If The Shoe Fits… These Intrepid Women Probably Designed It

If The Shoe Fits…

These Intrepid Women Probably Designed It

If you are a woman, there’s a good chance you have thing for shoes. After years spent running from business meetings in sneakers (changing into heels every so slyly before you get there), and navigating trends of the moment: platforms, backless mules, platforms and strappy gladiators, you know that quality is more important than quantity. You also (begrudgingly) understand that no matter how beautiful a 4-inch heel might be, unless you can actually walk in it, there’s no point in buying it. And who knows better about all our shoe quirks than female shoe designers themselves?

“I’ve spent $40,000 on shoes, and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes.”

-Carrie Bradshaw

Below, we’ve rounded up female-founders and shoe designers that are mindful of how diverse a woman’s foot can be, and how tech has informed the present and future creation of shoes. Whether it’s a shoe built entirely off the mold of your foot or created based on the concept of a 3,000 year-old sandal, these shoes and their designers are reinvigorating a category with an attention to detail that only women can bring to the table.

"Since Trudeaus endorsement, their Mei and Anais boots have been worn by​ Hollywood heavyweights Hailee Steinfeld, Heidi Klum, Bella Hadid, Adriana Lima and others." Founder of Zvelle, Elle Ayoub Zadeh
Elle AyoubZadeh, Founder,  Zvelle

This brand rose to prominence in 2016 after the lovely Sophie Gregoire Trudeau wore shoes designed for her by founder Elle AyoubZadeh to Canada’s first White House State dinner. Photographed on the steps of the White House with Sophie’s husband, Justin, and the Obamas, the shoes became an instant sensation, helping the self-funded startup with some lucrative social-capital. Since Trudeaus endorsement, their Mei and Anais boots have been worn by Hollywood heavyweights Hailee Steinfeld, Heidi Klum, Bella Hadid, Adriana Lima and others. Interestingly, Zvelle doesn’t go in for paid influencer marketing, and these women are wearing the shoes, because they like them.

Sourcing their materials in Italy, Zvelle’s standard of quality and care is paramount to the brand’s success, and command an upmarket price tag (most shoes coming around the $300 mark). With a background in finance, AyoubZadeh is cautious about how she grows the business, and where. To date, she has created four pop-up stores, with one in Soho, New York, and is planning to do more in the near future, with the brand’s upward trajectory pretty much set in stone and garnering global attention from its peers. “We have seen some copycats of our Rayna flats out there so this is a new and flattering experience for us,” says AyoubZadeh. “And while we don’t share growth numbers I can say things are moving in the right direction and we’re very ambitious.”

"The shoes are meant to be show-stopping, empowering, yet glamorous and chic with a touch of nonchalance." Monika Founder, Monika Chiang
Monika Chiang, Founder, Monika Chiang

Founded in 2011, Monika Chiang has since become a go-to for the ultra glamorous. Think sparkle, pazazz, red carpet-worthy shoewear. This element of mystique can be attributed to the founder’s worldwide musings. Chiang, who was born in New York but grew up in Europe, has since traveled the globe with her family, taking shoe-spiration from markets thriving markets like Hong Kong and minimalist hubs like Sweden.

“Think luxury with some grit to it,” says Chiang, who, having originally taken on some outside investment when she launched the brand in 2011, completely pivoted, in a bold move, and made the company wholly self-funded just three years later. She, like so many others, has also embraced the sheer might of the internet and removed herself from the brick-and-mortar model, to online only.

Her favorite shoe, The Imena, “embodies my aesthetic,” says the founder. “It’s a combination of “rock ’n’ roll, rebellious spirit with a modern effortless femininity and sex appeal. The shoes are meant to be show-stopping, empowering, yet glamorous and chic with a touch of nonchalance.”

"Miller set out to Italy to source all materials, and create shoes that would challenge the uber-pricey designer footwear that clamours over the Instagrams of the rich and famous." Founder of Bells & Becks, Tamar Miller.
Tamar Miller, Founder, Bells And Becks

“As a little girl, my grandmother used to take me shopping during my annual summer visits for a special pair of shoes as a send-off gift,” says Tamar Miller, who had worked with everyone from Lord And Taylor and Macy’s to Banana Republic and Old Navy before launching her own footwear line just this year.

Bells & Becks, the youngest brand here, was launched at the end of March, to an excited media crowd and social media following. Miller, who entered the shoe industry on the cusp of a major e-commerce change that would come to define, and even be the death of, some brands, recognizes the importance of the various platforms in shaping a new brand. “The reality is that social media has played a tremendous part in enabling new brands to get a foothold and become relevant in the minds of consumers,” the founder notes. “Social media gives voice to a brand in a uniquely organic way. It will undoubtedly play a critical role in helping to shape Bells & Becks.”

Edging straight into the luxury market, and completely self-funded, Miller, with her extensive experience, is aware of the risks associated with such a leap. Undeterred, however, Miller set out to Italy to source all materials, and create shoes that would challenge the uber-pricey designer footwear that clamors over the Instagrams of the rich and famous. “I wanted to deliver on something that feels like luxury – designer-quality footwear that happens to be at a price that doesn’t break the bank,” she comments. “That’s where I saw the opportunity in the market.”

