Born and raised in Melbourne, Jen Webb left Australia after studying graphic design for one year, and headed to Spain where she spent time at a factory and learnt about the craft of shoemaking. It was love at first sight, and Webb has been working in the fashion industry ever since moving to Hong Kong in late 2003. Blksheep Empire recently obtained a space at PMQ.
What inspired you to launch Blksheep Empire?
You have dreams but you never think they’re going to come to reality. I was making shoes for another Hong Kong-based brand, and some of the stars were wearing my shoes. My husband encouraged me to start my own brand, and I launched in 2013.
Why call it Blksheep Empire?
The black sheep is the odd one out, someone who goes in their own direction and isn’t afraid to.
Who do you design for?
Our slogan is kickass shoes for kickass women. We use a lot of bold colours, and the brand is really for women who aren’t afraid to be themselves, who are confident with their own style, and don’t follow trends.
What is the Blksheep Empire philosophy?
To tell people that they should be happy with who they are. As corny as it sounds, you should be confident with your personality, understand you are going to be different to everyone else, and don’t have to conform.
What inspires your designs?
Sometimes it’s hobbies or passions I have. For example, I love dinosaurs, and that’s the theme of our latest collection. The shoes I’m wearing now are the Jurassic; they’re navy, so perfect for autumn-winter. I’ve named shoes after friends and family who have helped me along this journey, but they have to be shoes that they would wear.
What sets the brand apart?
We specialise in oxfords and we mainly use leather. You’ll see a lot of bright colours and patterns on our shoes that you won’t see elsewhere. People don’t use them because they’re not exactly commercial. We have a set of original designs, like the purple DTO shoes [named for friend Deb To] that are sold year-round, but we try and change up our designs every three to four months.
What’s your next collection like?
Like our slogan says, we want to work with empowering women. Our next collection is a collaboration with local Hong Kong street artists AMT and Bao, who are young and strong women. They are the kind of women that inspire us, and that we hope others will be inspired by, too. The collection will be out in the middle of this month.
If you could change one thing about Hong Kong, what would it be and why?
There needs to be more opportunities for artists to thrive. Things like high rent prevent people from following their dreams because it doesn’t seem sustainable.
What is your ambition?
When I chose the word ‘empire’ after Blksheep, that’s what I wanted to create – an empire. Whether it is shoes or fashion, I hope it expands and we have the same core, which is to do as you want.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I could eat an entire block of 85 percent dark chocolate from Lindt.
What would you say your greatest personal trait is?
I don’t give up very easily. It’s a very Australian saying but sometimes you just need to get on with it, hard as it is.
If your house was burning down, what three items would you save, excluding people and pets?
Some of the shoes I first made for the brand, my computer and my Star Wars toys.
Where can we find you after hours?
At home with friends or eating at some of the local food stalls.
If you were a drink, what would you be and why?
I would be a mojito. It’s kind of zingy, but it’s a classic.
What’s your biggest weakness?
Not letting things go.
Who would you want to be stranded on a desert island with?
Either Bear Grylls or my husband. If I had to pick… I’d choose Bear Grylls – I want to survive!
Where do you want to be in five years?
I’d like to be in ifc.