Shaherazad Umbreen has the answer to every woman’s prayers – fashion heels that can be worn for up to 18 hours in total comfort. And it’s all thanks to flamingoes!
The answer to some of life’s trickiest problems can be found by simply looking at nature. Take footwear for instance. Drop-dead gorgeous six-inch Christian Louboutins are all well and good until you’ve been hobbling around in them for hours on end. But as all fashion-conscious women know, it’s impossible to find a pair of killer heels that don’t, well, kill – especially if you have to wear them for 10 or 12 hours at a stretch at work. So what’s the answer? Welcome Shaherazad Umbreen and the flamingo!
The Birmingham shoe designer has created the only pair of heels which can guarantee 18 hours of pain-free wear, while looking good enough to keep even the most finicky fashionistas happy. And her creation which has taken the shoe world by storm, and won celebrity endorsements too boot, is all down to spending months researching and analysing how flamingoes stand and balance comfortably on one incredibly long and very fragile-looking leg.
MATHS IN ACTION
“It’s all down to mathematics really,” says Shaherazad. “I had a dream of empowering women by providing heels that not only looked good but were also good for their feet and comfortable to wear. Many businesswomen are now working longer and longer hours and want to look good without suffering for it.”
Shaherazad, who lives in Kings Norton, originally came up with the idea 10 years ago and after two years of product design, the 18 Hour Heels – inspired by the flamingo – were born. Shaherazad’s company, Shoes by Shaherazad, now has an array of styles of the unique designer heels which can take a woman from the boardroom to the bar, pain-free. “18 Hour Heels use the science behind how a flamingo stands on one leg to provide the improved weight distribution, and so the perfect balance,” says Shaherazad. As well as developing the revolutionary heels and shoe designs, Shaherazad also came up with the idea for interchangeable ‘shoellery’ clips – which are made exclusively in the Jewellery Quarter – which can add extra ‘bling’ that’s your thing.
Her shoes have already won celebrity fans including British model Alexa Chung and Coronation Street actress Jane Danson as well as award-winning make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury who has worked with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. Shoe sales are not just going well here in the UK, but also rocketing in the US and in Far East markets.
Shaherazad admits that it took courage to follow her dream. “I’d had the idea for some time that it was possible to design and make shoes that women didn’t have to wobble about in. I just didn’t have the nerve at first to take the risk and go for it. Then when I reached 40, I thought, it’s now or never.” Shaherazad went to London College of Fashion each weekend for months to “learn the basics”.
Then she spent the next two years looking at and breaking down and taking apart hundreds of different shoes designs, working through the mathematics and mechanics of how flamingoes stand and finally developing her own product. “Quality as well as design were key and I found that the best quality is made right here in the UK,” said Shaherazad. And the best ‘shoellery’ is made here in Birmingham by specialist metal worker Barry Abbotts in the Jewellery Quarter. It’s Barry who brings Shaherazad’s added ‘bling’ creations to life!
When we interviewed Shaherazad she was in the midst of expanding her range to feature a new, equally comfortable, block heel. Typically, she says her 18 Hour Heels start at just under £200 a pair rising to around £250 with ‘shoellery’. That’s very competitive for what are handcrafted shoes, and as Shaherazad explained: “So many women have shoes they’ve bought for £400 or more and which never come out of their boxes because they prove to be too uncomfortable to wear. Our shoes are not only made to be worn but they also look great too.”
There’s an extra, and very very important, part to Shaherazad’s business philosophy. Every pair of heels bought direct from Shoes by Shaherazad’s website contributes to the Solidarity by Shaherazad programme helping to empower under-privileged girls and women around the world. “Someone who buys a pair of shoes can help provide three months’ education to these girls,” explained Shaherazad. In partnership with the Global Giving charity, Shaherazad and her business have already helped many women from Kenya to Peru and Pakistan to Palestine. “We aim to provide women and girls living in poverty with the opportunities for educational and financial independence, making the world a happier place,” said Shaherazad.