The Lebanese-born, London-based designer, is a shoe-loving LSE graduate gone rogue. Waging her love of number crunching with a more creative career as a shoe designer, Jennifer Chamandi set up her eponymous label in 2016.
Following nine months of prototyping and manufacturing innovations, it was perhaps no great surprise that such a technically complicated shoe (which incorporates a gold-plated eyedrop-shaped hole carved and inlaid into the heel) could only be made in one place; Parabiago, Italy - a small village where both Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik also produce their teetering heels.
While the brand is geographically British (by way of Italy), Chamandi's Lebanese culture rings just as strong, garnering much inspiration from her Middle Eastern heritage, specifically its textures and colours.
We met with Jennifer to discuss those razor-sharp stilettos, design with an academic approach and some of her favourite Lebanese pit stops.
Type of brand:
Women's luxury footwear
Where can we find your designs?
Where did you grow up?
How has Lebanon impacted your designs?
The Lebanese women are very fashion forward but still focus on silhouette and style, and appreciate good quality and design when they see it.
You switched from finance to shoe design; how did your former role assist your latter one?
I studied economics at the London School of Economics which encouraged me to start my career in banking. I worked in finance for seven years and I loved it. It taught me to work under high pressure and gave me a strong work discipline. During that time, I enrolled in footwear-making and shoe-design courses at weekends while summers were spent at Central Saint Martins and London's Cordwainers' College to deepen my technical knowledge. After a certain time, I decided I had to follow my passion full time.
When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
I've loved shoes ever since I can remember. When I was little, I revised for my exams wearing my mother's pumps, claiming that I studied better in heels.
How would you define your brand?
The "eye of the needle" - which incorporates a gold-plated eyedrop-shaped hole carved and inlaid into the heel - it's my brand's DNA.
Your designs are produced in Parabiago, Italy - what's so special about this place?
It's a small village on the outskirts of Milan, a little gem and the ultimate shoe heaven. My manufacturer, Lorenzo - who my pump is named after - runs a three-generation family-owned atelier there.
You speak Italian. Where and why did you learn?
I took a four-month intensive course with a tutor here in London in order to negotiate better with my suppliers. Without the language, I could have never got Lorenzo on board.
What are three destinations on your travel hit list?
What inspired the "eye of the needle" - a gold-plated eyedrop-shaped hole carved and inlaid into your shoes?
In today's world of customisation where women seek unique products, it was important to offer them a distinctive shoe. The eye of the needle is instantly recognisable, yet very subtle. The shoes can be worn with or without the strap and in both cases they are recognisable because of their eye of the needle detail.
What do you think Londoner's look for in a shoe?
Comfort is key. "Classic with an edge" is also an oft uttered request.
Who is the ideal Jennifer Chamandi customer?
A woman who is bold and chic.
What does your design process look like?
I am inspired by everything around me and am normally triggered by texture or colour. Timescales differ, as I can create the perfect design in a matter of hours or have to be in the right state for days.
How does travel influence your designs?
Travel definitely plays a role in my design process and creations - anything from architecture to the nature of different cities can spark designs in my head when I'm on the go.
Five of your favourite spots in Lebanon are…
Do you think the sexy stiletto is due a comeback?
The stiletto is like the LBD of footwear - ultimately, it never goes out of style.
What can we expect from your next collection?
A play on both textures and colours - with an adventurous twist of both.