The shoes choose me

Tips and recommendation for buying small shoes from a well traveled design consultant

עברית

Its’ not that I chose them – says Gillian who wears shoes size 35, and constantly finds creative solutions to find shoes that fit.

Who: Gillian Golan – or Gilli as most people call her – a close friend, business consultant for design focused businesses, senior lecturer in Shenkar college, lecturer and teacher of “From creating to selling – from designing to marketing” courses. The course provides tools (=knowledge) for marketing and selling in the commercial market for designers and creative people.

Me: so what is a shoe for you?

Gillian: where will I find it, where are there shoes that fit me?? In one word – a mission!

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Above: Gillian’s dream shoes. Why?? Read on to hear the story 🙂 were bought in Triest, Italy, summer 2016

Me: a favorite shoe, you really love

Gillian: it changes. Every time I have a shoe I’m crazy about for a while. I fall in love with shoes that fit me perfectly, and also look good on me.

The perfect fit is really important because it is so hard for me to find shoes that suit me.

It’s not only about the size  – from the start so few shoes are made in size 35 – in addition there are whole categories that I know in advance will not fit me; the sandals and shoes that wrap around the shin are almost always too wide for me. all the gladiator sandals for example that were so fashionable this summer – I couldn’t buy even one of them.

So the challenge is double – first to find a shoe size 35. And then also find a shoe that fits in width and proportions.

Another thing I realized throughout the years is that many times when I do find size 35 shoes, they are more a mature style, addressing older women. Many times they are fancy evening shoes, and this is not my personal style.

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Me: and what about custom-made shoes
Gilli: I tried but it wasn’t a successful experience. The result wasn’t comfortable. We changed, fixed them but it didn’t work. Since then I travel the world in the search of the perfect shoe, hoping to find my dream shop – full of size 35 shoes.

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Me: describe the process of buying shoes

Gilli: I stroll down a street, suddenly my eye catches a shoe shop with all its glory. The shoes are alluring, I want to reach out to them but I am reserved; I first check to see if they have them in size 35. Usually I don’t even have to ask the staff because the shops exhibit the smallest size they have available – if size 35 isn’t presented in the story, they probably will not have it in stock.

So I mapped shops that sell size 35 shoes. There was an excellent shop in Amsterdam called Cinderella but it seems it closed. Another excellent shop is Giordano’s in New York (details below). In this shop size 35 is even considered to be a big size. The shoes are not that cheap, their price is about 200-300$, but worth the cost. they hold designer’s samples, samples which are made in small sizes to look attractive to buyers.

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Me, thinking to mysesf: this touches a sensitive issue; the masculine fantasy for “small women”, something we’ve been moving away from during the past decades.

But let’s leave this for now because people should feel comfortable with fashion and the designed items that surround us, no matter what your size is.

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Above: shoes designed by Liz Claiborne. Materials: leather and microfiber. I especially loved the upper’s shape and cut of shapes.

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Above: shoes by Noya. Materials: leather, textile

Gilli continues: (she has a lot to say about size 35!:) because it’s so hard for me to find shoes, it turns out I have a lot of shoes; when I find shoes that fit me I buy them right away! And there’s a big contrast; I either have expensive shoes that cost 200$ or more, or cheap shoes bought for 10$. All the mid range, the “regular” shoes most women buy – are out of range for me. it’s as if I am transparent for the designers and planners of the commercial production lines.

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Above: shoes by American Eagle. Materials: synthetic. Maybe: the lining is leather, couldn’t identify it for sure.

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Above: shoes by Fione. Gilli loves them so much she even had the back strap repaired by a cobbler.

More places Gilli buys shoes:

Lord and Taylors, a stylish chain of shops, I try to buy there during sales.

Another tip, relevant for the USA but not only: when I buy a few pairs at a time I receive a big discount at the counter, 30%-40%. They have enormous shoe shops, DSW for example. The shoe boxes of each style are stacked one on top of the other and at the top of each pile the shoe is exhibited, as if saying “look at me” and telling which style is in the boxes below. The shoe boxes with very small or large sizes are marked with a circle, this way I can easly identify a shoe box with size 35. When I enter the shop I don’t even look at the shoes, I look only at the boxes and when I find a shoe box size 35 I look up to see at the shoe. This way I bought the red sandal, I looked up and said “wow, a red sandal, ok, that’s cool”, I wasn’t even looking for such a sandal. This way I’m constantly surprised by the shoes I buy.

