Imagine a comfortable shoe with interchangeable heels to carry you into every occasion. A fitted shoe designed to be adaptable to walking, working, dancing and seducing. If you’re like many women, your closet contains footwear of all shapes and heights. No one shoe supports you effortlessly or can service the whirlwind wardrobe changes during a trip. Attention, ladies. Heel power exists!
Tanya Heath’s stylish footwear created for comfort is sold with interchangeable heels. Shoes that can be fitted with sensible low heels, medium-sized shapes for practical daywear and sexy higher heels for those special occasions. The slide-on heels come in a potpourri of smashing colors, shapes, and designs.
Now, how smart is that? Canadian Tanya Heath conceived the idea after she couldn’t find comfy fashionable shoes for her own sore feet damaged from high heels. Despite no shoe design or shoemaking experience, she understood the power of disruptive innovation. TANYA HEATH Paris opened its doors in 2015 in Paris, France and Toronto, Canada. Her clientele flocks to her exclusive boutique in the Saint Germain des Près neighborhood, knowing they can create several fashion looks with one pair of shoes!
In a highly competitive fashion market where shoe trends do not include comfort, INSPIRELLE salutes Tanya Heath’s creative and business acumen. Un grand merci for giving us the heel power to stand tall!
Tania, how did you come up with this brilliant idea of a heel change?
The first time I arrived at work in France in 1996 (I used to be a management consultant for Bossard Consulting), I changed from my ballerinas to pumps and my French colleagues called me “La New Yorkaise.” I was trying to integrate at that time so I stopped wearing flats and spent about 12 years of my life in very high heels. Predictably I ruined my feet. Then began a quest to find a “comfortable” high heels. I tried several brands, and tons of weight shifting gels and sole pads. Nothing worked so I started dreaming of creating a shoe where you could just take the high heel off and walk comfortably in a low heel. At that time I was working in private equity. It was 2008/2009 when you couldn’t even give a company away and I deeply felt that my life lacked meaning, so I quit my job and started looking for a solution.
Tell us how the shoe works?
It’s super easy. You press a button, the heels slides off and then you click a new heel on. You can change them both in less than three seconds!
How did you start your own business in a market dominated by major brands?
Oh, how naive I was! I thought the research and development phase would be the most challenging, and indeed we had 14 engineers work on the innovation for three years. But the fashion aspects are actually one hundred thousand times harder than I would have ever expected. I come from finance and technology and prior to working in fashion, I imagined it was all fun. Well, a fashion cycle starts at least 12 months before a product hits the shelves; you have to predict what people will want, then you have to design and manufacture the items.
In our case, all of our heels are produced to the 200th micron. This simply does not exist in fashion so we have quality control checks in all of our factories and everything we do is complex including logistics and customer service. Then the product comes to your boutique and you don’t just have to manage the collection but hundreds of external variables.
Add to that the advent of social media. I am in a constant 24/7 dialogue with clients from all over the world via several channels. We REALLY put on a good show for such a small company. In addition, what I do isn’t just innovative, it’s highly disruptive.
I was stunned to see that for the first five years of the company no one in the fashion ecosystem really believed that I had created a multiple height shoe with removable heels for women who want comfort and style.
Now I have received congratulations from several CEOs of French luxury brands so that is at least delayed recognition.
These days, it feels as if all styles are in fashion: flat, stiletto, pointed, wedge. Why does your shoe work for all occasions?
Not quite for all occasions. This is absolutely NOT for running or hiking but you really can walk in them. My shoe was intended for all of those moments where you would have wanted to wear a high heel, but you just can’t face the pain and inconvenience. What really makes it work is the heel change. We don’t just offer multi-height. In fact, we have over 400 different heel styles with different colors, shapes, heights, and finishing techniques, from the most traditional like strips of leather that are hand placed on each heel, to cutting edge like a laser-cut cork.
These heels give the person wearing the shoes incredible diversity. The ability to do several things on a busy day like drop the kids off at school, walk, drive, ride a bike or scooter, take the metro, go to a meeting, meet a friend for lunch, after-work cocktails and dinner etc. We have been selling for about seven years now and clients tell me that if they take only one pair of shoes on a business trip or a vacation its mine because the heels are easy to pack and with the heel change, in reality, you are taking several different pairs.
Why should women pay more attention to the kind of heel they wear?
Categorically, if your heel is much higher than 9 cm most people (not all) will start damaging either their feet or their back or their knees or some combination of all of that. Our walking heel is 4 cm high and this is considered safe for walking. Also, if you do love wearing heels it’s better to wear them only a few hours every day. Then there are situations such as driving or coming home late alone where you just aren’t safe in a high heel.
Also, Paris is not exactly high-heel friendly! Once I was wearing a pair of hand-carved Versace heels at a party in a beautiful apartment in the 16th, well believe it or not they had a drain in the middle of their living room. Of course, I fell through it and ruined my heel. A pair of 800€ shoes destroyed the first day out! This does not happen at TANYA HEATH Paris.
Who makes your shoes?
The shoes are hand made in Portugal using French, Italian and Spanish leathers. The heels are made here in France in a city called Cholet which is one of the historic cradles of French shoemaking and we have a new line of custom heels that are made right here in Paris. The client can explain what she wants and we take 1 or 2 weeks to make them for her.
Why do your shoes and heels each have a different name?
This is based on the kind of joint that we use where the heel meets the shoe. Its called either a dovetail joint or in some cases a male-female joint. We play with this. Heels are named after men and shoes are named after women. Each name is a tribute to a person who has helped the company grow. Now I am moving on to women who inspire me. We don’t do two collections per year, we have several drops and the shoes that will come out in December are named after women soccer players. As an ex-soccer player myself I LOVED watching the Women’s World Cup this summer when I was working on these shoes, even though Canada and France, my two teams didn’t do as well as I wanted.
Which fancy shoe or boot is your favorite?
Our thigh-high vegan boot called Lauren. It keeps me warm in the winter and I can wear skirts no problem and it’s sexy without being too risqué. The fabric is velvet neoprene so it can be waterproofed. It’s not for splashing around in the Seine but it will keep you warm and dry.