From fortune cookie booties to crochet loafers, baby shoes incite a lot of cooing and “aww”-ing—but these designs from LA-based Zuzii just might have you turning green with envy and wishing you were a few decades younger. The company is made up of industrial designer Ryan Campbell, her graphic designer sister Alex and their mom Nickie—who has quite a lot to teach her daughters about the children’s industry, having invented the easy-to-hold Ansa baby bottle in the ’80s, some of which reside in MoMA’s permanent collection.
Zuzii shoes are made in America, using as many American-made materials as possible, including 100% cotton laces, soling leather and rubber (the suede and leather is sourced from a family-owned boutique tannery in Italy). Starting out as an Etsy shop, Zuzii’s success led to Chinese manufacturers knocking off the designs and even using Zuzii’s photos to sell the product. Thus, the Campbells chose to abandon their old concepts and create a new direction for the brand.
Ryan explains to us how they approach designing children’s shoes differently: “Children’s products, for the most part, have always had a very specific ‘juvenile’ image. Materials and construction are often not scaled down for the size of the shoe, creating a rigid shoe that is less than ideal for kids feet; they inhibit natural movement of kids’ toes and natural flexing of the foot. Unlike adult’s feet, kids feet are going through rapid change, so crafting a shoe that will form and adapt to these changes was important to us.”
Also, the quality of materials for kids shoes is not considered as much as with adult shoes, and this was something the family wanted to change. “In our case, it was important to us to craft our footwear using high-quality 100% leather; raw materials will give and form to children’s feet and create a longer lasting fit,” she says. “And children’s feet sweat a lot! Real leather can be worn without socks and maintain a perfect temperature as it breathes naturally.”
Ryan—who doesn’t have kids herself—says she remains attracted to the industry because of “how uninhibited designing for children allows you to be,” which is a sentiment reflected in Zuzii’s colorful and playful designs. She adds, “It’s a very positive industry, like making donuts—there’s nothing sweeter.”
Zuzii shoes start at $50 and are available from their website. On 30 June 2014, Zuzii will expand their offerings to child size 9-13 and adult size 4-9.
Images courtesy of Zuzii