We’re back with another Women Making History!
Today, we honor 80%20’s Ce Ce Chin as Woman Making History. 2010 marks 80%20 Footwear’s Fifth Year, a coming of age for a New York based brand that has grown from its street culture roots into an internationally loved brand with a strong cult following. In its fifth year, 80%20 celebrates the strength of designer Ce Ce Chin’s vision and the designs that have positioned her as a true staple in the world of accessories design.
The concept behind 80%20 came from Ce Ce’s observation that we tend to wear our favorite twenty percent of our wardrobe eighty percent of the time. Having spent the last five years designing that special twenty percent, 80%20 has established itself as one of the most innovative forces in footwear, creating shoes that perfectly balance personality and wearability.
Over the last five years, 80%20 has demonstrated its power to inspire, not just women in New York City but across the globe. The line is now sold in 15 countries, delivering four distinctive collections a year to shoppers across North America, Europe and Asia. Ce Ce explains, “80%20 has always been designed with that exploratory, renaissance woman in mind- it makes sense that the shoes have found their way to the corners of the world.”
Although 80%20’s story began half a decade ago, Ce Ce’s history in accessories stretches back almost 10 years, having worked with some of the most celebrated names in fashion including; DKNY, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein. It was under the direction of these designers that Ce Ce developed her keen understanding of the market. In 2005 she followed her instincts and set out to create her own line, 80%20.
Beginning as a limited run of hand painted sneakers sold exclusively to Steven Alan, Ce Ce’s designs always had an intuitive sense for what was around the corner. The “sneaker” trend was just beginning to blossom when Ce Ce recognized a need for feminine silhouettes- her designs were the balance to the male counter culture of sneakers. What is now considered the, “lifestyle market”- was born from Ce Ce’s downtown community of artists, designers, and entrepreneurs. She is proud to be a part of the foundation and the evolution.
The hidden wedge was an early innovation that separated 80%20 from the competition and cemented the brand’s position, as a creative leader within the footwear market. The hidden wedge can be found within many of 80%20’s signature styles, it elevates traditionally ‘flat’ shoes by three inches while maintaining the classic silhouette of a sneaker, boot, or sandal. Ce Ce explains that, “The height helped to break a lot of boundaries for 80%20 and took our designs into a lot of places and retailers where flat shoes had never been.”
Talking shoes with Ce Ce was dream come true for us! Check out the Q&A between Ms. Chin and M.I.S.S. below:
M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?
Anais Nin, Coco Chanel, Kathy Keeton (the editor of Viva Magazine, the adult magazine for women in the 1970s that was published by Bob Guccione and Penthouse).
M.I.S.S.: How did you get your start in footwear?
I observed a bit as a handbag designer, because I was usually part of an accessory team that included footwear designers. But I’m glad I didn’t learn too much there- because I would have probably learned how hard it is to begin a footwear company.
M.I.S.S.: I remember the first pair of 80%20 sneakers I saw and it was love at first sight. What inspired you to start 80%20?
Well thanks! Around the time that customizing was really on trend, I customized some basic canvas slip ons with floral patterns. They gathered a lot of attention and led to a write up in Daily Candy. I had always wanted to design my own collection and run my own business. So this early victory gave me a lot of encouragement.
What does the name mean?
80% life 20% shoes=100% Love
It’s about the 20% that makes 80% of the difference in your life.
80% body 20% mind= 100 % Human
80% innovation 20% integrity= 100 % ingenuity
80% Truth 20% Authenticity= 100 % Keeping it Real
M.I.S.S.: Why did you start with sneakers?
I had dated a few skateboarders and guys who were into the sneaker culture. While I could appreciate their admiration for quality sneakers, I felt there was a void in the market for us girls. I couldn’t see myself wearing dunks- too boyish and they made my feet look too big! I knew the slip on trend was coming, this was just a little after “Dog Town and Z boys” came out.
M.I.S.S.: The line has greatly expanded from sneakers to include boots, sandals – a full line of footwear. Was this always part of the plan? Or did the decision to expand into different kinds of footwear come later?
It wasn’t part of the plan. However it was a natural evolution because after a while I was “over” sneaker culture, but I had launched a footwear business that was working. I wanted to wear something more sophisticated and clever. The earlier wedges look a lot like sneakers- quite colorful and casual. The more recent models have a entire “after sneaker” life.
M.I.S.S.: One of the favorite new lines I saw last year at the tradeshows was your new line, Ce Ce Collection. What was the inspiration for Ce Ce Collection?
Fairy tales in modern day life! Think Cinderella of Silverlake or Rapunzel of the Lower East Side. I was inspired by the writings of Anais Nin and perfume bottles by Rene Lalique.
M.I.S.S.: What is your future plan for Ce Ce Collection?
Lots of pearl detail. Mixed size pearl, mixed colors!
M.I.S.S.: Do you see yourself expanding into other product categories such as handbags?
Its definitely in my vision to expand into socks, handbags, even stuffed animals! Next year we are moving to a combined design studio/showroom and retail space in downtown Manhattan.
M.I.S.S.: What’s your favorite shoe that you’ve designed?
Our Wren and Bernie boots are ingenious if I must say so myself. They both feature our newest construction- a one inch casual cuban heel with, get this, two extra inches of “hidden height” inside the body of the boot! The effect is so subtle that a lot of people miss this detail.
M.I.S.S.: Who do you want to work with? Who do you want to see in your shoes?
It would be fun to collaborate with Miranda July on a video piece. I love this part from “Me and You and Everyone You Know”
I’d love to see other indie icons such as Kim Gordon, Zoey Deschanel, and Karen O.
M.I.S.S.: What part of footwear design is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?
The production process is really challenging when it comes to the grading for all the shoe sizes. That includes half sizes!
M.I.S.S.: Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in footwear design?
I’d suggest learning as much about production as possible. It’s not the most sexy side of the business but when it comes down to it its all about how the shoes are made.
Thanks so much for your time, Ce Ce!
Stay up with 80%20 & Ce Ce Chin at the links below:
- M.I.S.S. PROJECT: CeCe Chin Collection SS10
- M.I.S.S. x Moxsie: Interview with Ce Ce Chin of 8020 Shoes
- An Open Letter to NIKE: My Shoes Don’t Need A Diet
- NYC 5/22 Sneaker Con W/Special Kaws Display
- Stampd’ LA Makes its Mark in ’09