Tanya Heath's futuristic shoes with adjustable heel heights, which intend to combine comfort with glamour, were one of the hottest new items at the recent GDS fair in Düsseldorf. After being taken up by the Printemps department store in Lyon and by Sarenza's online shoe shop in France earlier this year, they were picked up by Footwise in the U.K. and by Shoe Biz in Belgium.
Apparently, Heath's patent-pending invention is not just another gimmick. After a series of fruitless experiments by industrial engineers, her clip-on system was developed after months of research by 14 French engineers and shoe technicians to ensure maximum stability and durability. It uses some of the precision techniques employed in watchmaking and in the development of the molds for the moving parts of the high-speed TGV train.
Tested and certified by the French CTC laboratory, the first commercial line currently on sale consists of only four styles of feminine yet basic leather shoes and four interchangeable heels that the customer can choose from. They vary between 4.5 centimeters for walking and nine centimeters for wearing after work.
They are produced at the French shoe factory of Marco in Rouen, which has gone through many changes of ownership in the last few years, on a line that can make 400 pairs per day. Heath and her business partner, Florent Lucas, had previously offered to buy a whole factory that had closed down, but they were unable to get sufficient support for the manufacturing stage of the project.
The two partners are now hoping to get some support from the French Shoe Industry Federation, as Lucas was elected a few weeks ago as the youngest member of its executive board. A former consultant in technology marketing and finance, born in Canada 41 years ago, Heath says she has already invested €600,000 of her own savings in the project, including the sale of an apartment, and is looking for additional financing to develop it further.
Heath also has her own e-commerce site. Among other plans, Heath is working on setting up her own first physical store in Paris later this year. She is also interested in licensing her technology to other firms.
Interestingly, Heath came out with her invention at about the same time as news circulated in Italy about the launch of Elena Cardinali's interchangeable heels. Without commenting on their technological capabilities, Heath noted that Cardinali's heels are higher and more than twice as expensive as her own, which retail for between €295 and €345 a pair, plus a price of €20 to €34 for each heel.