Local boutique baby footwear brand Lapito is taking on the world, one step at a time.
Pia Nowland’s obsession with shoes started early on. Unlike most chaotic teenage bedrooms, Pia’s bookshelves were impeccably styled to show off her most prized possessions – her shoes. After all, it was a great feat to locate a pair for her petite size 35 feet.
Once adulthood came around, Pia’s passion for footwear took a temporary back seat to a successful career in media, working as News Director for Darwin’s Hot 100 FM and later as a video journalist for Southern Cross Austereo in Port Pirie.
In 2011 she threw caution to the wind and flew all the way to Florence, Italy to complete an intensive shoe design course at the renowned Polimoda International Institute of Fashion Design & Marketing.
This reinforced Pia’s love for footwear – but it was the way Italian men dressed, that first informed her sartorial design choices.
“I was interested in making men’s shoes and was particularly drawn to the way that a man’s shoe was not just an afterthought, but an integral element to the complete tailoring of their outfit,” says Pia.
Further studies at a custom footwear course at TAFE followed, but with no hard sole press available, Pia invested in an industrial sewing machine and started making soft sole shoes and ‘practice pairs’. It’s this resourcefulness, an eye for detail and a few pairs made as baby shower gifts that led Pia to explore a gap in the market. That’s when her brand, Lapito, was born. She began crafting delicate ballerina style shoes to lace-ups in soft leathers.
By 2016, Pia could no longer keep up with demand and during a State Government trade mission to South East Asia, Pia met with a manufacturer in Ho Chi Minh who could offer the same handmade, bespoke service, but on a scale that allowed Pia to grow Lapito without compromising on design or quality. Each pair is still handcrafted by the same manufacturer today, and continues to be an integral part of the Lapito business.
Timeless in their appeal, Lapito shoes don’t follow seasons or trends. But more than this, soft sole shoes are perfect for little feet.
“It’s really important for babies to be able to stretch, wriggle and flex their feet. Soft soles allow them to still work out how to balance and feel the ground – plus their bones are still so soft, it’s important not to restrict them in anything too rigid,” Says Pia.
Featuring soft, supple leather and padded soles and ankles, each little pair is designed with comfort for baby and style in mind – a combination that has made the brand a favourite of mums from Burnside all the way to Beverly Hills. In the age of Instagram, it’s the sweet soft sole shoe brand from Adelaide that caught the eye of Beverly Hills Insta-mum influencers Jennifer Stano (@jenniferstano) and Rachel Bernstein (@sunsetblonde), proving that if you have a great product, you can reach anyone from your home town.
“It’s incredible to think I can live here in Adelaide and have the lifestyle we do, yet be so close to Vietnam to work closely with my manufacturer and sell to anywhere in the world,” says Pia.
With the support of her Insta-influencers helping to grow the brand in the US and a growing profile locally, Lapito shoes are not just the perfect baby gift and pre-walker, they are heirlooms to treasure forever.