March 15, 2011

The Scoop: Shoe talk with Nicole Tongson, the CEO of custom shoe company, Eidia Lush

As a lover of shoes, I was excited to sit down with Nicole Tongson to learn more about her locally-based bespoke shoe company, Eidia Lush (pronounced: ee-dee-a lush). Of course, I had to get the scoop on topics NOT accessible on the website. We covered everything from naming the business (which is such an interesting story) to what styles and fabrics Eidia Lush will be offering in the coming months (which includes a few things my fellow shoe lovers will be really excited to hear).

CTF: So, tell me how did you decide on the name for the company?
Nicole:  We went through hundreds of name. Naming the company was actually the last thing we did. I was searching through Urban Dictionary, believe it or not, and I came across the word "Eidia".  It had a really cool definition about this girl who is her own person.  She carries red umbrellas, likes waffles, and has a thing for Mexican waiters. She had such a unique personality and the description was exactly what we're about. We like to showcase individuality, just being the woman you truly are.  And whatever your style may be, we want to make sure that we can find shoes that fit it.

"Lush" was added to describe women who loves shoes...since it is like a little obsession.

CTF:  Is the design studio in Chicago? And is everything locally made?
Nicole:  We have two design studios.  There's a group of designers in the city working on some of the newer designs and prototypes. Then, we have a cobbler studio in California. A lot of our shoes are made in California. We do all of our prototyping here in Chicago. Then, we meet with the cobblers who do the lasting all of the "heavy duty lifting" in California.

CTF:  Wow. Are there any plans to move to California?
Nicole:  Eventually. When we get big enough, we may have to open at least some sort of shop there. With the shipping and cost of materials, it makes sense.  Plus, it's better to deal face to face with the team and not have to fly back and forth. It's not in the near future but eventually we may have to.

CTF:  How long does it take to craft a shoe (i.e. from conception to the final product)? 
Nicole:  If it is a shoe that you went on the website and designed yourself, it takes between 5-6 solid man hours to craft it. If you went through the Eidia Lush Platinum Service, where you're working one-on-one with a designer, it depends on the number of revisions to your designs. It could span over a couple of weeks, especially since sketching and contacting take a long time as well.

CTF:  I see that the styles and patterns you offer are constantly changing.  How often do you add new patterns and materials?
Nicole:  We try to switch it up every 2-3 months. We don't buy in bulk because we want to make sure if you're buying a custom shoe, you're not seeing 50 of them walking down the street. Usually we make 5-6 shoes out of one pattern. Our shoes are truly unique.

At the beginning of the summer, we are also planning to offer leather and suede and more silk brocade.

CTF:  Cool! I'm looking forward to the leather and suede! Which styles are your best sellers?
Nicole:  Right now, the Jillian style is pretty hot because of the platform and box toe. We also sell a lot of the Audrey. I think it's just more of a realistic style. Since I'm 5'9".. and a half *laughs* I wear a lot of flats! So, that's my favorite style, personally. I think that's the style that every woman can wear.

CTF:  I see you accept returns.  Are there any plans to resell them possibly at a discounted price?

Nicole:  This summer, we are adding a section to the site - although, I'm not yet sure what it's going to be called - that will consist of already designed shoes that were returned due to size issues. They will be perfectly made shoes resold at a discounted price. That way, I think a lot of people who are a little uncomfortable designing their own shoe but still want that really funky look can just go on the site and pick something out.

CTF:  Yes! Even as a bonafide shoe lover, the site is a little overwhelming. But I love the fact that there are so many options.
Nicole:  Even for me, I'll play around on the site - because I like making shoes for myself - and I'll find myself saying "I don't know if should I do this style or if I should do that style".  I stare at shoes so much, I just let my husband design my shoes for me. And that way, whatever he picks out…*laughs*

CTF:  *laughs* Great idea! Put the decision is someone else's hands!
Nicole:  Exactly!

CTF:  I noticed on the site that you are currently hiring Shoe Stylists.  What does that job entail? And what do you require from a potential stylist?
Nicole:  We want designers who are personable. You have to deal one-on-one with our customers and a lot of times, they can be very picky. The customers are paying a lot of money for a service as well a product. So, they expect someone to be very personable and very attentive to what they're looking for.  A stylist has to be able to read people's style, although you may think that you wouldn't wear it yourself.  You have to be able to put yourself in their shoes, no pun intended *laughs*. And that's a hard thing to find in a designer…someone who is very flexible and creative. Our stylists also have to be great at rendering (i.e. sketching) because we do all of our own designs. They have to be able to convey them in a presentable manner.

CTF:  Would you consider doing a collaboration or capsule collection with local designers or fashion bloggers?
Nicole:  I would. I definitely would be interested in doing something like that. We like doing local events and we want to get in as many shows as possible, especially since we can do custom shoes. So it's fun to partner with someone who has a sense of style we're really into.

CTF:  I love the fact that you also partner with charities. The custom shoe you created for the Red Pump Project event last year was amazing.
Nicole:  And all the shoes for this year's event are pretty crazy! They're all a version of red pumps but in crazy patterns. I also did some really funky wedges.

CTF:  Nice!  Tell me, is there anything else from Eidia Lush on the horizon?
Nicole:  We are adding four new styles by Fall.  In addition to the leather and suede materials (which will have a ton of different color options), we will introduce a low wooden-heel bootie, a slingback open toe stiletto and two wedge styles - a low heel and a really high heel.

After our interview, Nicole showed me a few shoes that were recently designed by customers and fresh from the cobblers:

I was glad to see the shoes in person and get an idea of how customers are combining patterns, colors and materials to create one-of-a-kind designs. I was also impressed by the leather soles - which, as Nicole informed me, are handmade, hand sanded and hand stretched.

Thanks to Nicole for letting me into her world, if only for a few minutes!

Visit to start building your custom shoe. To entice you even more, Nicole is offering ChiTown Fashionista readers a $20 discount! Simply enter FASHIONISTA2011 at checkout.

P.S. If you're in Chicago and want to have your own personal encounter with Eidia Lush, attend the Red Pump Project's upcoming "Rock the Red" event where Eidia Lush will have 14 pairs of custom shoes walking the runway.  Click HERE for more info.

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Anonymous Karyn Brianne said...

They have so many great styles and combinations! I just spent like 30 minutes playing around on the site. Keep up the good work and looking forward to seeing the custom red shoes at next week's show!

March 16, 2011 at 9:51 PM  

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