Yasmina Cadiz and Amanda Real want to make baby shoes with soul.
Looking to recapture the more personal side of shoemaking, the design duo last month launched Toe Jamm, a collection of soft, vegetable-tanned leather styles that are handcrafted by a small team of artisans in downtown Los Angeles.
“Not too long ago, there was a connection between us and the maker of our shoes. Somehow that got lost in the process of mass-production, but there is a real yearning [among consumers] to get back to what is authentic,” Cadiz said. “We want to make shoes that mean something, that become treasured keepsakes.”
And Toe Jamm has a unique look for a baby line. In designing the collection, Cadiz and Real aimed for a sense of sophistication, with edgier styling, a more muted, grown-up color palette and simple details. “Everyone has a certain idea in their head of what a baby shoe should look like,” Cadiz said. “We wanted to create something different, something more stylish.”
The offering consists of 15 looks, each available in multiple colorways, including the Kingpin, a quirky take on a bowling shoe; the Joplin, a Mary Jane style with a hand-tie-dyed strap; and the Tally-ho, a buckle-strap bootie detailed with checkered wool felt accents. Several vegan styles feature naturally dyed canvas uppers and black foam bottoms.
Another difference: Toe Jamm’s shoes are made on lasts rather than with stitch-and-turn — a rarity for baby shoes.
To enhance the shoes’ keepsake appeal, the company offers to brand names on the soles with a leather burning tool. The shoes come tucked into wool felt gift bags that also can be personalized.
Not interested in a high-volume business, Cadiz and Real will sell the $90-to-$135 line only through their website and in a select number of high-end boutiques. And next month, the company will move into a larger workshop on L.A.’s Industrial Street, where it plans to add a retail store.
“We want the brand to be artisanal and remain small,” said Cadiz. “Selling to a big retailer like Macy’s is not our goal. There is no way we could do what we’re doing on a large scale without sacrificing the quality and workmanship.”
As freelance designers, Yasmina Cadiz (above, left) and Amanda Real have been asked to create everything from motorcycle seats to custom boxing gloves for an Acura ad campaign. Both also had short stints with footwear brand Calleen Cordero, where Real made handbags and Cadiz assisted with the rebranding campaign.
Cadiz and Real used their own first pairs of baby shoes (above), which they keep hanging in their workshop, as inspiration when they made a special gift for a friend expecting her first baby. The tiny pair of leather shoes sparked the idea for Toe Jamm.
Supporting local charities is a key part of the business plan. Toe Jamm is partnering with organizations including the Downtown Women’s Center and the Foundation for Second Chances to provide assistance and mentoring. “We want to make a difference in our own backyard,” Cadiz said.