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Above: followed the magic dots; a red sandal size 35. Materials: leather upper, synthetic insock, wedge coated by cord.

Another brand that has women’s shoes size 35 is Clarks, but I can find this size only when travelling abroad

In Israel I usually buy in Aldo, Zara kids and the local brand Twenty Four Seven.

Aldo – my personal style is slightly different than theirs, but I can still find in Aldo shoes I like, I try to wait to the sales season.

In Zara kids I usually buy their flat pump shoes, their sizes are a little large, so sometimes I find myself buying size 34.

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Above: sandals by Twenty Four Seven. Materials: leather, studs, injected polyurethane outsole.

A thought: the sandal is made with hardly any stitching, other than one exception – a stitch at the back strap. This reduces the cost of production – the labor work is expensive – and this makes me wonder why they didn’t find another solution besides stitching.

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Above: one single stitch; it’s not clear to me why they didn’t use a stud for connecting.

More shops worldwide: in south east Asia it is easy for me to buy. In Macy’s I usually buy more than one pair at a time. I can spend 3-4 hours searching but know that as far as shoes are concerned I can enjoy some peace and quiet for a year or so.

Me: A shoe you dream about, long for

Gilli: at the end of the day I fantasize about something simple – a classic knee-high boot that will fit perfectly, have a low heel about 4 cm high, a boot made of high quality materials that I could enjoy wearing for a few seasons.

Me: a story about a shoe which is special to you

Gilli: a few months ago I was a guest at the ITS competition which takes place once a year in Trieste, Italy. I accompanied one of the participants in the competition (name of —-) , who also won first prize.

We arrived in Trieste and I felt like I want to find the perfect shoe that would match the skirt and shirt I bought the day before – finding clothes that fit me is also not easy! I knew the chances were not high; to find shoes that match the clothes and match me too in a short time. And then, against all odds it happened! I found pump shoes in a colour matching the shirt. At the end of the day I found 4 items in 4 different shops, all matching one another and matching me too!

Gilli: and this is the time for another tip: it’s easier to find shoes size 35 in south of Italy than in the north, where people are taller.

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Above: Shoes by La Nouvelle, jacket by Pimkie, Skirt by Motivi

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Above: Gilli’s lucky shoes, bought in Trieste, Italy

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Above: Gilli and Tatiana Lobanova at the ITS competition Trieste, Italy

We continue our travel in time.

Me: a memory linked to shoes?

Gilli: I remember there was a fashion for sneakers with colour outsole, these were shoes by Gali, and mygrandfather who had a factory for rubber produced the outsoles for them.

Me: your grandfather had a rubber factory?? Where, when, what was its name?

Gilli: Tagel factory, in Akko

Me: you are truly a family of producers,

Gilli: yes… eventually my grandfather sold the factory to one of the large companies in Israel. I have another memory: sandals with a rubber outsole through which you could thread laces that tied around the foot and leg, you could switch between the laces and choose your favorite colour.

Me, thinking to myself: it is like the freedom Gilli would like to have today choosing shoes…

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Above: red shoes bought in Payless – follow the dots on the boxes 🙂

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Above: girl’s sandal we designed in Nimrod shoes in 2012, with a changeable lace

Me: and childhood reminds me of your daughters…

Gilli: right now they are both size 35, and I hope their shoe size will grow, and they don’t stay at size 35 for two reasons

Me: I can guess why..

Gilli: first, so they will not need to cope with this “nightmare” of size 35 in a world which produces most of its shoes from size 36 upwards and…

Me: so they will not wear your shoes!

Gilli: exactly 🙂

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Above: a photo I shot of Gilli during her fist pregnancy, at the beginning of our friendship – today her daughter is 15 and wears shoes size 35 🙂 This photo was our first photo collaboration, many more to follow

So after my visit to the “house of 35” with three beautiful and creative women I was left with thoughts about small women who are actually big and meaningful in so many aspects

Print and keep:

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Author: lewishelley

Footwear designer and lover, (almost) always curious

3 thoughts on “The shoes choose me”

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