The Big Deal
Teri Edmonds brings large-sized women's shoes to Maui
April 19, 2007
Teri Edmonds is a bright eyed, smiling and spunky young
businesswoman. Sitting across from her at Cafe Marc Aurel in Wailuku,
it was hard for me to see her as an up-and-coming shoe designer,
planning her future courses in shoe cobbling. We were talking about her
latest two lines of shoes, Hot Biskit and Wild Plumeria.
"Hot Biskit is more edgy, while Wild Plumeria is a bit more
conservative," Edmonds said. "I have a total of six different designs
in tons of great colors. One has adjustable width straps, the other
sparkle in the straps."
What makes the shoes especially interesting aren't the colors or the sparkles or even the names, but the sizes they come in.
"You want to know what's hot in shoes right now?" she said when
Idropped into her Wailuku store If the Shoe Fits, located next door to
Marc Aurel. "This is going to blow your mind."
Then she pulled out a few sketches of some of her customers' feet,
ranging in size from 13 to 15—three and half to four inches wide.
"Nobody makes shoes for these women," Edmonds said. "These women
want to buy shoes, but nobody is making anything for them. Almost all
lines of shoes go from size six to 10, with the width set at three
inches. These women don't fit anywhere in that model."
Most of us girls take the ability to buy swanky shoes for granted.
We complain that there aren't enough styles available, or that the
available colors just aren't right. But most of us have comparatively
small feet—what if your foot was a special size: where would you buy
A cursory Internet search for size 13 shoes in extra wide found some
of the most unattractive styles available. They weren't cheap, either,
with prices ranging from $35 to $150. Size 14 wide shoes are even
rarer—I located just two pairs, a sport shoe and flat closed-toe shoe.
Living as we do in the tropics, I can't even imagine wearing the later
shoe, much less ordering it.
"I had this one customer who came in," Edmonds said. "She was a high
school student. Her foot was four inches wide. She wanted to buy a pair
of cute women's shoes. I said I didn't have anything for her, but she
wouldn't leave. She put her backpack down and she begged me to find
something for her. She just sat there and cried. That changed me."
Edmonds begun compiling a data bank of foot sketches. She thought about what shoes sell well. It wasn't going to be easy.
Standard minimum orders for getting shoes manufactured range from
$100,000 to $150,000. Self-funding the launch of her own design
suddenly seemed a very tall order. When she added in factors like the
requirement that the shoes use only eco-friendly, recyclable materials
and the manufacturer's environmental awareness and reputation into the
equation, things only got more complex.
When she finally came up with a design that was large but still what
she'd consider cute, she went to a shoe conference on the mainland to
find a manufacturer that could do a small order for her. She was met
"What, you want size 15?" one manufacturer told her. "That's not a shoe, that's a boat!"
She eventually did find a manufacturer, which isn't bad, considering
Edmonds opened her shop just six years ago. Even then she was trying to
fit into a niche market.
"I have always been interested in fashion," she said. "I thought
clothing would be more risky, so I chose shoes. Everyone needs shoes."
Since the early days of her store Edmonds has been putting shoes on
the feet of what she calls "the hard-to-fit customer." In the early
days, cross-dressers were a big part of her clientele.
"It started because I was at a gala event fundraiser for Maui AIDS
Foundation," she said. "I found and carried all kinds of wild styles of
platforms, stilettos and heels that catered to the transgendered, as
well as stocking lines of women's business-wear shoes."
She still has the professional styles but she's added her own
designs that cater to the hard-to-fit women and girls. But getting
there wasn't easy. Learning to deal with her manufacturer in China,
delays in receiving the actual products, and having to buy large
quantities have all been challenges in creating her own line.
But Edmonds takes the shoe business seriously. When I asked her what
elements go into designing a great shoe, she replied without
"Arch support," she said. "It's so important. Without it your
posture is ruined, your arch falls; your back goes out of alignment.
Almost no women's shoe has arch support. It's crazy. Number two is
comfort. We live in Hawai`i. Nobody wants to have uncomfortable shoes
Her shoe lines reflect her beliefs, with arch supports, sole
cushioning, as well as lightweight and open-air designs. They come in a
variety of colors—bright spring pinks and oranges to the neutral beige
and blacks. You can buy them in heel or flats and they come in sizes
from six to 15, with an average width of four inches in durable manmade
But having succeeded in getting a large women's shoe to a
manufacturer seemed to only whet her appetite. Now she wants to work
"Everything I design will be done in the four-inch width with the sizing going up to 15," she said.
In a perfect world, Edmonds said, she would have her own
manufacturing operation on Maui. It would be a semi-cooperative
organization, using recyclable, natural fibers. She'd offer "amazing"
benefits for her employees.
"My factory would be open-air," she said. "Hours would be from 10
a.m. to 4 p.m. and there would be yoga and massage available. We would
grow the shoe materials like bamboo and hemp right there. I would have
a recycling facility for the old shoes. Workers would take turns with
the jobs, one-day work in the garden, the next on the shoes."
Sounds great, but she's still got a line of large women's shoes to start selling. MTW
If the Shoe Fits is located at 12 N. Market St. in Wailuku. For more information call 249-9710.
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