"Powell ensures each shoe-which is handmade to order by Mexican artisans- is designed to make a woman’s foot look more slim, covering imperfections like bunions with ease" Neely Powell, Founder, Charleston Shoe Co
Neely Powell, Founder, Charleston Shoe Co.

Based on the simple tenant that empowering women is good business sense, Neely Powell has created a shoe brand that plays on an innate passion for the product. Featuring versatile styles like strappy platforms, nautical flats and streamlined slides, each piece of footwear is meant to fuse comfort with fashion. Unlike competitors who take a “more is more” approach to manufacturing, Powell ensures each shoe-which is handmade to order by Mexican artisans- is designed to make a woman’s foot look more slim, covering imperfections like bunions with ease. “It’s like Spanx for your feet,” says Powell, of her bespoke design. “They have this magical appearance when they are on.”  

Originally created as a “shoe souvenir” brand, which women could purchase when visiting tourist-heavy Charleston, South Carolina, Charleston Shoe Co. also appeals to a woman’s quirky side. To wit, store employees wear mismatching shoes while on the sales floor as a funny conversation starter. “We’re not very pretentious,” states Powell, whose mission to grow via an authentic love for the brand, which she instills by empowering the 85 women (and 6 men) on her team to sell her line via a franchising concept, which puts them in the driver’s seat. “Women love shoes so they are instantly passionate,” says Powell. “I think the resounding conversation throughout the company is ‘“ feel like this is my business’. The store managers feel like the stores are theirs, and they have the decision making power to do what they want with them. It’s incredible to watch their excitement.”

“Oka-B's are recyclable, they won't end up in a landfill or the oceans.” CEO, Sara Irvani
Sara Irvani, CEO of Oka-B

Sara Irvani’s love for shoes was born as a child growing up around her family’s factory. “You realize every object has a story, and it is invigorating to be involved in every part of the business,” says Irvani, whose family founded Okabashi Shoes in 1984, and launched Oka-B in 2006.

Irvani, who was named CEO last year, is focused on sustainably-sourced materials and homegrown business, noting that only one percent of shoes in the world are made here in the US, and of that percent, 35 million have been Oka-B shoes, made in Buford, Georgia. “Oka-B’s are recyclable, they won’t end up in a landfill or the oceans,” the CEO notes. “[We] utilize a closed-loop recycling process to reduce the use of virgin material and to keep old shoes from becoming environmental waste.”

Funnily enough, the 20,000 shoes produced a day from this factory are made from soy. You wouldn’t be able to tell, however, as they look gorgeous, are water resistant, and have an in-built massager, Irvani’s got you on-the-go covered.

“By donating thousands of pairs of shoes to breast cancer research, weekly donations to battered women’s shelters, to victims of natural disasters when needed, we hope to help to make one persons moment a better one.” Cofounder of Naot, Susan Lax
Susan Lax, Co-Founder, Naot

Susan Lax grew up in Israel, and after finishing her mandatory army service, had many aspirations, and ironically, making shoes was not one of them. However, in 1989, her and husband Steve were taken by the notion of launching a comfortable footwear line, centering on sandals native to Israel, and began constructing their business (which they launched from the trunk of their car).

With comfort being the prime driver for the business, philanthropy came a close second. The Lax’s decided to dedicate profits and produce to those less fortunate as the business grew. “From day one we have made it a basic value of Naot to take part in making the world a better place,” Lax notes. “By donating thousands of pairs of shoes to breast cancer research, weekly donations to battered women’s shelters, to victims of natural disasters when needed, we hope to help to make one persons moment a better one.”

Contrary to the downward trend of brick and mortar, NAOT shoes now has a whopping 75 stores throughout the globe, and launched their first US outfit this year. They’ve also been picked up by the likes of Amazon, Zappos, and Nordstrom. Considering the fact these guys are self-funded, we’d say that’s a pretty major win for small business.

Sandra Gault, Founder, True Gault

Standing in a pair of heels in that dastardly familiar pain, this founder was long fed up with her shoes not fitting right and causing unduly nuisance to her days. “I vowed that every woman– regardless of age, size, or shape of her feet – deserved a beautiful pair of heels that she could wear all day long, in perfect comfort and confidence,” says Gault, who launched the company in 2017 and has to date raised $2.5M, with those investing including the estimable Susan Posen, who chairs Zac Posen’s House of Z.

Her mission from the get-go? customization. She wants every woman to be able to tailor and specify their shoes to the exact extremities of their feet, resulting in no rubbing, or blisters, or soreness. And she’s doing this all with the help of an easily-used app. “A customer simply takes three pictures of each foot via the True Gault iPhone app, and the smart technology generates her unique size and a 3D model of each foot, obliterating past reliance on traditional sizing.” Gault explains. “We don’t do shoe sizes, every customer gets her own unique ID number stamped inside each shoe.”

With 99% of women’s feet different even from our left to right foot, we imagine this model is going to take off. Gault’s focus is currently in North America, but will be expanding further soon, given that her production base is housed in the beautiful Alicante, Spain. Watch out Europe.

"We don’t do shoe sizes, every customer gets her own unique ID number stamped inside each shoe.” Founder of Gault, Sandra Gault
Belisa Silva and Amy Corcoran

Our kickass Editor-In-Chief and Head of Content

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Listen To Our Podcast

FOLLOW US ON

Privacy Policy

© Copyright SWAAY Media 2017. All Rights Reserved.
Instagram
Sign up for our Newsletter