Friday, January 20, 2012

Textile Friday: The Race For Convertible Footwear

              I love shoes. I mean REALLY love shoes. I've made some, probably will make more, but won't claim to be an expert. There's a lot that standard, and a lot that's open to interpretation and personal style. One of the quiet revolutions that people are fighting for in this down market since Sheila's Heels in 2005 (some would argue earlier) is convertible 2-in-1 (or more) shoes that can function as multiple looks or most popularly as both heels and flats. Ironically this trend came out of the car insurance industry to improve female driving behind the wheel. Go figure. There are a number of companies failing at this concept and 2 that I think are doing a great job out of Chicago and Germany.
              The latest failure is made by Night2Day which features 5 different heel heights for office to work. This is one of several companies that has tried to launch this idea in the last 2-3 years and while the funding levels vary, I remain skeptical of the viability of the overall project. Every woman loves the idea of being able to switch in and out of those killing high arches at will. The major problem I see at this point is referred to as the 1/2 inch rule that most actual cobblers use. This states that for every 1 inch of heel height a woman increases her foot, there is a corresponding 1/2 shrink in the foot sole print. That's why many women drop shoe sizes as the heel height increases, you need a snugger fit or the shoe will fall off. You'll also see your foot literally come out of the shoe if you do not have strap on top. I have yet to see any major shoe company peddling the flat'n'heels idea address this specific problem that a shoe sole needs to shrink with heel height to some extent to remain comfortable. Until that I will be passing up buying a pair for $150 on their website: No offense to the lovely ladies involved.
              In case you think I'm doom in gloom here, there are several other companies that have successfully bridged the gap of offering multiple shoes for 1 price. Their success is awesome and worth talking about as they've taken unusual solutions and should be rewarded in my mind for their creativity, beauty, and inventiveness. It's also a testament to their hard work in the face of a graveyard of companies who have not been able to do what these handful have accomplished. Their prices are reasonable and often affordable for a fashionista.
              My first favorite is the local US company, Mohop. They're an amazing Chicago company that makes convertible sandals using CNC and computer modeling technology! I really can not say enough good things about this company. I love companies that are using their brains to make a difference. They use sustainable local woods to create bases that can be custom finished with bands of fabric woven into different patterns and colors across the foot. Best of all, when you get tired of one look, a few pulls or new fabric and voila...a new you is born. Check-out the youtube video for further drool factor. Yum, yum, yum....These average between $70-170 range with new colored strings and accessories being $3-10. A totally affordable, ecofriendly shoe! If I only had enough money to buy 1 pair of shoes this year...these would be it!

               The second major company is more urban hip hop than my taste (read great brand, but a little too young for me in my opinion). It's a Munich company called Nat-2 and they're currently winning a bunch of awards. Their product is fairly easy to understand in which they use zippers to allow you to attach different uppers to your shoe sole. You have probably already seen them in several popular movies such as Transformers, etc. Their current 4-in-1 shoe is my favorite.They're a little pricey, but not over the top. Check out their website. The Nat-2 is more versatile, but more prone to failure as zipper teeth fail more easily than static loops do.

                I could easily mention a couple other shoe companies that are riffing on this idea of the year, but I won't because I have yet to see any of them indicate they're actually going to be successful vs. these 2 are worth investing in. You're seeing a lot of this 1 object/ multiple ways to wear it this year and it's a lovely trend despite it's limitations. A great way to stretch your dollars further in this recovering economy. Donna Karen did an awesome little black dress of this for her Christmas 2011 Collection and it's simply amazing. We'll also discuss the 6 inch rule next Fri which is why objects like this despite their popularity during down economies often do not have staying power as the overall economy recovers. Mostly, it gets down to fit.

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