An airy style, contemporary lines and smart design, the heels of young footwear designer Jennifer Chamandi’s heels have been spotted among celebrities like Bella Hadid or Amal Clooney. The talented woman with a determined character tells us about her journey…
– When and why did you start your own line of footwear?
I launched my debut collection on 20th October 2016, 10 days before giving birth to my twin girls! It took me 18 months from the time I decided to embark on this journey, to setting up my company, prototyping, sampling and finally launching my brand. I’ve had a passion for shoes ever since I could remember revising for my exams when I was little, wearing my mother’s shoes, saying I studied better in heels!
My dream to create shoes never left me, even when I worked in finance where I wore towering heels and used to get told the trading floor was not a catwalk! I’m a very determined person and my motto is “Don’t dream your life, live your dreams”, so I had to live mine!
– What is your background and prior experience?
I studied Economics at the London School of Economics, which encouraged me to start my career in Banking. I worked at Bank of America Merrill Lynch for 6 years and my last year at Julius Baer. It was high pressure and I loved it. But I had to stay true to myself and pursue my passion. Whilst in banking, I enrolled in footwear making and shoe design courses during weekends and during the summer at Central Saint Martins and London’s Cordwainers’ College to deepen my technical knowledge and keep my inspiration alive. I also took intensive Italian lessons every day for 4 months to be able to present my business plan to my manufacturer in Italian!
– How did you manage to create a unique branding?
The shoe market is extremely competitive and I wanted to have a point of recognition to stand out. I thoroughly worked with an artisan atelier in Milan over 18 months to develop a unique concept that would give my shoes a distinctive look: le “Talon Aiguille” (literal French translation for the “Needle Heel”) where the gold-plated eye of the needle is delicately carved and inlaid into each heel. You can wear the shoes with or without the strap and in both cases the shoes are recognizable because of their subtle “eye of the needle” detail. The position of the strap below the ankle gives the impression of elongating the leg rather than cutting into it.
– What inspires when designing a collection?
The collections are driven by my love for the abstract geometry art movement and my mind for numbers, a reduction to essentials of form and colour, employing an analytical approach in the translation of colour and texture, the purity of the lines, the methodical precision. During the creative process I see, I touch, I smell… a totally sensorial experience at its apogee!
– How did you decide to introduce the brand to the market?
I was so lucky to be introduced to (Browns CEO) Holli Rogers and Laura Larbalestier (Women’s Buying Director) to whom I presented my prototype which they loved. They asked me to show them my sample collection when it was ready, I had less than 2 months to get the production finalised, but I managed to do it and they loved it! I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect partner to launch my debut collection, Browns is such an iconic shop, its buying is so refined and edgy and is a champion of emerging talent. I couldn’t be more grateful to them.
– Any projects for the near future? What is the next collection you are working on?
Browns just confirmed to me the third collection! They selected 10 new designs which will be available in stores and online from September 2017. Also I am doing a pop-up at Harrods the month of September and I couldn’t be more excited! It is a huge opportunity and a privilege to be able to showcase my shoes at such a legendary luxury department store. The collection I am currently working on is SS18 (in Fashion you live in the future!). Apart from new colours and textures, I am thrilled to say that I am currently prototyping a flat shoe! It will of course still incorporate my signature “Eye of the Needle”, which is a big challenge technically to produce, but will add such elegance, and character, to a classic flat shoe.
Article originally published in L’Officiel Levant, May 2017 Issue