Walk a Mile in Her (Beautiful) Shoes
Writer Amanda Christmann
Photographer Mark Peterman
If you’ve ever slipped on a pair of high-end European shoes and experienced the feel of buttery soft leather gently cradling your heels and toes, you understand the allure of the opulence.
Beyond a desire for luxury and extravagance is a far more utilitarian need. For centuries, as long as designer footwear has been around, women have traded in comfort for fashion, cramming feet into shoes too tight, too cramped, too high and too uncomfortable so that we can fit nearly impossible beauty standards.
For years, Phoenix’s Evelyn Schickling was one of those women. She dreamed of Manolo’s but had to relegate her shoe closet to less attractive, more orthopedic-friendly footwear. She spent years trying to retrofit pumps and heels with inserts and insoles, only to end up with the same sore feet at the end of the day that women across the globe experience daily.
Until the day she’d had enough. “What we have to put up with as women, that made me mad,” she explained over lunch. “When I gave a long standing, presentation, I was distracted by my shoes. Why should we have to wear ugly shoes to be comfortable? I really think that women really should be able to have comfortable shoes and pretty shoes.”
Enough was enough, Schickling decided, and then took matters into her own … feet. She stepped away from her career in finance and enrolled in the acclaimed Ars Sutoria shoe design school in Milan, Italy, where she learned the intricate art and science of cordwaining—the old-timey word for shoemaking.
What may seem an audacious move was not so implausible for Schickling.
“My dad was an inventor too,” she explained. “Unlike most girls, I spent a lot of time in our basement fixing things, taking things apart and putting them back together so I could spend time with him.”
It would only seem natural, then, that she would grow up to identify a problem and feel empowered to fix it.
She was led just as much by science as she was by her love for fashion.
The third child in a family, her brothers were 13 and 15 years older. Schickling’s mother desperately wanted a girl. When Evelyn came along, her mother made up for years of denim and plaid by dressing her in the most feminine and fancy clothes she could find.
“When I was two years old, she bought me a pink houndstooth Chanel suit,” Schickling said with a giggle. “She really enjoyed having a daughter.”
Clearly that love for fashion and science played roles in the passion that drives her today. Both became important in Italy.
After successfully completing the Ars Sutoria program, she became involved in the ASU’s Industry Partner program at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering polytechnic school, run by Dr. Karl Schultz.The students who chose her company to work with assisted her in developing a design using magnets to anchor the inserts that make her shoe line—dubbed “Evelyn Ford Luxury” in homage to her mother and grandmother—comfortable and wearable.
They’re so comfortable, in fact, that ASU’s gait lab showed that their impact on the foot and their gait length, which is typically smaller for pumps and heels, is nearly identical to that of a comfy pair of sneakers.
The secret behind their comfort is a customizable arch. Each pair comes with three inserts, low, medium and high, that click into each shoe with invisible magnets, offering unrivaled support. Her line of heels, flats and bridal shoes are arguably, the most comfortable on the market.
What also sets them apart is that the designs are downright adorable.
Tassels, bows, metallic heels and the very finest of delectable leathers and fabrics are just a few of the reasons Evelyn Ford Luxury shoes pop. Her new spring line, on pre-sale now, is a gorgeous assortment of retro and classic styles with often-unexpected trims and accouterments.
Slipping on a sample pair, it’s clear that the custom insert puts Evelyn Ford Luxury in a completely different category than my own stand-bys. I found myself strutting around the restaurant courtyard, turning it into my own private runway mindless of stares. They didn’t matter because my shoes were fabulous.
Schickling smiled knowingly. When she was a little girl, she fell in love with a pair of Buster Brown shoes. “I wanted red, but my mother said I had to get black,” she said, with the disappointment of the moment still lingering in the air. “I ended up getting both,” she added with a sly grin. “I wore them everywhere!”
Today she is continuing to live out that love for shoes cultivated in her childhood, and she’s working hard to make it happen. After trying unsuccessfully to find an American manufacturer capable of matching the materials and quality of Italian shoemakers, she collaborated with experts working with famous brands like Oscar de la Renta and Marchesa. At their advice, she decided to manufacture in the well-known Italian shoemaking city of Vigevano.
In another fortuitous opportunity, she partnered with an operations management expert who worked with Tahari and Tori Burch.
“All of these people came to me as I needed them,” she said, still a little stunned that her goals are coming to fruition so beautifully.
Not yet available in stores, Schickling’s designs are available online. Their price point reflects the individual craftsmanship that goes into every pair, their fine quality, and their unique magnetic insole design.
Her spring and bridal designs arrive in April, and by all accounts, will likely sell out quickly.
“Shoes are such a personal expression,” she said. “My mother always said, ‘Make sure you have a great hat and a fabulous pair of shoes, and the rest doesn’t matter.’”
She’s got the fabulous shoes taken care of. Now if only she carried hats …