Gitte Sandquist loves to stand tall. “I can wear 10cm heels all day without any discomfort,” assures the Danish dynamo whose label Lola Ramona effortlessly lives up to its catchline, Shoes with an Attitude.
Stripes, dots and bows; the licorice-all-sorts palette and aura of vintage romance – it’s impossible to ignore those eye-catching confections.
The Copenhagen-based label is bound to exert its traffic-stopping impact at Fashion Exposed NOW. Since its launch in 2006, Lola Ramona has won devotees worldwide and they are spoiled for choice – loads of heels, flats and boots, plus equally arresting handbags.
Frustration was her catalyst, explains Gitte. “I couldn’t find shoes I liked – good-quality ones that weren’t boring – so I decided to create my own.
“I was still working as an agent for several international companies when I started Lola Ramona, so when our designer Christina Hanquist joined me nine years ago, we’d get together at my studio around 5pm and work into the night.
“My husband (goldsmith Erik Sandquist) was great. While Christina and I were working, he’d cook dishes like chili con carne for us.”
An early partnership with long-established Danish footwear company Sanita promised great things, but the Global Financial Crisis dealt a punishing blow and Gitte decided to go it alone. .
“It was a terrible time and affected even Denmark’s major banks, but luckily Lola Ramona survived and we’ve done well in recent years, especially since we opened our own factory in China,” she says.
“Using different factories for small orders is always a hassle, so it’s great to have control. A fantastic woman runs the factory. I call her my soulmate.”
Quality leathers, pampered comfort (“we add an extra layer of padding”) and striking detail on heels and insoles are among Lola Ramona’s key footwear features. So are the whimsical names that identify the designs.
There’s canny reasoning behind Elsie Strut, Stella Lollipop, Cecilia Spats and Co. “I got the naming idea from Levi’s,” confesses Gitte. “Consumers know exactly how say, a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans look and feel, and that sort of instant recognition is important with footwear, especially when you’re buying online.
”I used a different process for our brand name. I wanted something that sounded like a real girl and could be pronounced in all languages. That’s how Lola Ramona was born. She’s feminine and distinctive.”
Years of experience gained through working with giants such as Sweden’s H &M and America’s Levi Strauss, and later as an independent agent representing international brands including Lacoste, Paul Smith and Caterpillar, have served Gitte well since she founded Lola Ramona.
Family members have also made valuable contributions and not just through their cooking skills. “My 93-year-old grandmother has a basement full of wonderful stuff she’s kept for decades and I have lots of fun digging around in it. Great for inspiration!”
A small retail store attached to her office in Copenhagen is Gitte’s only concession to bricks and mortar. The real action happens on Lola Ramona’s award-winning online store and new product lines may soon be enjoying that global reach.
“Not clothes, but accessories such as gloves, hats and scarves,” reveals Gitte Sandquist. “The problem is finding the time to develop them. Right now we’re so busy, things are just crazy, but I’m not complaining.”
To find out more about Lola Ramona, please contact Judy Williams, Australian & New Zealand distributor at email@example.com