parents take their kids to play, is Cyan Shoes, home of Neet and Minette.
The ground floor is the shoe company's HQ, where customers are greeted by staff and then escorted downstairs to designer Anita Flavin's amazing shoe boudoir in the basement. Plonk yourself down on the massive sofa and feast your eyes on a roomful of footwear varied and beautiful. Anita Flavin launched Neet five years ago and now sells to Fenwicks, Selfridges, Kurt Geiger and independents including the excellent Sniff shoes which recently-opened on Great Titchfield Street, W1. You'll probably be struck by Neet's signature use of imaginative shapes, cool colours and amazing details. This season's range boasts flatties and flip flops that compete with far more expensive versions - each shoe has its own story to tell and it's hard to believe that Anita, who studied Fashion Management, Business and Finance at the London College of Fashion, has no training as a shoe designer.
After graduating in 1995, Anita spent two years working in the design department of a snowboarding and ski clothing company in Aspen, Colorado. When she returned to the UK, she joined Office and spent four years working in the buying department. " I knew I had maximised my potential at Office and there was more I wanted to do," Anita told us. So she packed a bag, flew to the Far East and negotiated her own contracts with suppliers. For the first year, the business was based in Anita's spare bedroom and she was the sole employee. Being totally self-financed (she remortgaged her flat in Harrow to cover the initial overdraft), has meant Anita has had to work incredibly hard to get from one season to the next, but finally, five years on, the fruits of her footwear labours are starting to pay off.
Last autumn, Neet's sister company Minette was launched. "Minette is a courtesan from the Moulin Rouge - by day she is a young and innocent being and at night she plays with her beautiful prey," says Anita . "Minette is someone who has desires for love that she can't fulfill, so she replaces her desire for love with a passion for shoes." There is a symmetry between the two brands. Neet gives us footwear that enlivens urban pavements. Just look at Clara - a sensation of summer with embroidered flowers with a squashy leather bow at the toe and floral fabric details (£55), or Ruby, modernist mules with lush folds of leather (£55) or Annie, a cute and shiny sandal with a wedge heel you can comfortably walk in (£40). With Minette the impact, the emphasis comes from a slightly sexier place.
Anita researches international trends and colour forecasts herself. "I look at what's going on around me and take bits and pieces from all over the place to inspire the designs," she told us. While production is in the Far East (Bangkok and China), much of her leather is sourced from local European suppliers. Having the shop, she admits is a brilliant way to get to know your customers. "Some people spend hours in here - sometimes we open a bottle of wine, I love it." The next big addition to Anita's stable is a bag range available from November 2006. There is also a range of 'partywear' shoes coming August 2006. What's so special about shopping at Anita's is you get to talk face-to-face with the woman whose vision and hard graft has produced such wonderful shoes at sensible prices.
Cyan Shoes, 54 Abbey Gardens, London NW8. Tel: 020 7372 7744. Open Mon-Fri 10am-5.30pm.
Neet shoes and boots cost from £45-£125. Minette shoes and boots cost from £75-£160.
Available online www.neetshoes.com