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Shoe designer Sophia Webster says the struggle makes you strong

The only lesson I’ve learned from life: Shoe designer Sophia Webster says the struggle makes you strong

  • Sophia Webster, 36, living in London, launched her shoe line in 2012
  • Mother of three says she owes so much to her resilient grandmother Ruth
  • Grandma Ruth was separated from her family when the Nazi invasion was imminent


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Sophia Webster, 36, launched her shoe line in 2012 and built up a fan base, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Swift and Oprah Winfrey. She lives in London with husband and business partner Bobby, and their three daughters – seven-year-old and three-year-old twins.

I owe so much to my grandmother Ruth. Growing up, she always sent me notes or postcards or articles about shoes with a butterfly sticker or a butterfly motif.

One of my best-selling shoes, the Chiara sandal, has butterflies on the back and is now made in partnership with the Butterfly Conservation Charity to raise money for endangered species.

Butterflies’ ability to evolve after a period of struggle reminds me of my grandmother’s journey herself.

Sophia Webster, 36, (pictured) who lives in London, revealed how her grandmother taught her to be resilient

Sophia Webster, 36, (pictured) who lives in London, revealed how her grandmother taught her to be resilient

Jewish, she grew up in Prague with her parents until she was seven. In 1939, when the Nazi invasion was imminent, her uncle Charles in England managed to arrange housework for her mother so that they could get out. But she never saw her father again.

My grandmother was sent to live with strangers in Forest Hill, South London, and later in Liverpool. The family showed her great kindness and had her baptized to protect her.

When the war ended, she was reunited with her mother in South London. She got a job as a teacher, married my grandfather and had three children.

Retiring in her 60s, she did a Masters, explored her Jewish roots, and spent 15 years as an educator at the Imperial War Museum in London. Last month, the museum opened its new Holocaust Galleries, made possible in part by donations from my shoe store.

In 2017, my father, her son, was attacked by a stranger. He is still in the hospital with a catastrophic brain injury. Grandma Ruth was always incredibly close to him; before the attack, they called every day and did the crossword puzzle together. They were never able to talk to each other again. She died in 2019.

Grandma Ruth taught us to be resilient. Growing up with such a figurehead in your family helps you find strength.

The Imperial War Museum’s new Holocaust galleries are now open.

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