Footwear Designer Tanya Heath Talks Interchangeable Heels And The Rise Of Fashion Tech


Photo: tanyaheathca on Instagram 

Like many other stylish women, Tanya Heath believes in putting her best foot forward. However, unlike other trendsetters, the Ottawa-born and Paris-based footwear designer has founded a line of shoes with adjustable and interchangeable heels. Heath officially founded her eponymous label, Tanya Heath Paris, in 2013. Almost five years later, the Canadian designer is successfully creating shoes that can transition from flats to pumps. Her clients are able to pick and choose their choice of heel, which range from conservative block heels to towering stilettos. Along with her Paris location and a boutique in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood, Heath also has a shop in Beirut, Lebanon. We sat down with the former corporate girl turned fashionista to chat about the future of footwear, the influence of technology on style and why her heels are a surprisingly practical choice.

Photo: tanyaheathca on Instagram 

Real Style: What inspired you to create this concept of interchangeable heels in the first place?

Tanya: It was for me. I live in Paris, and I’m a size 38 or 40 in European [shoe] sizing. So I need that extra height and I need to blend in. I’ve always been in the professional environment where looking good was important. By the end of it, I couldn’t make it through the day in high heels. I was so angry with the shoe industry, and I was thinking maybe it will take a woman to understand women, and create a product that women actually want. That was the thought process behind the shoe, and why I stopped my real job to create Tanya Heath.

Real Style: What is it about interchangeable heels that women are drawn to?

Tanya: I think this is because it speaks directly to a woman’s life on two levels. The first level is that women today are busy. Women today are very active, in the house and outside of the house. They wear many hats every day. This is a way of saying “wear many heels every day.” The shoe is an enabler. You can leave the house in one pair of shoes, looking good, feeling confident, being comfortable, and just by switching your heels, you get to switch your functions and adapt to a lot of roles comfortably. The fact that you can go from a low heel to a high heel to a stiletto really means you can keep twisting the shoe to fit in with whatever you are doing during that period.

The second reason is that the shoes make people feel a little bit more special, because somehow they are co-creating. The way we work commercially is that it’s a complete pick and choose concept. First you choose your shoe, and then you choose your heels. A brand isn’t dictating what you are taking. The client gets to take exactly the colour, the styles and the height that fits in with their lifestyle, and makes them feel fabulous. I call it the difference between dating and getting married! Here you can keep switching the heel, and you don’t need to commit!

Photo: tanyaheathca on Instagram 

Real Style: Do you have a personal favourite shoe design from your label?

Tanya: I love the Margaret boot. The reason I love it is because I’ve never seen anyone wear it who didn’t look sexy. The way it is cut, it’s able to cinch the ankle, and it gives everybody a beautiful ankle. As a designer, I have always liked a feminine silhouette, even if you are wearing slim jeans.

Real Style: Which current footwear trends are you admiring right now?

Tanya: The Fall 2017/Winter 2018 collection that maybe went straight to my heart was Saint Laurent. I appreciated the casual disco vibe. Another trend is the thigh-high. We’ve done a thigh-high. What I like about is that A- I am warm, B- I don’t have to say “it’s February, am I going to wear that dress?” Ours is actually waterproof, and I love the aesthetic.

Real Style: You mentioned you came from the corporate world. How did you combine this life with your passion for design?

Tanya: I was in private equity right before. Before that, I was simultaneously a marketing director for various high tech companies, and I taught innovation at one of the engineering schools. The thread is that I have always been active in technology and I am an innovation expert. This is fashion with technology and innovation. That fashion tech space, or the personalization space or Internet bespoke space; those are now strong trends that everybody is talking about.

Real Style: Fashion tech is huge right now. What do you think the future of technology and footwear will be?

Tanya: I think we are just at the beginning of it. If you speak to people, the future is already here. A lot of people are 3D printing. The adjustable space is absolutely exploding. We were precursors in both. The trend might be things that people don’t see, so the time to market is much faster. In between when I design a shoe and it hits the store, there are only six months now.  I own my own factory. We are literally designing in the factory, which we didn’t do before.

Real Style: Are there any celebrities who you would like to design for?

Tanya: The quintessential Tanya Heath woman is Amal Clooney. She’s gorgeous and her fashion sense is impeccable. Her ability to mix contemporary pieces within her lifestyle, she embodies the Tanya Heath Paris woman.