All new markets are not created equal – partly because the people in the markets are not created equal. Sizing is a national issue: whether fashion brands are upscaling their definition of a size four for the upscaled US consumer, shrinking their purses for Japan, or, as of this season, launching a new shoe shape specifically for the Hong Kong foot.
Introducing the – you guessed it – “Hong Kong” (HK$4,380, £385) by British shoe maestro Rupert Sanderson, a four-inch (10cm) stiletto based on his classic Winona court shoe, but with a lower arch for more support and a more slender fit. The tweaked fit is designed to accommodate Asian feet, which, according to Sanderson’s Asia business partner Bertrand Mak, “have less flesh, but are not necessarily narrower than westerners’.”
To the untutored eye, the new Hong Kong looks almost identical to the original Winona, but according to Mak, “Our customers are very demanding and the Winona, despite being a best-seller, was not perfect, so we decided to fine-tune it to achieve higher customer satisfaction.”
It may seem like an obvious step (no pun intended) to design globally and tweak locally, but according to Mak, it wasn’t until they opened the Sanderson store on Hong Kong’s chic On Lan Street in March 2010 that they realised, primarily through customer feedback, there was a fit issue. In response, they started developing the shoe last October.
“I chose the Winona to re-issue because it is a classic, signature style and for me, emotionally, it is the style that sparked my interest in Rupert Sanderson,” says Mak. “I love the understated elegance of it. It is so deceptively simple – made of only one piece of leather. I wanted something women can wear all the time. It’s versatile and you get a lot of mileage out of it.”
A preview of the new cut earlier this month for “loyal customers” was a notable success, to the extent that, says Mak, “even customers who never bought four-inch heels went for it.”
Sanderson is not the only brand tailoring its footwear offering to nationality. Salvatore Ferragamo has gone even further in adjusting its shoe fits to various markets, offering six widths from AA to EEE according to geography and demand.
“Each market buys according to the needs of the demographic,” says Foster Chang, general merchandising manager at Salvatore Ferragamo Hong Kong. “Here we offer up to EEE width for men and D and C fits for ladies, while in Europe it is B-fit and in the US it is C-fit that are more popular.” These days, a foot map has a new meaning.