London-based Arab designer and owner of eponymous shoe label, Jennifer Chamandi, is available on Net a Porter, and in stores such as Harrods, Bergdorf Goodman and Level Shoes. With Amal Clooney, Kate Middleton and Queen Rania as clients, Chamandi has gone from crawling to walking on heels in the fashion world, all in the last five years.
For a young label like hers to survive, and indeed thrive, in these unprecedented times is proof that she understands commerce. Says the former investment banker, “I started small and took calculated risks. I always had a head for numbers and my background in finance most definitely shaped my methodical approach and problem-solving skills.” Her first boss from her time at Merrill Lynch, John Craven, is still a mentor to her and her husband, Roberto Boghossian (managing partner of high-end jewellery company, Boghossian), is someone she describes as her pillar, “He’s part of a sixth generation family business and I learn from him every day.”
Of course, it takes more than sound money management to make a shoe business a success. To stand out, your designs must be unique in some way. “The footwear industry is extremely competitive, and I wanted to create a shoe that is instantly recognizable – the ‘Eye of the Needle’ in the heel and removable strap was my answer to this.” Patent rights have been granted for the “Eye of the Needle” concept in the United Kingdom, the United States and Hong Kong and are pending in several other countries.
Even though Chamandi is in the business of high heels, she also knows that footwear must be utilitarian, which is why comfort was of the utmost importance to her. “It is at the forefront of my design process and a lot of clients tell me that my shoes are incredibly comfortable to wear. As I wore heels for seven years on the trading floor, I know how painful it can be to wear uncomfortable shoes. I make sure to make the front wider so the feet can have more space,” she says. Before setting up her label, she did her research to discover the best manufacturing base. As a result, all her shoes are made in Milan. Chamandi learnt Italian in order to best communicate with her manufacturers, “Until today The Lorenzo Pump, my first design, is the shoe that defines my label. Named after my manufacturer Lorenzo who made my dream come true and brought my ‘Eye of the Needle’ concept to life.”
Unlike many other luxury footwear brands, Chamandi did not start making slippers and sneakers during the pandemic, she says, “I believe my collections aren’t meant to be designed for just one season. They are classic and timeless designs, so the clients who bought my shoes during the pandemic knew that they could wear them anytime.” She adds, “I also personally believe women will return to heels and celebrate and embrace the return, after all it has been so long since we have worn them regularly due to the pandemic.”
While she has own e-commerce site and does take bespoke orders, she believes for a young brand it is marquee stores and platforms that make for the best retail partners, “It is very important for the positioning of my brand and for awareness. My clients are all clients of these retailers, and it is very important to offer a wide choice and to have availability.” Chamandi is also quick to point out that no entrepreneur can build a business on their own, “You need to have a team who shares the same values and energy, as you spend most of your time with them. I’ve also found that learning to share and delegate the workload with your team is hugely valuable.”
As of now there seems to be no major celebration planned for her fifth anniversary, which comes up in a few months, instead she is focusing on her next steps. Continued growth in America is top of her mind, “America is a hugely important market for most designers. I’ve been experiencing some great relationships with my US retailers and long may this continue.” Jennifer Chamandi is proof that the famous Marilyn Monroe quote, “Give a girl a pair of shoes and she will conquer the world” are words to live by.