THE independent shoe design scene is expanding in the country, with more young designers taking the leap into footwear. Some were spurred by family history, while others look to provide an alternative from the industry’s conventional practices.
The designs have been wide-ranging, from pointy heels and blush-coloured peep toe shoes for brides, to casual flats and easy-wearing sandals. And thanks to the Internet and social media, these shoe companies are open 24/7 and their products available to anyone from around the world.
Here are five local shoe brands that are putting their best foot forward:
1. NELISSA HILMAN
Nelissa Hilman started her namesake shoe label in 2012, following a stint at the Polimoda Fashion Institute in Florence, Italy. She started with her signature leather flats and her repertoire has since expanded to include sandals, wedges and high heels.
Her latest collection includes a knockout pair of pointy heels in red suede. She showed her creative side by designing sandals with a folded denim upper and her low block mules are a wonderful take on the cute-ugly shoe trend.
As a designer, Nelissa understands that shoes can be a much-cherished item. “If you have a favourite pair, wear them on rotation,” she says. “It’s very important to allow them to air out, which dries out the moisture so the leather lasts longer.
“Also, clean shoes on a regular basis. This depends on the material, leather can be polished and conditioned, suede looks best when brushed and fabric should be sprayed with stain guard.”
When asked if she can only wear one kind of shoes for the rest of her life, what would it be? “Tricky one,” she answers. “A sporty leather sandal I can walk and run in, enough to dress up and dress down when required to.”
Prices range from RM98 for a pair of discounted sandals to RM490 for heels. Details at www.nelissahilman.com. And note to fans, her ground floor store at Bangsar Village II will move to the first floor of the mall, middle of this month.
2. Christy Ng
Christina Ng’s shoe business began from her mother’s living room via her Facebook and a free blogsite to reach customers. But her Christy Ng label has since grown to a full-fledged enterprise, both online and offline, and she’s even added bags and clothes to the line.
Her latest collection — available for pre-order on www.christyng.com — is named Blossom and features embroidered roses on velvet ankle strap heels. “It’s as if you are walking on a bed of roses,” Ng says.
You can even design your own shoes on the website. There are 12 shoe designs to pick from, and a variety of colours, material and even heel height. There’s also a special section for wedding shoes.
Ng’s most memorable bride is an American woman from North Carolina three years ago. “Her name is Jennifer Callahan and she wanted the same shoe design in nine different heel heights and sizes,” says Ng. “And if I have to pick one shoe design to wear for the rest of my life, it would be a pair of five-inch heels!” she adds.
Prices of Christy Ng’s shoes range from RM39 to RM650 for a custom-made pair. Her shoes are also sold at Jaya One, One Utama and Aeon Tebrau City.
Taking its name from the Malay word for skin, Kulet is founded last year by Aina Syahirah Azlin and Julie Anne Kang. But no actual (animal) skin has been used to make their products, as the duo has made a conscious choice to only use synthetic or vegan leather. The name itself is chosen to reflect their fondness for the nude colour palette.
They’ve released two collections so far, with two designs each. A new collection is due out this month, consisting of two flats and a pair of heels. They’re also introducing a design for men, which will be the first men’s collection from Kulet.
No doubt the men’s design will follow the brand’s aesthetic. “Our favourite shoe designs are usually classic with a sense of simplicity,” says the duo in an email. “These are designs that complement the wearer and do not compete for attention.
“When we were designing our first collection, we took all these elements into consideration and hoped it has translated into our pieces. If we can only wear one shoe design for the rest of our lives it would be sandals, no brainer!”
Kulet shoes are available on www.kulet.co with a price range of RM149 to RM289. You can also follow the brand on Facebook and Instagram (account name KuletStore) for updates on new arrivals and bazaar appearances.
4. Merrack & Co
Merrack & Co is founded by Intan Khalid, with Fauzana Sidek as the designer. The company specialises in espadrilles and has been around since early last year.
It recently released the Rio Bonito collection in collaboration with Malaysian fashion label Innai Red. Shoes from the collection come with a 25mm sole, which is slightly thicker than Merrack & Co’s other espadrilles. Meanwhile, the uppers are beaded or made with brocade fabric, just like the garments from Innai Red.
Prices of Merrack & Co shoes range from RM90 to RM289 for the Rio Bonita pairs. They’re available for purchase at http://merrack.com and several other online and offline stores.
5. Yoke & Theam
Yoke & Theam was launched in 2015 by sisters Yokie Theam and Yoke Sin Theam, whose family has been in the shoemaking business in Ipoh since before World War II.
Focusing on sandals, the company’s signature looks include chunky rubber soles and thick straps in unusual prints or colours. The sisters have also ensured that the insole is soft and spongy for maximum comfort. Meanwhile, one of its most popular designs is the Ace Sandal with its bright orange mesh straps, as well as the Zinnia with its multi-coloured straps in embossed leather.
Prices range from RM88 for discounted items to RM220 for the most recent designs. You can buy them at www.yokentheam.com, as well as online retailers FashionValet and Zalora, and several brick-and-mortar stores.