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Design: Design Inspirations

WHEN I start designing my shoes for the new season, I try to imagine where they might be worn - to a party or on a train, for instance. If I were wearing them, would they give me boundless confidence so I could have unfettered conversations with glittering people and amusing poets?

Then I check out the current best-sellers on our "sell-thrus" - our sales lists, a combination of Old Moore's Almanac and the next Budget speech. This year it's sand suede sandals, Marie Antoinette damask slings and kitten mules suitable for dancing in fountains.

When I was in Sri Lanka, a shoe-maker sold me a scrapbook of shoe pictures taken from 1950s newspapers and mail-order catalogues; they made me think of strappy red satin sandals for Betty Grable legs.

This summer, pale and interesting is a winner - could that be a reflection on the economy and the fin de siecle air of carnival: you don't have to look serious to be taken seriously...?

My new multicoloured Margharita-daisy mule was inspired by Spitalfields silk brocade used with Austrian stitch embroidery. My lace shoes are very 1950s and incredibly comfortable, good for your feet; and so light you don't notice that you're wearing them. They look very pretty cut low on the foot.

The supple, flat mules that our factory specialises in have the same relaxed feel as the slippers worn by this expensive-looking man in a smoking suit, and 1950s velvet ballet shoes by Capezio.

Emma Hope's Shoes, 33 Amwell Street, London EC1 (0171-8343 2367) and 12 Symons Street, London SW3 (0171-259 9566). Some of her shoes will be at `Absolute Cobblers', an exhibition of `shoes as art' at the Concourse Gallery, Barbican Centre, London EC2 (0171-638 4141), 15 July-19 August.

Above: soft shoes on Johann Georg Ziesenis's portrait of Prince Karl Theodor von Bayern, 1757; left: Emma Hope's Slipper Mule pounds 149. Above right: lacy 1950s Bruno Magli shoes; right: Emma Hope's Lace Court pounds 169 and Single Strap. Above, far right: 1720s French damask silk shoe; middle right, red Emma Hope High Strap Court pounds 179

Above: sexy shoe in a 1950s newspaper - the inspiration for Emma Hope's shoes below, left to right: Crossover Sandal pounds 129, Hi Strap Court pounds 179, Single Strap pounds 169.

Left: Syrian wooden sandal, 1900. Below left: Emma Hope's suede Beaded Open Sling, pounds 159