Consciously made slide shoes to travel in
This week was a wonderful one—filled with action, events and spending time with people I care deeply about. I slept away from home, went back and forth to the city, saw a theatre show and finished it all off with a vocal lesson that ran quite late at night. This all involved bags full of work items and clothes on my commute, and a terrible decision on which shoes to bring. I had brought a really stylish pair of bone-coloured loafers, and wore them for 3 days straight. Let me just say that by the second day, I’d felt a blister or two pop up—and by the last day, my feet were not a pretty sight (and I was limping, too!)
When I finally arrived home at midnight last night, my heart was full and my body and mind were exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to just fall into bed onto my soft pillow and surround myself in that puffy white duvet.
Before I went upstairs, I noticed a package by my door from The Lèi—a one-woman-owned shoe brand I had heard about through a coworker and fellow content creator. I had been on a photo shoot with her, and noticed how beautiful, calm and comfortable her shoes looked. I asked her about them, and she told me about wearing them to work, through the city, across Thailand and travelling. I was wowed by how beautiful they still looked! First thing I asked: “Don’t you get blisters on the sides of your feet?” Her answer was a positive “Nope!”
When she told me the brand, it jogged something. I remembered getting a really beautiful, heartfelt note from Tiffany, the founder of The Lèi asking to collaborate—and I had bookmarked it to respond, but hadn’t yet! With the stars aligning, I wrote back to Tiffany that night and started chatting with her about how she first got started.
BUT, back to last night—after my jam-packed week and coming home late with blistered feet, microwaving 4-day-old rice pilaf as some semblance of a dinner—I was hesitant to try on new shoes with my feet feeling so awful. But I did.
As soon as I put them on, the balance of my entire body shifted. I felt as if I was settling into a cushion, or a soft cradle. I knew right away this wasn’t going to be like those sad situations where you order shoes online, try them on and think they’ll be comfortable, only to have blisters later in the day. This was different, I felt it in how light my bones were—in how the shoe hugged my feet like a little blanket.
This morning, I thought I’d be fighting with my alarm and the snooze button. But just the memory of how these shoes felt was enough to pop me out of bed with excitement. Now I’ve been wearing them all day, and they feel just as much like dreamy slippers as they did when I first put them on.
As someone who commutes 4h every day, I’d never found a shoe that could transition from the comfort of travel to the style of a city marketing office—until these ones.
Now? I’m off to walk across the whole city, enjoy the last rays of summer sun, and watch the light pass through the leaves and glint across the skyscrapers. I was tired, now I’m positively cradled in these.
(scroll for a Q&A and special promo code!)
Comfort-oriented everyday, everywhere staples.
A Q&A with founder, Tiffany Chan
Q // Talk to me about when you started The Lèi. What was your tipping point to jumping in?
A // I started The Lei after I left my job as a food magazine editor in Hong Kong in search of a simpler, slower lifestyle. To be honest, it was instinct. I had no business plan and had done zero research — it wasn’t a very “responsible” business to begin with, in this sense. I’m a writer by trade and don’t come from a fashion or business background. Last September, I booked myself a one-way ticket to Marrakech to spend some time alone and to focus on my writing. One day while exploring the souks, I walked into a small shop selling slippers. The owner showed me his leather stock and said he could make anything I want. His workshop was only a few blocks away, after all. After receiving my pair, I was so happy with them, I thought, why not start something? And that was the beginning. I went to choose all the leather, we made several samples and I was in the workshop most days and tried to learn how to cut leather. It was such a creative, chaotic environment, and perfect for doing something fun and 200% scary.
Q // Your shoes embody a sense of peace and calm, while incorporating refined, careful design. Can you tell me what goes into the thought process in designing your pieces?
A // “Lèi” in Chinese means “tired.” In many ways, this brand is a manifestation of how I’ve chosen to spend my days: slow, simple and “comfort-driven” (which one might be tempted to interpret as “lazy”!). First and foremost, I wanted to introduce staples that are not only comfortable, but are also what you choose to wear every day as you’re stumbling out the door. Because in daily life, that’s often what I look for: the perfect cushion, the perfect chair, the perfect white T-shirt, the perfect pair of shoes…and I typically wear or use that one thing every day for years until it comes apart.
Q // Which style have you worn the longest? How’re they holding up?
A // I’ve worn the Classic Slides in Camel the longest simply because they go with everything in my closet (or suitcase). Surprisingly, I’ve worn them in ankle-deep rain multiple times (not on purpose, of course), and they’re still very presentable. The Slide Sandal in Bone are my summer go-tos.
Q // What’s the most meaningful thing someone has said to you about your shoes?
A // The most common feedback is that they’re terrifically comfortable, that “I wear them every day,” and “please make more.” But I think beyond the product, what I really appreciate is when someone says “I read your story and I was really able to relate”. I’ve continued conversations with “customers” via Instagram and email, and it’s been really incredible connecting over these stories.
Q // Talk to me about your company! Is it just you, do you have people working with you? What’s the process from end-to-end shoe look like?
A // It’s just me! From working with the artisans to the marketing and customer service, etc. I have to say it’s not a very efficient process, but it’s always interesting. When we restock, I go back to Marrakech and stay for at least two months, pick out the leather — and these are in small, hidden shops in the souk, too — which mostly come in only a few pieces, hence the limited quantity and why we have so many shades of beiges and browns. I work with a few teams of artisans, make samples to see what can be improved on. This can take up to a month or so. I brand the shoes myself, and pack them to ship back to Hong Kong, where I send the shoes from.
Q // What were some of the challenges to overcome in launching and running a conscious business?
A // I think cost has been the biggest challenge. For a long time, we’ve been conditioned to expect clothes and shoes to be very, very cheap. I’ve received comments like, “I can find the same pair at xxx for a fraction of the price!” So then, it becomes a thing where I have to break down the actual process and educate them on how it’s made — which I’m happy to do because that’s all a part of the storytelling. I’m working on being more transparent with this so we can all experience the full process together and change the understanding of fashion production.
Q // What is your hope for those who choose a pair from The Lei to bring into their lives and wear?
A // That it not only brings them a pair of comfortable shoes, but that they also connect with the personality of the brand. How to be kinder to yourself, to the world, how to be more thoughtful, how to live slowly but significantly, how to embrace simplicity, etc. These are all very abstract, of course, but I hope that by adhering by these values, we’re contributing more than a pair of shoes to the lives of people who wear them.
This post has been sponsored by The Lèi. All opinions are my own!