Laura Barbao is the owner of Slide&Swing. Last year she was in Pamplona for the Spring Lindy Weekend and it was very cool to meet her in person. Although for the next edition she is not coming as she is nine months pregnant, Slide&Swing will in a way be here, because the winners of the Mix&Match competition will have a pair of shoes as a prize. We would like to know a bit more about her and about her project, so we’ve had a chat with her…
We know you started dancing nine years ago. How did you get to know Lindy Hop? Are you still dancing?
I discovered this dance whilst watching the news in Barcelona, where i found out about Barswingona and I saw groups of people dancing and they had a great vibe. I was really curious so I decided to try as soon as possible. I researched on the internet and then went to a few intensive courses. Later I started regular classes. Since I started Slide&Swing I’ve had to reduce the number of hours, and now, with a family, my spare time is even less… anyway I always try to dance a bit when we are working at the festivals.
Did you ever dream about having a shoe brand? Were you interested in shoe or clothing design?
To be honest, no. I never dreamt about it and it wasn’t a goal of mine. However, I have always been passionate about shoes and my wardrobe is full of them. But I have never thought about myself as a shoe brand owner.
Compare to the early years, how has the design of your shoes evolved?
At the beginning, the designs were always inspired by the swing era times, but modified to meet the preferences of the current dancers. We interviewed lots of them who helped us to develop the first models.
Since then, the influences and evolutions are connected with the feedback we get from the dancers, clients, friends, etc; and with the fashion trends (we can’t ignore them). There are years when open shoes are more popular, sometimes people want shoes with laces… we need to be aware and open to the clients opinions.
What style shoes are the most trendy right now?
In the last few year there has been an explosion of boots, but we haven’t stopped selling our classic 3.5 cm heel shoes. Boots for boys are also very trendy too.
Have you ever thought about the possibility of the client customising the shoes?
It is an interesting option that other brands are offering. Clients like it, for sure. However, we are offering a wide variety of colours, shapes and materials… it would be very difficult to manage if we want to mantain the image of the brand. For now we have dismissed it.
How do you find the inspiration to design a new pair of shoes?
It depends on whether the model is alone or if it is part of a collection. We normally research about designs from the swing era, we also have shoe design books and of course we are influenced by current trends. We consider a mix is more interesting.
How many pairs of shoes do you sell per year?
Quite a few (LOL)
Do you sell more online or in your shop in Barcelona?
For now we sell more online. It is the tendency nowadays. But we also sell a lot in the shop, because there are lot of people who come to Barcelona on holiday, or for a festival, and they visit the shop, which is great as we have shoes in-stock for almost all the models and sizes.
Have you thought about opening more shops in other cities?
Well, we are about to launch a new project that we have been working on for the last few months. The idea is to open a shop in a city in Europe. I can’t say more for now. We think it will be successful!
How do you see yourself in ten years time?
I don’t like to think so far ahead, because although time flies, ten years is a very long time!! But I would love to continue with Slide&Swing and work more on the brand and all the plans we have in mind.
Do you design anything else apart from shoes?
Next year we are launching two new products that are not shoes, so “Stay tunned”
If a new dancer asked for advise about which shoes to buy, what would you recommend?
That is so personal… It is not about how long you have been dancing, it is more about the kind of shoes you are used to wearing. We like to propose a few different models and ask the person to try them on, so they can make a better decision.
When you started Slide&Swing there were not many competitors, However, nowadays there are already quite a lot of brands. What should I take into account when deciding which shoes to buy?
Basicly they must be comfortable for you. All brands creating swing dance shoes are following high quality manufacturing standards, as far as I know. They may have a different style, designs, marketing… I think it is a matter of your design preference and how they feel when you try the shoes on.
Over the last few years, Tap dancing is back. Have you thought about Slide&Swing Tap Shoes? Could I adapt normal shoes for Tap Dancing?
I don´t know much about Tap, only some basic knowledge. Basic, but enough to see that in fact the necessities for Tap Shoes are quite different from Swing Dance Shoes. The feet and leg movements are different and we would have to design a completely new product. For now, we are not into that. I know some people who have adapted their Slide&Swing to Tap by adding the plates, we can’t guarantee that they will work well, because they are not designed for Tap.
As an enterpreneur, can I ask you for advice about starting a new business?
Giving advice about that is quite complicated… I was not looking for a business idea at the time, I saw the opportunity because there was a high demand for swing dance shoes. I think it is important to detect what people what or need before starting a new project.
If I wanted to try on a pair of Slide&Swing shoes, which festivals will I find you at next year?
In 2020 we will not travel outside of Spain due to my maternity leave, but we can confirm we will attend the Valencia Balboa Festival (from 22nd to 24th May) and Zaraswing Festival (from 23rd to 25th October). We will soon announce that we will attend a few events in Germany, but it is still pending to be confirmed.
Many thanks for answering our questions! We will really miss Laura Barbao during the next edition of the Spring Lindy Weekend, but I am sure we will have her here again in Pamplona for the SLW 2021. In the meantime, you can visit the Slide&Swing website: https://www.slideandswing.es/