From footwear fan to founder - how I finally launched my own shoe brand: HAGELSTAM

By Sandra Hagelstam

Photo: Courtesy of Sandra Hagelstam

“Italian-made with a Nordic vision was always my goal, but it took me a decade to bring that vision to life.” Footwear aficionado and newly unveiled brand founder Sandra Hagelstam pens a first-person piece for Vogue Scandinavia, taking us on the journey that brought us to the arrival of her eponymous shoe brand (just a month before the arrival of her first child)

I had close to 10 years of ‘influencing’ behind, when I for the first time in my life stopped and thought about my professional goals. Of course, there were many boxes ticked in my career where I felt proud and had to pinch myself: from design collaborations carrying my name to dinner parties surrounded by the most inspiring people in the fashion industry. However, all of these opportunities that I enjoyed for the fullest, weren’t necessarily something I had planned or could claim had me living up to my full potential. This started bothering me.


In 2010, I had just moved to London to study fashion design at London College of Fashion, when I found that my passion for heels over the years had garnered me quite a collection of It-worthy shoes, but nowhere to wear them. My blog ‘5 inch and up’ was born as an ode to exactly that: sky high heels that made me feel invincible. No other accessory or piece of clothing affects your posture, being or behaviour like a good pair of shoes does.



Alongside a growing social media career, starting my own brand was always the goal – after all it was the reason I moved to London. It was an idea maturing in my mind, a project that I got started on numerous times. I had all my notebooks covered in shoe sketches, I visited leather fairs and met up with production partners, only to come out with more questions than I had going in. It was, for 10 plus years, always easier to take on work that my social media career offered.

As a woman designing for women, I don’t buy into the the idea that we have to suffer for beauty. There are numerous ways to make even high heels comfortable, from the arch of the foot, to the balance of the toes.

Sandra Hagelstam

There is never a right time to pause something that is kind of working and jump into the expensive and complicated deep end of starting your own brand. But at some point, the pain of not doing it became greater than the pain of doing it. So the idea of my own shoe brand started to mature and I became that annoying friend who kept talking about my future brand, like it was something that was I already in full production. My perfectionism kept me from proceeding, knowing you only have one chance for a first impression. After all I wanted the brand to carry a version of my name, without appearing like merchandise from my blog.


I experienced a turning point in my process in late 2022. With a long Christmas break ahead, I realised that there will never be an ideal time to start unless I shifted my priorities. The luxury of not having anyone to rush you, or set deadlines can turn into a vicious cycle of excuses and ever yet more reasons to postpone your ideas. Finding the right production partner was a key for my process which required me to go down to the source of where I wanted to produce: Italy. My leap of faith quickly led to next steps, followed by a period of filtering designs and honing down on my vision.

As faith would have it, in summer 2023 I found out that another personal project that had also been in the works for years was coming true: I was pregnant. The nausea and ligament pains came with their own challenges, but mostly it brought an ease that allowed me to fully focus on my own two projects. Saying no to things that I would normally have attended, proved to be a big part of the over all execution.



Starting a brand in 2024, it is impossible to not prioritise sustainability. As I always knew I wanted to work with real leather for its durability and pristine look – having leather that was of European origin was a must. Learning what to ask for was the key to achieving a high sustainability grade, so we managed to source exclusively Italian leather for all designs with the highest industry standard of traceability. There is always room for improvement, but you have to start somewhere and get your foot both figuratively and literally in between the door before you can start dictating requirements with factories.

HAGELSTAM was born as the 'be-all and end-all' outcome of years of researching and reviewing shoes, learning what makes a heel comfortable and understanding the performance of different materials. I’ve tried and tested way too many uncomfortable shoes in my life to not prioritise fit in my own designs. As a woman designing for women, I don’t buy into the the idea that we have to suffer for beauty. There are numerous ways to make even high heels comfortable, from the arch of the foot, to the balance of the toes. This was my design vision from the start, and something that I am proud to have achieved.

As of today, HAGELSTAM is less than a week old and I am a month from giving birth to my daughter. I am relieved that I managed to launch the shoes before my baby and seeing my designs worn, is truly the biggest reward. To hear how surprised women are of the comfort of our 10.5cm heel, means that comfortable heels are still far from being the industry norm and that there is a lot of work and potential on this front. This is where the change starts.