GS Journal

Q&A with Air & Grace | Sock Collaboration

As part of an ongoing series sharing the stories of other slow and sustainable British brands, we caught up with Claire Burrows, the founder of footwear brand, Air & Grace. I met Claire at the start of my small business journey at a trade event supporting female founders in Berlin, Germany. Recently we have been working together on a very special sock collaboration and I wanted to take a moment to find out more about Claire’s dedication to style, comfort and sustainability.

What inspired you to launch Air & Grace?

It probably can’t be explained with only one thing, but a huge combination of factors ultimately led to Air & Grace. A lot of aspects of my career contributed to my desire to set up on my own. Through various job roles, I became heavily involved in the footwear industry, from concept right through to creation.

My main inspiration to set up Air & Grace came from the idea that a shoe can have more function and purpose. I became inspired by the idea that a shoe could be more than just an item to put on your feet. I had lots of ideas and thoughts spinning around in my head, and I needed an outlet for them and so after many years of hard work, Air & Grace was born.

What was your background prior to launching your own brand?

I’ve been in footwear for 27 years now, and I sort of fell into the industry by accident. I’d planned to work in fashion, but after applying to a job advert at Office Shoes for a Buying Junior and landing the job I was hooked! I’ve worked in the industry since then. There’s actually a theory that once you work in footwear you’ll never leave.

Following my time at Office, I worked for lots of different brands, initially working in buying departments, but later on in my career I became involved in the design process too. This led me to want to design shoes with a purpose and I started forming my own ideas! It’s been a journey, but I have loved every stage.

Where and how is your footwear made? 

So, the majority of our factories are based in Portugal and Spain. We’ve opted to manufacture all our shoes at small family-run factories so we can ensure they are made to the highest quality in smaller batches with a personal touch. There are two benefits to producing in smaller batches, the first being it reduces waste, but it also means we can avoid shipping any of our products via air travel. We’re really lucky with our current setup – choosing European partners means we can also be sure the craftspeople who make our shoes are looked after, just like an extension of our own team.


How does your ethos of slow and sustainable fashion affect your design process?

One of the biggest ways we adapt our process to be kinder to the planet is through our manufacturing process. As a small business, not only is it beneficial to us to create in smaller batches, it also reduces waste too. This also allows us to avoid shipping our products by air-travel, and where possible enables us to ship by road.

All our materials are responsibly sourced using traceable sources. We ensure our leather is sourced from suppliers that meet the highest anti-pollution and energy efficiency standards. It’s always been really important to me that our products tread carefully on our planet. I like to say that our shoes are designed to love, and not to landfill. We believe true style doesn’t expire, so our customers can ‘buy fewer, buy better’.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs? 

There’s not one place, but I think the biggest influence is my own wardrobe. Whenever I find a gap in my shoe collection, I know it’s time to fill it with a new Air & Grace style. Most ideas start off as a spur of the moment thought that I take into the studio and discuss with our designer. It’s a long process to take a shoe from my mind and bring it to fruition, but every time we do, it’s the best feeling. It never gets old!


We love how important comfort is to you – how do you make your shoes so comfortable?

When I first set up Air & Grace, it was always my aim to make super comfortable shoes. I was set on creating beautiful shoes that are kind to your feet. It seems historically, when a brand creates shoes designed with comfort in mind, the shoes end up looking a certain way, with an obvious adjustment to how the shoe looks to incorporate comfort. To me, this seemed bonkers – comfy shoes should be able to look beautiful too.

I worked with a technician, who we still work with now, to create our Tender Loving Air® footbed. This is an insole with three different layers of high performance foam, usually only used in sports shoes. Each layer of foam has a different density and supports your foot in a different way, ensuring comfort from heel to toe. We like to say our shoes are for busy feet, so you can enjoy walking on air without compromising on style.

We also work to bring comfort into other aspects of the shoes too, always using soft leathers, adding padding into the correct areas and wear trialling to ensure we have achieved optimum comfort in that particular style.

What is your personal favourite shoe from your collection?

I often get asked this question, and it’s so difficult to answer. Obviously, I love all of our shoes, but I think at the moment I’d have to pick Dancing Queen Gold. I recently wore them to my own wedding, so they’re really special to me. They’re our first ever heel, and it was a labour of love creating them to be super comfortable and dance-floor-ready. We’ve been blown away by all the love for them, we adore hearing customer stories about how they’ve worn them for their own special occasions. We’ve got some new colours on the way too, so keep your eyes peeled for those!

Find out more about Air & Grace and our sock collaboration here.

Made in Derbyshire in small batches, knitted in the softest viscose sparkly yarn.

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