About a year ago, Amal Clooney (a woman whose style we worship as much as we admire her talent) addressed the United Nations in a gorgeous buttercup yellow Bottega Venetta shift dress that she accessorized with the perfect pair of black pumps. They were sleek, delicate and timeless — and they had the tiniest detail on the heel that set them apart from just your ordinary stiletto: a removable strap that effectively turn the stunners into a pair of Mary Janes. Then she wore them again in New York City on the same trip and we swore to find out the designer behind them. The answer: Jennifer Chamandi — a luxury British footwear label. Given that the line wasn’t yet available in the States, we reached out to the designer herself to get the scoop on her signature designs, as well as what to look forward to from the brand when it launches Stateside. Read on!
Stylish: Let’s start from the beginning: what inspired starting your own shoe line?
Jennifer Chamandi: I’ve had a passion for shoes ever since I could remember. I would study for my exams when I was very young while wearing my mother’s shoes. I would say that saying I studied better in heels! They made me feel confident.
I’ve also always had a mind for numbers and the more technical a subject was, the more it interested me. Shoe making is so complex, I love it!
Stylish: Your signature detail is the needle thread strap — how did you come up with it? Was it always your intention to create a two-in-one shoe?
JC: The shoe market is extremely competitive and I wanted to have a point of recognition to stand out. The “Eye Of The Needle,” delicately carved and inlaid into each heel, is my brand’s DNA. It comes from French, “Le Talon Aiguille,” the literal translation for “Needle Heel”, which refers to stilettos. In today’s world of customization where women seek unique products, it was important to offer them a distinctive shoe that has versatility. The shoes can be worn with or without the strap and in both cases they are recognizable because of their “eye of the needle” detail. But it’s also a silhouette-enhancing design: the position of the strap below the ankle is also very flattering because it gives the impression of elongating the leg rather than cutting into it and shortening the appearance of it.
Stylish: Some of your shoes in recent collections have more than one pattern or texture — why? How will you continue to push classic styles and silhouettes forward?
JC: During the creative process I see, I touch, I smell… it’s a totally sensorial experience! I normally am inspired by one color specifically and I build my collection around it. I like to have homogeneity in my collection, so there will always be a connecting line going from one shoe to the other. I create my moodboard like a Tetris puzzle! Mixing Leopard or Zebra with another leather has become one of my signatures, as well as the multi-texture/mono-color combination. This enriches the shoe by the mixture of textures, but the style remains subtle.
I would describe my aesthetic to be classic — the pump, the sandal, the slingback, the d’Orsay are all styles I gravitate toward 88— but with a strong identity due to the signature keyhole inlaid into each heel. It gives the footwear modern character along with the playful combination of color and texture.
Stylish: Where do you find your inspiration?
JC: My inspiration comes from my love for the abstract geometry art movement and my mind for numbers. I am drawn to designs that reduce visuals to essentials of form and color, that way there is purity of the lines and methodical precision.
When it comes to what I look for in a shoe myself first and foremost, I look for comfort. From the “décolleté” of the shoe (openness of the front), the curvature of the foot, the right padding — it all has to balance and the smallest change in proportions can have a big impact on comfort. The quality of the leather also is a huge comfort factor. A shoe can have the most aesthetically pleasing design, but if it hurts the foot, it can ruin the special occasion it was bought for. My nightmare would be to see a woman wearing my shoes sitting down at a party instead of dancing away because her feet are uncomfortable.
Stylish: Amal Clooney has famously worn your shoes. Has she inspired any of your designs?
JC: Seeing her wear my shoes was such a proud, happy moment. When I design my shoes I think of her, and all the modern women like her that juggles between career, family and social life. I believe all women are superwomen!
Stylish: Your brand is expanding in the Middle East and UK — when will you hit the stores in the USA?
JC: I’ve already been exposed to the US via the online retailer Farfetch and my shoes have already been purchased by wonderful women in New York, Miami and Dallas who have sent me photos! But my next upcoming launch is with Net-a-Porter and I am thrilled because it will be a focused launch into the US and I will be launching my flats with them! Of course, these styles will embed the subtle Eye of the Needle signature detail, as well as the removable strap.
If this doesn’t make you want to pinch your pennies and get to saving for the Jennifer Chamandi launch at Net-a-Porter, we don’t know what will!