5 Minutes With... Kingdom of Wow
by Wolf & Badger
Combining everyday luxury with sustainability, ethical Dutch brand Kingdom of Wow embrace slow fashion to create timeless footwear. Made in Cambodia in Southeast Asia, their designs are created mindfully to produce footwear that's not only comfortable and stylish, but made to last. Raw materials are sourced responsibly and all products are handmade by local women who earn fair wages in a safe and empowering workspace. Kingdom of Wow footwear is all about taking pleasure in the simpler things in life, with their intimate designs encouraging a gentler pace and discovery of hygge, a concept of living well with simplicity. We sat down with founder Godie van De Paal to learn more about the brand.
How did Kingdom of Wow begin?
From a desire to keep alive an amazing, handmade product and a passion to produce ethically. I’ve worn hand-crocheted wool slippers for as long as I can remember. They were bought from a lady that unravelled old sweaters and repurposed the wool. When she retired, I asked if I could take forward her concept.
Six years later we’ve tweaked the design somewhat, the hand-crochet remains the same, but gone is the repurposed yarn replaced with a rich blend of Lopi wool and eco-friendly bamboo. We’ve added a supple leather sole and worked tirelessly to create a unique “heel-hugging” experience. Naturally the tradition of handmade continues, our footwear made “from thread to toe” by our small all-female team in Cambodia, where we support local fair-wage employment all the way.
Have you always been interested in design?
Formerly a diplomat in Shanghai before moving to Cambodia with my family, design wasn’t something I’d ever imagined doing, but here I am, happily immersed in color charts and yarn, designing a new collection.
What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?
It’s hard to pinpoint one great moment but amongst them would be collaborating with shoe designer Floris van Bommel, which for a Dutch person, believe me, is bigger than HUGE! Being featured in Vogue magazine is also up there, as is recently participating in New York Fashion Week.
Equally I haven’t had one singular lowest point. More a roller coaster of ups and downs. Being based in Cambodia can come with a whole list of challenges both culturally and logistically. Sometimes you have no choice but to go with the flow and know that what will be will be.
What are the morals you run your brand by?
Our mission is to design beautiful ethical products created in a fair and empowering environment. As a brand we also want to lead change in our community and wider manufacturing industry for more ethical production and inspire individuals to become more mindful, conscious consumers.
What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
Our brand is very much about “hygge” - a Scandinavian concept based on creating a mood of cozy contentment that encourages wellness and self-care.
Our new winter collection is inspired by finding pleasure in small moments, whether it be enjoying a slow amble on a cold frosty morning or simply snuggling up in front of an open fire, with a good book in one hand, and a glass of a full-bodied red in the other.
How would you describe your customer base?
Our footwear attracts people of all ages and gender. Those looking for stylish loungewear, the next trend or someone purely looking for at-home cozy comfort.
What unites our customers is appreciation. An appreciation for the time and dedication that goes into handmade. An appreciation of purchasing a well-made, durable product that will last season after season.
Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?
That’s a resounding YES! I suspect I’m not alone and most entrepreneurs will struggle to remain inspired at one time or another.
Confident that we’re making a beautiful handmade product, waiting for the world to catch on was one of my biggest challenges and contributor to a lack of inspiration. Working all hours and not seeing the fruits of your labor can be tough as a start-up. During these times I’ve drawn inspiration from our team, their motivation and commitment to their learning and improving their craft. They’re all the inspiration I need.
Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?
I recently had the honour of ninth generation shoe designer Floris van Bommel purchasing a pair of our handmade wool slippers. As a self-confessed slipper addict and a fellow Dutch designer there was something quite special about being recognized by someone within the industry. As a team we also have a little secret wish to get Snoop Dogg all hygge in a pair.
Do you have a mentor?
I find influence in everyone around me. For me, it’s all about being open to learning and being able to filter the good, the bad (and sometimes the ugly) ideas and cherry picking those that work for you and your brand.
Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?
I love the community of creativity and entrepreneurship we have here in Cambodia. There’s such a rich diversity of small independent designers all striving to create amazing products, each with a strong commitment to ethical manufacturing.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Try, try and try again! As an entrepreneur, perseverance is key. Impossible isn’t something that can’t be done, it’s just something that hasn’t been done before. So, you learn to adapt, change tack, and find a new path to achieve your goals.
What drew you to Wolf & Badger?
Wolf & Badger bridges the gap between small independent brands and an audience of treasure seekers.The bring together a community comfortable in their uniqueness that actively seek out new designers, products and embrace individuality.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
You mean beyond world domination!? Joking aside….. Our plan is to take baby steps towards expansion. Creating more local employment while maintaining our slow fashion principles to create carefully crafted comfort.
What do you love most about your job?
Nurturing the talents of my team and watching them flourish. It fills me with joy.
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