A comfortable fit enhanced with feminine flair is the hallmark of shoes by Anyi Lu, a Tiburon-based designer and former competitive ballroom dancer who was inspired to launch her line after witnessing her sister’s struggles to find an attractive, yet dance-friendly footwear solution for her wedding reception.
In response, Lu gifted her sister with a pair of ballroom dance shoes. While the gesture solved her sister’s problem, Lu was only just beginning to tackle the comfort vs. style standoff she saw taking place all too often in the world of women’s shoes. Since its debut, Lu’s eponymous line has gained fans among wearers seeking stable, easy-on-the-feet footwear that still manages to incorporate style-minded details. Instead of stilettos or fussy silhouettes, Anyi Lu shoes stand out with their solid, trend-bucking heels, rounded toes and sachetto construction.
The recent winner of a 2010 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year from the Women’s Initiative, Lu took time to tell us about her obsession with fit, how dance influences her designs and her latest offerings for fall.
How did your experience as a competitive ballroom dancer influence the way your shoes are designed and made?
Competitive dance shoes are engineered for movement, so they offer a comfortable and stable fit. I wanted to offer women a high fashion shoe that has these qualities as well. There is no reason a shoe can’t look beautiful and feel amazing…even a heel.
What is sachetto construction, and why is it something our feet will appreciate?
The simplest way to describe the Sachetto construction is: The upper and the lining are sewn together to form a sock, which fits, flexes and molds to your foot like a sock. Basically it is a sock shoe with a heel. Most other shoes in the market place are hard, rigid and glued together, not sewn.
What kind of woman did you have in mind when you were designing your latest collection?
The Anyi Lu woman is confident, independent and appreciates craftsmanship and quality. They are stylish, but not driven by trends. They are comfortable in their own skin. My collections certainly reflect what is going on in the world of fashion, but I will not follow a trend for the sake of following a trend. I want my shoes to transcend a specific season
What sets an Anyi Lu shoe apart from other shoe brands?
Fit! I am obsessed with it. Other shoe designers will make two or three fit samples before they approve a shoe for production. I do anywhere from 10 to 12. I have several fit models in both the U.S. and Italy, and every girl needs to approve the style for comfort and fit before I approve it for production. If the shoe doesn’t pass these tests, I will cancel the style. I do not want my name on a shoe that doesn’t feel great. Anyone can make a pretty shoe. The challenge is making a pretty shoe that is wearable all day.
Your shoes have been described as “couture comfort” footwear. How do you balance comfort and style when you’re working on a collection?
To me, these qualities go hand in hand. There is nothing stylish, feminine, or sexy about watching a women walk in heels that over-power her. My collections are always inspired by fashion, either vintage or current, but they are engineered to fit.
What do we have to look forward to for fall from Anyi Lu?
Fall 2010 was inspired by 2 things. The mood was inspired by the thrill of falling in love, and the styles were inspired by the 40’s and 50’s. We used higher vamps and whimsical takes on bows and adornments. You’ll see everything from soft, smokey suedes to hair calf houndstooth.
Photography courtesy of Anyi Lu: top, Anyi Lu; footwear images from 2010 resort collection.