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April 17, 2018

Look at these ridiculously beautiful baby shoes by Lapito footwear

Bespoke baby-sized leather shoes, from Adelaide to Paris and beyond.

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  • Words: Sharmonie Cockayne
  • Images: Pia Nowland
  • Photo of Pia: Sharmonie Cockayne

Pia Nowland designs leather footwear for babies and toddlers.

It’s a pretty specific niche, but, as her dad (or was it everyone’s dad?) once said, if you can make it in Adelaide, you can make it anywhere.

And, while she is certainly making it in Adelaide, her pursuit of making it elsewhere has just begun.

Designer, Pia Nowland.

Like most Adelaide success stories, Lapito grew from humble beginnings. A former journalist, Pia quit her job to become a shoe-maker.

“I was a journalist when I got out of school. I worked up in Darwin and Port Pirie on radio and video journalism as well. I did that for about 3 years after uni. I always wanted to be a shoe designer, even in school, but I just thought I could never make money from it, that it wasn’t a career,” says Pia.

“I covered a story that was really bad, it was a terrible story that I had to cover, and I just kind of thought ‘Where are my morals, why am I doing this, these are not the kind of stories that I want to cover, this is not what I want to be doing.’ So I called mum in tears and I was like ‘Mum, I just want to be a shoe designer.'”

One 3-month shoe-making course in Florence and two TafeSA courses later, and Pia is now taking Lapito to Paris.

It was taking a leap from hand-made to manufactured that has helped see the business boom.

“At the beginning I wasn’t wholesaling because I couldn’t afford to. The margins were’t big enough. I think now I’m learning that you need to cut into that a bit to get your shoes out there,” she says.

“I flew to Bali with my shoes and sourced a family-run manufacturer over there. She was wonderful and I was working with her for a year and a half, but now I’m working with a factory in Vietnam. I went over there and it’s a very small factory, they work with a lot of European designers. All of their leathers are from Italy as well.”

Pia has sold her products predominantly via her online store and at big markets like Bowerbird Design Market. More recently, Pia has taken the business to trade shows, and it is there that she has seen her business really expand.

Her shoes are now stocked in eight home and lifestyle stores across Australia and New Zealand.

“I did my first trade show last year at Life Instyle in Melbourne, which was huge because it was the first time I was stocking shoes elsewhere,” She says.

“As much as it’s exciting having your shoes in shops, I just wanted to make sure they were the right [fit]. You want your brand somewhere where it reflects the face of the brand.”

And that, in part, is why Pia says Lapito works so well in Adelaide at the Bowerbird Design Market.

“I find I have a lot of success at Bowerbird. Even with those repeat customers, you see those people come every year for the two events. I just love the community that’s there. It’s a good thing for Adelaide, because I think there isn’t anything else like it,” says Pia.


Find Lapito online and at the Bowerbird Design Market from May 4 to 6.

It’s a warmth that echoes throughout Adelaide – at the heart of this city is a supportive network of young makers and creatives who really do want each other to achieve.

In talking to Pia, we begin to feel that maybe Adelaide’s infamous Tall Poppy Syndrome isn’t quite what it used to be.

Pia’s dreams of making it in Europe have yet to falter, and her slog in Adelaide is bringing her all the closer.

“That’s my dream, to get into Europe. I think I’ve just literally been taking baby steps to get there.”

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