Wed, Feb 23, 2011 - Page 13 News List

A step ahead

Taiwanese brand Heavy Machine’s striking footwear designs have earned international attention for their combination of innovation and wearability

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff reporter

Heavy Machine’s sandals, pumps and boots are inspired by industrial design.

Photo courtesy of Heavy Machine

With just two collections so far, Heavy Machine’s industrial-inspired shoes have caught the eyes of fashion insiders.

Sandals and pumps by the Taiwanese brand, which was launched in 2009, feature sculptural details like sharply angled resin heels and soaring platform soles. Feminine color combinations in jewel and sherbet tones offset the futuristic designs.

The brand has been written up in Ars Sutoria, a leading trade publication, US Glamour, Japan’s So-en, and appeared on influential fashion blogs Style Bubble ( and Kingdom of Style (

Heavy Machine designers Yoyo Pan (潘國瑤) and Michelle Wu (吳怡慧) met four years ago. Both studied fashion design abroad, Pan at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Wu at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. From the beginning of their friendship, the two talked about launching a line of shoes different from what was then available on the market.

“We liked shoes that are unusual and hard to find,” Wu says. “We wanted them to be completely unlike any other shoes.”

At the beginning, the two had to tone down some of their more exaggerated designs in order to make them manufacturable.

“The footwear makers said they couldn’t actually make it or else the shoes would turn out completely different from our sketches,” Wu says.

“At first we didn’t really understand the construction of shoes and just designed what we thought was cute,” Pan says. She enrolled at the Footwear and Recreation Technology Research Institute (台中鞋技中心) in Taichung, where she studied shoe engineering.

The duo look up to designers who are known for their conceptual creations, including Martin Margiela, Nicolas Ghesquiere and Helmut Lang, and their influence can be seen in Heavy Machine’s innovative designs.

But Pan and Wu’s brand has also earned kudos for its wearability. In one post, blogger Susanna Lau of Style Bubble pronounced a pair of shoes from Heavy Machine’s first collection “definitely comfortable” after a day spent walking around in them.

High-heeled sandals and pumps are balanced with a curved platform sole to stabilize the foot while walking. Heels are placed to support the weight of the body.

“I’m not very good at wearing high-heeled shoes. I find a lot of them uncomfortable and hard to walk in,” Wu says. “I want to make shoes that I can at least wear myself.”

From the start, Pan and Wu pursued an international market for Heavy Machine, attending trade shows including Designers and Agents (D&A) in New York City and Tranoi in Paris. Their shoes are currently sold in 10 countries, including Taiwan, Kuwait, Australia, the Netherlands, Japan and Hong Kong.

“We don’t have a target customer in mind,” Wu says. “Just as long as they are women — or men.”

“Yes, as long as they are people,” Pan adds.

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