Ce Ce Chin owns footwear company 80%20, which balances elements of fashion and comfort in their unique shoe designs. We met up with Ce Ce to learn more about her approach to footwear design, and get insight into footwear fashion as it relates to health and wellness.
Tell us about your company and approach to footwear design.
I would not call myself a comfort shoe designer, but 80%20 has been designing shoes to fulfill the need for contemporary fashion and casual street comfort.
Our calling card in the industry has been that our shoes look like flats, but there’s a 3 inch interior wedge, so its ideal for girls who want to get some height without wearing heels. It’s kinda like the padded bra of footwear.
In terms of my design approach, I like to create an ongoing visual dialogue. I create story boards of images and references from magazines and swatches of various surface textures. I create a wall that “moves” as some images drive me futher in design and others recede and are then removed. My sketches evolve as the boards evolve.
What’s inspired you recently?
EO is a global networking group with local chapters and memberships spaning all industries. They have cocktails parties and lectures, but the key feature is called the Forum. It’s a smaller selected group of 8-12 members that serve as a Board of Directors for your business.
What trend makes you hopeful about the future?
The designs are creepy and I would probably never wear them, however their success makes me hopeful that people (namely women) are calling out comfort as a priority in footwear. It’s like the comfort aspect is so important that it overrides the fact that this shoe is so ugly. On the other hand, many women ignore comfort altogether in the name of being sexy or stylish by wearing super high stilettos or shoes with zero support. So it leads me to believe there is a middle ground- the customer’s need for both style and comfort- hasn’t been fully addressed.
Are you skeptical about shoes in the footwear fitness category?
I don’t know. To be honest, fitness is fitness; these brands are an extension of fitness, but they are not replacing the benefits of going to the gym or jogging. Doctors and physical therapists approve of them and the designers behind them are credible, so there is something legitimate going on. But I don’t want this movement of footwear to replace people taking care of themselves the old fashioned way by eating right and treating their bodies right. But it seems that is the idea the advertising drives, “you’re walking all the time, so why not get a work out while you walk?”
You’re a boutique shop working with Chinese factories; how do you see the relationship between China and the USA?
To most Americans, “Made in China” means cheap and inferior. To date, China has been a destination for production based on low prices, but now companies are choosing to produce there because the labor force is skilled and willing to try new things. The generation that is running the manufacturing does not have long standing ideas of how things “should be done”. America will come to appreciate that and embrace China as a team member in innovation.
On an economic level, costs are rising in China due to two main issues: 1) More skilled workforce demanding higher wages and 2) Recent decision from the Chinese government to allow the historically undervalued currency to be flexible against the US dollar in the market. This will improve the relationship between US and China as the countries come closer to being “equals”. Obama has been pushing for this because China’s view has been to keep their currency undervalued to be more competitive with others. So by allowing the currency to rise, it helps US export to China. There will be an increase in pricing of imports and companies like me are really going to feel that!
What are you working on right now?
I’m designing Spring 2011, getting ready to fly to China to work on the prototypes with the sample room. I do this about three or four times a year.
Photo by Melissa Ham