Meet the new Tamara Mellon

A couple of this week's postings come from Florence, where Jo went on a research trip.  And we're sharing this a) because as health and beauty editors we know happy feet make a happy, healthy woman (we walk everywhere), and b) because a trip to Florence wouldn't be a trip to Florence without at least one new pair of shoes. And as luck would have it, Jo stumbled on the most fabulous shoe concept e-v-e-r.  (Trust us:  we know our shoes.)  And we're chuffed to bits we got there before Vogue...

The VIAJIYU store had been open for less than a week.  (As hilarious start-up stories go, founder Nicole Still's is right up there:  currently, there's not even a front door, as the glass didn't fit when it arrived, so for now Nicole and her friend - who's come over from Australia to help out for a week! - cover the shoes with dustcloths at night, and pull down the grille.)

Nicole (below) turned down an amazing job at Facebook to open her store, after having the idea while relaxing in a Japanese onsen spa bath.  (We always knew baths were a good place for ideas to strike.)

And she'll be glad she did.  Remember the first time you read 'VIAJIYU', because one day it's going to be like the first time you read the name Jimmy Choo.

Viajiyu_3What sets this concept apart is first of all the comfort factor - Nicole also walks everywhere, and tried literally every brand's flats (from the aforementioned JCs to Chanel's to Pretty Ballerinas, etc.) before settling on her seriously foot-friendly designs.  (The Portofinos, for example, have a hidden 2 cm wedge in the heel, while The Medici, Via Firenze style has a super-squishy sole that puts the spring back in your step even when you've slogged miles round an Italian trade show.)

But oh, then comes the fun bit. You can either buy your style off the shelf (they come in half-sizes, for which fact alone we could kiss Nicole).  Or you can have any style made in any of the colour combinations, for an entirely customised shoe.  The colours are just fantastic:  an absolute rainbow, as well as perfect neutrals.  Choose from patent or matte leathers, suede, raffia...  Then add bows, clips, or have a contrast toe-cap, as you wish.  It's entirely up to you.

Price-wise?  Not high street prices (they start at 330 euros), but still good value for something that's entirely tailor-made to your heart's desire.  Having not bought a single pair of shoes all summer, Jo left with two VIAJIYU darlings - one cheetah-print, one sheeny black with a grosgrain bow - and may well never buy her shoes anywhere else, ever again.  (VIAJIYU will happily ship anywhere in the world.)

Slightly quirkily, American-born Nicole - who ended up in Florence via Sydney - also has a customised boat business.

So we say:  good luck, VIAJIYU, to all who sail - or in this case, skip - in you...

PS  The name?  Via means 'road'.  Jiyu is the Japanese word for 'freedom'.  Say it 'vee-uh-shoo'.