After treating countless female patients with foot issues resulting from shoes that didn’t fit properly, Dr. Joan Oloff decided to launch her own line of fashion-comfort looks to address common fit issues. The line, retailing from $340-$520, is made in Italy, and available in select retailers and online.
Here, Oloff discusses the challenges in balancing fashion and comfort and the shoe designer that most inspired her.
How do you use your clinical expertise to market your brand?
“Education. I come from a teaching background at a podiatry school, so it’s something I’m comfortable with. My challenge is to educate women in a way that’s not too technical but still gets them to understand what [differentiates] my shoes. When I started my line, I went back to podiatry school to gather gait studies and CT scans that can show women images of what happens to their feet in a shoe.”
Since you don’t come from a design background, how involved are you in the look of the line?
“I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know, so I brought in a creative team with two talented designers and a merchandiser. I have a salesman who’s successful at brand building and has been in stores day in and day out for the past 20 years talking to retailers. We [then] pool all our resources.”
Your collection comes with a luxury price tag, in the $340-$520 range. Who is your target customer?
“It’s much wider than people think. I had a patient in my office [accompanied] by her 17-year-old daughter, who was wearing 4 1/2-inch heels. Her mom said she wears them all the time, but now wanted her to wear my shoes. I also held a brand preview in New York and invited 20-something bloggers. I wasn’t sure how they’d respond to the line, but one said my heels felt better than her flats. We’re seeing women in their mid-20s on up [buying the line]. I see it as an investment, especially compared with the cost of coming into my office with a foot problem.”
The luxury fashion-comfort category continues to expand. Are you worried about the competition?
“I’m excited to see more foot doctors get involved with the design and construction of footwear. It’s a great sign and a great trend and something we will be seeing more of in the future. My insole construction is extremely difficult and expensive [to create], but I don’t compromise. We have internal platforms that don’t just affect pitch but offload the pressure points in the ball of the foot. My lasts are so different, it’s taken me a couple of years to convince [manufacturers] we can do things this way. It’s disrupting the way they’ve been making footwear.”
As a newcomer to shoes, which designers have inspired you?
“We all step on the shoulders of people who came before us. I’ve admired many of the luxury brands, including Stuart Weitzman because of his aesthetic and the construction of his shoes. [Early on], his shoes probably fit better than anybody’s in that genre. My shoes take what the Stuart Weitzman woman was looking for to the next generation [of comfort customers].”