Meet Haley Pavone, Creator of the First Convertible High Heel (Which You Definitely Need RN)

Every woman has a horror story about high heels, just ask anyone and it’s likely that she’ll talk about an intense love/hate or hate/hate relationship with them. Nobody loves standing in heels all day. No one wants to be forced to take their heels off in order to break it down on the dance floor, or to go barefoot when the pain is too much. Unfortunately, there has never really been any other choice – it's either flats or heels, and nothing in between.

BUT, what if we told you that the solution to all your heel-related problems could be solved, like, right now? Well, Pashion Footwear, a shoe brand created by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Haley Pavone, is the solution we knew we needed, but never thought we would get. Introducing the world’s first convertible high heel, designed by Pashion to be unique and practical. You can walk in the flats to dinner, then just pop on the heels when you get there. You can take pictures in your cute outfit, then tuck the heels away in your purse when it’s time to walk home.

Pashion is changing the face of the high heel industry, a change that's so long overdue. While talking with Haley, she told us all about her idea for the shoe, the process of building a company, and her plans for the future. Spoiler: Her idea for the shoes was sparked by a really unfortunate encounter with a spiked stiletto heel. 

The inspiration for creating Pashion

“In spring of 2016, I was at my sorority spring formal, and I had worn six-inch heels to the event because I have always been a big fan of high heels. But I also really love to dance when I’m at those kinds of events, and you can only kind of really do the shuffle when you’re in those heels, you can’t really break it down. So I just took off my heels and tossed them to the side of the dance floor, and through an unfortunate series of events one of my sorority sisters perfectly hit my toe with the point of her stiletto. It just went right through my toe.

While I was sitting on the side of the dance floor un-impaling myself, I remembered that my professor always said the best products come from a real-world pain because people always want to put money towards solving a physical pain that they’re feeling. I was like, 'Okay, this is my physical pain. I would definitely pay money to solve this problem right now.'

I started looking around and I realized easily 90 percent of the girls at the party were barefoot, and I started thinking back to prom and every wedding I went to where women ended up barefoot. It just seemed kind of ridiculous to me that there’s this whole process when you’re getting ready for an event [when] you pick out your heels, put them on, and kind of mentally already accept the fact that [they’re] going to hurt you to the point where you end up abandoning them after an hour.

I was like, that doesn’t make any sense. There just has to be a better solution than that. Someone’s got to make the solution, so it might as well be us.

Why Pashion is so necessary today

“We think that high heels have been a symbol of oppression for decades. High heels were designed by men and are still predominantly designed and manufactured by men—which is a big part of why they’re so uncomfortable. The people who make these shoes and have the ability to make a change on how uncomfortable they are aren’t actually wearing and experiencing them. It’s not really at the forefront of their minds to actually address this as a problem.

I just think it’s completely ridiculous that in the 21st century, women are being forced to wear something that’s causing them physical pain for the sake of looking good. This product is going to be the first thing that really brings women's perspectives into women’s footwear and provides them a solution that can adapt through the day just as epically as they do.

The market needs this and women need this. It is a problem that’s long overdue for a solution and we’re excited that we’re the team that gets to make it happen.”

On being a woman-run company

“What’s really great about Pashion is that we are completely female-founded and about 70 percent female-run. We feel like we’re uniquely qualified to tackle this problem because we do actually experience this pain, we’ve been there. We know firsthand how uncomfortable high heels are, which is why we’re so motivated to change it by creating these practical yet fashionable solutions.”

The biggest challenge

“I guess the biggest challenge was just being a full-time student while also learning how to be a CEO of a shoe company. It’s not like I knew a ton about shoes to begin with, so the biggest obstacle to overcome was just learning how to do this kind of as we went along. We really just embodied the idea of, 'Hey, throw yourself into the deep end and see if you can swim, [and] try to surround yourself with the best people possible so you can be as prepared as you can be.' But I mean, how prepared can you be in a situation like this? And it’s been fun—stressful, but at the same time so exciting and so rewarding.”

Advice for young entrepreneurs

“I think the biggest advice I would have for another student entrepreneur, in college in particular, is never to tell yourself it’s not a good time. The biggest pushback I got when I started the company was actually professors, advisers and friends who said, 'Aren't you going to have to drop out of school? You have too much going on,' and, 'Do you really have enough time to do this?' Something that I realized is that it’s never going to be a 'good time' to start a company.

Right now I’m going to start a company while I’m going to class, and I’m going to balance being a CEO with doing my schoolwork. But 10 years from now, I’d be balancing starting a company with working full time to pay my mortgage and support my family. So I think the biggest piece of advice I would give is that it’s always the right time. If you’re waiting for the right time, it’s not going to come, so you might as well just make it the right time.

There’s always going to be other stuff going on, but if it’s something that you care about and something that you’re passionate about, then you can find a way to make it work regardless of whatever else you’re doing at the time.”

Why giving back is so important to Pashion

“As a female-founded company that is going to be providing a product mostly to women, it’s super important to me that we do something to give back to all of the amazing women of the world. We want to integrate the Get Pashionate Initiative into the business, with the main goal being that we have certain shoes that are color-coordinated to different women's causes and then a portion of the profits from those specific shoes will support that cause.

This is really cool in the sense that women can feel really good about their purchase going to a cause that they care about. But some of the organizations have really unique colors so you’ll be able to kind of wear what you care about on your feet. For example, one of the causes I’m most passionate about is Domestic Violence Awareness, and the color associated with DVA is purple, which is not a color you would see usually in high heels. So for a lot of women who want to support that cause, it’ll be kind of [a] symbol of their passion for supporting that cause. They can make a statement, on their feet and also with their dollar, about what matters.”

Pashion Footwear is on presale for the entire month of July on Kickstarter (and you can sign up to receive email updates!). Get them while you can—they’re selling at the lowest price they’ll ever be!