June 27, 2019
Digging Our Heels into Pashion Footwear with CEO Haley Pavone
Pashion Footwear, the shoe that transforms from heels to flats in seconds with a simple twist.Source: Pashion Footwear
Heels. They’re an elegant, classic wardrobe staple. Yet, in spite of being a a $34.1 billion industry according to Reuters, they are quite possibly the most impractical and unsafe style of footwear out there.
In fact, The Journal of Foot & Ankle Surgery reports the number of high-heel related injuries had doubled between the years of 2002 and 2012, and more recent studies have linked the shoes to musculoskeletal pain, in addition to injuries.
After personally falling victim to the dangers of stilettos, 23-year old entrepreneur Haley Pavone took matters into her own hands and started Pashion Footwear, the company that produces heels designed to transform into flats in seconds with a simple twist.
Yesterday, we reached out to Pavone via telephone to learn a little more about the launch of Pashion Footwear.
The story behind Pashion Footwear with Haley PavoneSource: Pashion Website Launch Video – The Story | Pashion Footwear
How did you get into the fashion industry? Were you studying it in college, or did Pashion Footwear launch you into this field?
I was studying business entrepreneurship in college. I was going to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo (CPSLO), which has a very strong entrepreneurship program there.
I declared entrepreneurship right away when I got into college.
I was studying more of the business side of [being an entrepreneur].
Then, the inspiration for [Pashion Footwear] came from the struggles I’ve undergone while wearing stilettos. I’ve sustained a couple injuries and suffered from traversing around in heels, so it really struck me what a gap this is in the market for women’s footwear.
Studying entrepreneurship, I had it hammered into my head that the best products should fill a need in the market, so I felt very inspired that this was my problem to fix.
On your website, you discuss how the idea for Pashion Footwear came after a friend impaled you with her heel while you were dancing barefoot. What went into the design process? How did the heels of the first prototypes work before you boiled it down to the technology you’ve implemented now?
I was dancing at a formal event during my sophomore year of college and I removed my high heels – as many women do – so I could dance better. I could really only wobble in high heels and I wanted to break it down a little bit more than that.
As I was dancing barefoot, through an unfortunate series of events, another young woman present actually stomped her high heel through my foot.
I started the design process about four to five months later in the October of 2016. I brought on a friend of mine who was in industry technology, and together we developed the initial engineering CAD file for the prototype.
The removable sole support, which we call the “Stelo,” is truly the part of the shoe that’s never been done before. We’re actually patent pending on the “Stelo” in 30 countries.
The anatomy of Pashion FootwearSource: Pashion Footwear
We went through about 10 prototypes in the following year and a half to nail down exactly how that sole support would interlock with the heel to create the most secure mechanism possible.
It was actually pretty surprising. Most start ups probably go back and forth on their designs a lot, but I’d say our initial design concept is still virtually the same shoe today. It was more so the logistics of the locking that have changed between then and now.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of different ways to lock things. It was a question of: do we pop, twist, or slide them together? Eventually, we ended up settling on the twist and lock.
Could you tell us a little more about how the heels and “Stelo” work?
Pashion Footwear photo demonstrationSource: Pashion Footwear
When the high heel is assembled, you literally grip the stiletto itself, turn it out of the shoe’s sole, and pull it down. The sole support stays attached to the heel as you pull so both parts remove as one, but you can further separate them for easier storage.
This leaves you with the flexible sole to run around in as your flat sandal.
When you’re putting it back together, it’s just a matter of reinserting the sole support, pushing the heel back into the sole, then twisting it until it locks. They do click into place so you know they’re secure.
Did you pull any inspiration from Heelys, the shoe with the removable wheel?
It’s funny because I was of the Heelys era, yet it didn’t really cross my mind while designing this to pull inspiration from Heelys [laughs], but it has come up.
The technology doesn’t really overlap at all, but I definitely remember them from my childhood. Maybe it was in my subconscious, but it definitely wasn’t an active part of the design process.
Right now, the shoes are available in two different styles: “Pashionista,” and “Girl Boss” with a removable 4-inch heel. Do you have any additional designs in the works?
The “Pashionista” and “Girl Boss” as flats and stilettosSource: Pashion Footwear
There are actually two different design possibilities that I’d love to speak to.
The first are different styles. To your point, we have the “Pashionista” and the “Girl Boss,” which are both available right now in a black patent leather.
