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The highs and lows of heels

[ 2012-09-18 11:14] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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 A multi-height shoe with changeable heels, created by a Canadian-born shoe designer, on display in Paris. Eric Feferberg / Agence France-Presse

Tanya Heath is on a double mission: To prove that women can wear heels without ruining their feet, and that a heel that switches from high to low can be made entirely in France.

The Paris-based Canadian started with a simple idea. When your shoes start to hurt - halfway through a party, a wedding or a workday - press a button in the sole, slot out your dressy high heel and replace it with a walking version.

"I'm a feminine feminist," is how the 42-year-old sums up her philosophy. "My shoe is designed to be sexy - but on the woman's terms."

"You can do your two-hour meeting, and then you just take off your high heel," she explained at the Ethical Fashion Show in Paris this month. "You're getting relief - and you're getting home."

So far so good, except the trick - which no one had quite figured out until now - is how to keep the shoe balanced and comfortable both on tip-toe and when you tilt it back to sit on a low heel.

The fruit of three painstaking years of research, Heath's patented answer to the riddle is billed as the world's first multi-height heel, a luxury leather shoe that switches seamlessly from 9 to 4 centimeters.

From pastel pink patent sandals to strappy dancing shoes or demure lace-ups, with either stiletto or chunky heels, high or low, the shoes are pitched at the high end of the market, starting at around 250 euros ($320).

But while her upscale Tanya Heath line will continue to be made in France, she already has plans for a second brand, which "will have to be made somewhere else".

To meet large orders coming in from South Korea or Canada, she needs to scale up production and bring down her price.

"I would like a real working girl to be able to have them," Heath said. "But it's impossible to make a Made in France affordable. A skin of leather alone costs 80 euros here. I'm here to tell you it can't be done."

With models harking back to the 1920s, Heath wanted a "deliberately nostalgic" style to offset the "gee-whizz technology".

"It's an incredible game of geometry," she said. "All shoes, quality ones, follow a set of geometric rules, and always have done. I don't follow those rules. We did things differently."

A passionate heel-wearer, Heath's project was born partly of personal experience, having suffered foot deformations from heels, like an estimated 38 percent of women around the world. "I had had enough of aching feet, and I refused point-blank to wear ballerina flats," she joked.

But she also wanted to show that shoes could still be made in a high-cost economy like France.

In 1996, Heath left a job as policy analyst at the Canadian foreign ministry for a new life in Paris, following her oil executive fiance, a "Camembert and champagne" lover who refused to be based anywhere else.

Once there she learned French at business school and worked in management and high-tech, then private equity, all the while raising three young children.

In 2009 she quit her job and threw herself into the heel project, heading to the Dordogne to investigate taking over a struggling shoe factory as a way to kickstart the project.

When she got there Heath was in for a shock. "I saw the factory closed down and 52 people out on the street, the boss locked out - and I thought, 'Whoa!'"

As a liberally trained economist, she had two ways of reading the situation. "One is that France is non-competitive, and we deserve everything we get because we've killed the industry. And the other way is to say maybe, with an innovation, we can save some jobs here.

"I thought, we'll go for the innovation theory."

The buyout idea came to nothing, but she went on to surround herself with a team of 21 engineers, designers and technicians, in addition to herself and an associate, to bring her concept to life.

The resulting shoe is entirely made in France, with leather from central Limoges. Parts are produced in three French factories in Franche-Comte, Cholet and Rouen.

Since they started shipping in February, Heath has sold 800 pairs.

Her firm is one of around 50 that still make shoes entirely in France. She says running a factory in Rouen - as opposed to China or Vietnam - allows her to choose more quickly.

"I made my color decisions for this winter just two weeks ago. And I can tell you now that the colors for this winter are midnight blue, black, wine red and jaguar green."







(中国日报网英语点津 Helen )