Growing up seeking my own sense of self, I was captivated by the confidence of Audrey Hepburn, the gracefulness of Grace Kelly, and the rebel that was Princess Diana. These women symbolized an otherworldly charisma, and exuded confidence in the way they looked and walked. I loved Audrey in her flats the way I loved Princess Diana in her stilettos . They made everything about fashion, context, and comfort look so easy.
But my reality was a little different, there is an old adage “beauty is pain”, which is still so relevant in today’s world. Women suffer to be in style. I wondered, how did “beauty without pain” become common parlance? Is it time to give up on heels and start the #nostilettos movements?
Being about 5 feet 1 inches, I have often been victim of atrociously high heels that looked fabulous. I reached a turning point, when I was on my way to a job interview in a fabulous pair of high heeled shoes, but my focus drifted towards my feet that were killing me . The ridiculousness of this situation was not lost on me. You see, over the years, even the callouses and hardened blisters were no longer protection for my poor love affair with high heels. I ended up buying a pair of flip-flops and changed from my pair of killer heels.
I clearly wasn’t the only one, but for the longest time, it seemed like everyone was suffering in silence. With the emergence of social media , I finally found a safe space and found my soul sisters on Twitter, thousands of women just like me. There was a universal paradigm of shift in how high heels were perceived, when celebrities went barefoot on the red carpet. Sneakers became the obvious alternatives to those who didn’t want to put up with the pain of high heels.
So I asked myself, what if the answer is not to get rid of heels? What if I just pulled off those heels and converted them into flats. What if I mixed and matched those heels with different variations, chunkies, stilettos, you get the idea? What if I had a choice to wear what I want, when I wanted to?
Leveraging my engineering background, I started developing a prototype of Mestrae Interchangeable Heels. I spoke to numerous women while studying the market and I discovered a dirty little secret. About one third of them hid a pair of shoes in their handbags. One more thing to carry around, should we have more baggage than we already have?
A focus on technology improvement is required for women so that they no longer are tied with excuses by marketing gimmicks of brands who pursue the idea that “beauty is pain”. Women deserve that freedom to be fashionable and comfortable.
This year, I launched Mestrae Interchangeable Heels on Kickstarter. We met our goal within half the allotted time, indicating there is a thirst for change, but the work has only just begun. This is an uphill battle, a cultural shift in re-imagining a better future for our feet and ourselves.
As a young woman growing up in conservative Malaysia, I often lived vicariously through Carrie Bradshaw, her sense of fashion, and her Manolos added a vibrancy to my life. Carrie made life seem so effortless in a pair of fantastic shoes. That is what I want to do for shoes, bridging hope and reality for women who wear them. Where fashion meets technology, in shoes that are effortless, comfortable, and fashionable. Where women are able to change from a pair of heels to flats with a snap of a button and keep moving forward in style. Its time to give women the freedom to wear what they want, when they want!