This includes everything from additional sandal styles all the way up to boots, booties, thigh-high boots. The sky’s the limit. We can also work with natural leathers, suede – truly anything.
Our second realm of design possibilities includes the heels themselves. Our goal is to create a collection of heels that can swap on to the various soles.
For instance, you could buy your Pashionista in black suede and not only have the removable four-inch stiletto, but also have a three-inch removable stiletto or a four-inch block heel, etc.
How safe are the heels? Is there any chance they could detach while walking, dancing, or climbing stairs?
We have gone through pretty intensive testing. Currently, [Pashionista Footwear] is in a testing facility called Heeluxe in Santa Barbara California. They’re one of the premier testing firms in the country and they’ve put our shoes through pretty rigorous durability and wear tests.
We’re pretty excited that our shoes have already cleared the standard high heel tests. They’ve been tested under all of the normal weight, strength, and distance regulations. Everything has come back completely normal.
The only way they could potential detach is if they got wedged in something and you went around in a circle. Then it might come out.
In that case, if you had a regular stiletto on, it would break and the shoe would be useless. In this case with our shoes, you’d still have a fully functioning flat and you could either remove the heel from wherever it got stuck and put it back in, or order a replacement heel from our site.
I was consciously trying to get them out and wedge them into a grate to twist them around – then they came out, but I was asking for it at that point.
Right now, Pashion Footwear is available online and select Hudson Bay locations. Do you plan on getting your product into any retailers, department stores, or opening any boutiques outside of the Hudson Bay area? How about getting them over here on the east coast?
To clarify, our webstore is up and running. Anyone on the east coast is more than welcome to order them from pashionfootwear.com!
As far as retail locations, we’re really excited about the stores we’re in now. We’re using them to test the retail channel.
We’re definitely interested in pursuing other retail locations, but we’re waiting to see if our customers want to buy them in retail or if they’d rather buy them online.
What are your overall goals, as a company and as an individual? Outside of Pashion Footwear, do you see yourself staying in the fashion industry or do you see yourself pursuing other endeavors?
Design director Seiji Van Bronkhorst, founder & CEO Haley Pavone, and VP of marketing & promotions Arianna BurtonSource: Pashion Footwear
Oh my goodness, so many goals.
Our biggest goal as a company is continue to grow this product. We see so much potential in it for different heels and styles. We truly believe we’re solving a major problem for the women of today.
Women nowadays do a wide variety of things from 9 AM to 9 PM. Maybe those stilettos they put on in the morning don’t quite make sense hours later after going to work, grocery shopping, going out with friends, maybe picking up the kids.
We’re extremely passionate about getting this product out there in as many different styles as our customers want to get through their day as practically and fashionably as possible.
It’s very exciting to continue to grow the company from a side as well as a style offering standpoint.
As for myself, I’m very closely tied to the goals for Pashion Footwear. They really are my personal goals.
I kind of feel these shoes are my child, more or less, after three years of working on them [laughs].
My personal goals are to stay as involved with the company and make it all that I truly believe that it can be.
What’s next? It sounds like you have many new products in the works, but are there any events or anything else on the horizon for you and the company?
For the company, we have new products as I’ve hinted at.
By next spring, we’re working to get on a regular release schedule. We have our pipeline planned out through the end of 2020 with a lot of exciting things in the works.
Quite frankly for me, I am so focused on the company that what’s next for me is continuing to dive head-first into this and make the most out of the experience.
CEO & founder Haley PavoneSource: Pashion Footwear
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs with an idea or invention? How would you recommend they embark on their journey?
I think the biggest piece of advice I have for young entrepreneurs is:
I think there’s a really big tendency – especially among younger people – to think we have all this time to get it done and to worry about it after college – or whenever the timeline may be.
Starting this company as a junior in college, I had a lot of feedback that would ask, “Oh, isn’t that a lot with class and school?”
Yes, while I was in school I had classes and tests, but in 15 years from now I could have children, a mortgage, and other things taking up my time.
Starting a company is never the most convenient thing, but if it’s something you can’t stop thinking about you just have to get it started.
Sure, it may not be the right time, but you need to make it the right time and basically take charge of your own destiny – not to sound cliché.
Do you have any additional comments or final thoughts to share?
Our site is live so check us out! It’s pashionfootwear.com and we’re very excited to have this first batch of inventory in to get the shoes out to women who want them.
Side by side comparison of Pashion Footwear as a heel and a flatSource: Pashion Footwear
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