Black History Month Spotlight: How Salone Monet Is Fixing the Shoe Industry’s Nude Heel Problem

2021 marks FN’s fourth year of presenting its Black History Month Spotlight series, which shines a light on some of the remarkable executives, entrepreneurs and designers in the shoe industry. As part of our ongoing commitment to champion diversity across all areas of the footwear business, we will continue to amplify the voices and stories of Black movers and shakers who are worthy to be recognized all year round.

Google “nude heels” and about 332,000,000 results will appear. The problem is “nude” isn’t a color at all — it is a state of undress — but you’ll find millions of images featuring similarly looking beige and tan shoes that aren’t inclusive of all skin tones.

For Salone Monet, that was unacceptable.

“It was something that I grew up reading in magazines — that everyone was supposed to have a nude heel. And just like so many things, it wasn’t geared toward me as a little black girl,” Monet said. “But then when I was working in a shoe store, I really just saw how prolific the problem was. It’s a glaring oversight.”

Monet launched her namesake shoe brand in July 2018 after realizing the need for color equity amongst so-called nude shoes. Though she came from a PR background in Washington, D.C., Monet always had a love for footwear and worked part time in a shoe boutique where the she saw the industry’s nude heel issue firsthand.

After moving to New York, Monet hit the pavement and learned how to make a shoe from scratch through many shoemaking classes. Prior to her education, she said she attempted to work with factories but felt a disconnect from what she thought she was ordering and the samples that would arrive on her door.

“I was getting ahead of myself. I needed to have a better knowledge of what the shoe making process was like so I could better explain to the factory what I was looking for,” she said.

She then dove head first into the business, launching her direct-to-consumer site that offers nude pumps, sandals and flats in a range of shades that are hand-dyed to order in the U.S.

While more established brands have also debuted nude collections in recent years, the history of lack of representation should not be ignored, said Monet.

“It’s long overdue, but I think it’s a little bit inauthentic as well. This is something that [brands] could have [long]offered to their clientele, to black women,” she explained. “People now are saying, ‘If you didn’t appreciate our nudes before, [then] there’s other voices that can be supported in this process. Let’s see what other people have to say.’ I think people appreciate knowing that it’s a Black-owned company that’s designing for this specific issue.”

Salone Monet shoes range from $200 for flats and $295 for heels and sandals.
CREDIT: Courtest of Salone Monet

Beyoncé, Gabrielle Union and Keke Palmer are fans of the brand. Plus, Monet was one of 10 recipients who received a grant from CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund’s “A Common Thread” initiative, supported by Tom Ford International, last year as part of Bethann Hardison’s Designers Hub platform.

Despite these wins, like many budding designers — this is especially true for minorities —  celebrity sightings, high-profile awards and even monthly spotlights (like this one) aren’t always enough to get their brands to the point of profitability.

“It’s just a constant motion. It takes a lot of little things to really get a ball rolling. That continuous community, network and mentorship have been the key focus,” said Monet. “And the main thing, especially for retailers and media platforms and people who have a huge say in what people purchase, is that [supporting Black-owned businesses] should be a constant. It should just be there every single day, every single month, and not only when there’s a tragedy or when there’s a date on the calendar.”

Looking ahead, Monet is aiming to make her wholesale debut this year, while also continuing to support her own e-commerce model, which now includes virtual consultation. The designer has also been focused on operations — having found a new factory in Brazil — offering new material variances outside of satin and silk, and expanding her one-woman company with additional employees.

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