Who's the next great fashion designer? We're on the lookout for the lesser-known or up-and-coming stars who are creating collections and careers worthy of some praise and closet space. Although they aren't household names yet, we're so impressed with their skills that we bet they will be soon. Check out "The Fresh Faces of Fashion" for the scoop on the designers we believe are the next big thing.
Tanya Heath Paris
It isn't everyday that you meet a designer who is completely revolutionizing fashion. But when we spoke with Tanya Heath last week, we knew we had stumbled upon one of those people.
The Canadian-born designer, who now lives and works in Paris, has devoted her life to creating practical, comfortable and beautiful shoes for women. Unlike ordinary footwear, all of Heath's creations come with interchangeable heels. With the push of a button, customers can switch between high heels (3.5 inches tall) and low heels (1.5 inches tall).
We chatted with the brilliant designer to find out about how she came up with this idea and what it took to make her dream a reality. Here's what we learned.
HuffPost: When did you come up with the idea of interchangeable heels?
Tanya Heath: During my first job here in Paris. I changed out of my ballerina flats and put on high heels for work and everyone just started ridiculing me and calling me "la New-Yorkaise," so I stopped wearing ballerinas in the metro. I was only wearing heels, which at that time, we're talking 20 years ago, that's what Parisian women did. And then gradually I started destroying my feet. I had my three children and I was wearing high heels even while being pregnant just to go to work. The real moment came six years ago when I met another designer who had revolutionized the lingerie industry and she gave me the courage to go out on my own and explore the idea.
HuffPost: Did you have any traditional fashion design training?
TH: I'm completely self-taught.
HuffPost: From conception to completion, how long did it take for you to develop these shoes?
TH: The design challenge was monumental. Basically, if you take a normal pump, the measurements are quite detailed and the measurements are reasonably standardized. When you've got a shoe that is moving as much as ours does, it's a challenge to not only make it stay on your foot but also to make it beautiful. It actually took us three years before we got truly beautiful footwear on the multi-height platform.
HuffPost: Where are your shoes sold right now? We know there's e-commerce and then stores in Paris, Toronto and one coming in Los Angeles, but anywhere else?
We're in Portugal and we'll be opening in the duty-free section of the Lisbon airport. I don't yet have an opening date for that, but that's imminent. And we'll probably be opening in Colombia and Taiwan before the end of the year.
HuffPost: If your shoes were in a department store, which designers would they be next to?
TH: I think we would do well next to Jimmy Choo. We have the same kind of client as a Jimmy Choo girl, however we offer a lot more comfort and a lot more versatility. If we look at our database marketing with our Parisian clients, the strongest cross-over is with Christian Louboutin. So it's really women who can't handle the pain anymore, so they want the look but they don't want the pain.
HuffPost: If you could see any celebrity wearing your shoes, who would it be?
TH: I would pick someone like Arianna Huffington or Tina Fey. I'd definitely pick a smart, independent woman who is on top of her game. Somebody who is well respected for being not just beautiful but for thinking.
HuffPost: If you weren't a designer, what would you be doing?
TH: I would probably be in private equity. I used to be in private equity, so I guess I would still be there.
HuffPost: What does the future look like for Tanya Heath Paris?
TH: We're coming out with a handbag in a few more months... I won't say more on it, but the handbag will be as revolutionary as the shoe. As the brand evolves, we will continually ask ourselves, "Is it possible to make a fashionable product that makes women look good but also allows them to live their busy days?" And if the answer is yes, we will try to do it.
Shop Tanya Heath's shoes here.
Fashion Designer, Tanya Heath
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.