Fashion legend Coco Chanel famously said “luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”.
In the world of footwear, luxury and style have traditionally been traded at the expense of comfort. Shoes could look stylish or feel comfortable, but not both.
Then one business decided that things had to change. It has spent over 70 years perfecting the art of producing shoes, boots and sandals that are both beautiful to look at and a joy to wear.
That business, which now sells over 400,000 pairs of shoes in 10 countries throughout the world, including Foot Solutions Richmond, is Ziera.
The story began in New Zealand back in the 1930s with two podiatrists, Mervyn Adams and David Robertson, who saw at first hand the harm that ill-fitting, uncomfortable footwear caused in terms of damaging feet and making people’s lives a misery.
Adams and Robertson understood that whilst elegance and style are important values to many women, the pain and discomfort caused by wearing supposedly-stylish shoes was often negating the benefits of looking good.
As with many success stories, the devil is in the detail and this story is no different.
Adams and Robertson began their quest to combine comfort and style by painstakingly measuring and analysing 10,000 feet – without the aid of computer technology.
Their analysis allowed them to design and make shoe lasts (forms used in the production of footwear), which accurately represented the size and shape of ‘real’ women’s feet.
The foundations of Ziera were in place.
By the 1940s, Adams and Robertson were manufacturing their own shoes using the specialist lasts they had developed. Women could now wear comfortable footwear that gave proper support and allowed pain-free mobility.
The company had achieved the ‘feel good’ part of the equation, the next stage in the Ziera story was to develop the ‘look good’ factor so that women could confidently choose contemporary, on-trend styles that felt as good as they looked.
The company ethos was that whilst comfort was paramount, style should not be sacrificed for comfort.
The key task at this point was achieving credibility in the highly competitive fashion footwear market. Credibility in the world of fashion is all about branding.
In 2010 the company decided that it needed to move on from its established Kumfs brand (with its ‘comfy grandma’ connotations) and develop a marque that conveyed both comfort and style.
The Ziera brand was born and at this point, leading fashion footwear designer, Laura Boulton was brought on board to sharpen the look and make a statement about the brand’s direction.
Today, the company is renowned for providing fashionable, stylish and above all comfortable footwear for discerning women everywhere.
So how does Ziera achieve its mission of consistently delivering super-stylish designs that provide all-day comfort?
We put this question to Ziera’s John Robertson (son of David), who pinpointed five key reasons.
First of all, the company is careful to only embrace those on-trend styles which allow for key comfort essentials. These include things like toe-boxes that prevent constriction and designs with enough width in the upper part of the shoe to accommodate a normal foot at its widest point. This means that styles which involve features like very high heels and sharp-pointed toes (both of which are directly linked to serious issues like arthritis and bunions) are out.
The second reason (which is perhaps the best-kept secret behind the brand’s ability to consistently deliver fashionable and comfortable footwear), is the Ziera Design Council.
The Ziera Design Council is the ultimate quality control committee, overseeing all aspects of product development. It comprises highly experienced designers, footwear engineers and retail managers all of whom are passionately committed to their areas of expertise covering style, comfort and consumer requirements. The Design Council is mediated by three members of the Robertson family (John, his wife Judy and their son, Andrew, the current CEO of Ziera), who have over one hundred years combined hands-on experience in the industry.
Prototype designs for each new season are subjected to a rigorous selection process and only those designs which survive this exhaustive scrutiny earn the right to carry the Ziera logo and its guarantee to wearers of sleek, elegant looks and all-day comfort. Around one quarter of all prototypes never make it to production.
The third reason is Ziera’s commitment to the highest quality throughout the whole production process. All footwear items are carefully manufactured to strict quality guidelines using only the top quality natural materials, including soft and durable premium leather on both the inside and outside.
The fourth reason relates to a vitally important element of any shoe – the insole. Ziera’s innovative footbed technologies provide an unrivalled level of cushioning, arch support and adjustment, all of which last for the lifetime of the shoe.
Also, virtually all Ziera footwear lines are orthotic-friendly, which means that insoles can easily be removed to accommodate Foot Solutions custom arch supports.
Last, but definitely not least, is continuous improvement. The company never rests on its laurels and the quest for perfection is ongoing. To this end, Ziera fully embraces the renowned Kaizen continuous improvement system. Every day, the company receives at least four Kaizen Action Sheets from Ziera representatives around the world. These action sheets are carefully checked so that all beneficial suggestions are quickly adopted. The company also holds five conferences per year, at which Ziera stockists are encouraged to critique footwear and suggest improvements.
John Robertson’s 5 Top Tips for Choosing the Perfect Shoe
- 1. Try before you buy
Before purchasing new shoes, always walk in them on a hard surface.
- 2. First impressions count
Shoes shouldn’t need ‘breaking in’. If they don’t feel comfortable to start with, they’re unlikely to feel comfortable in the future.
- 3. Be natural
Only choose shoes made from natural materials. Unlike leather, plastic will never adopt the shape of your foot.
- 4. Be firm
A good quality shoe should be firm and supportive. If you can twist the shoe at the ‘waist’, don’t buy the shoes.
- 5. If the cup fits…
A good shoe should have a stiff heel cup that keeps the foot in a comfortable, secure position.