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The Girl in Red Shoes

Nina Hidayat is the designer and lady boss behind ‘Sepatu Merah’, a handmade shoe line inspired when she couldn’t find that perfect shoe in the market to go with her perfect outfit. Hence, all the visions of ‘perfect shoes’ have worked together in encouraging Nina to start designing that perfect shoe made for everyone.  Nina has been on a one-way street ever since she designed her very first pair of red Mary Jane flats – the signature pair of ‘Sepatu Merah’.

Aiming at embracing classiness and trendiness without losing comfort, Nina’s inspiration for her collection often derives from a random thought and a pencil sketch. – “Inspirations come when you don’t look for them, really. People, online images, movies, videos – they all inspire me.”

From personally hand-picking the fabrics to materialize a pair of shoes, Nina had it all done in the comfort of her hometown – Bandung, Indonesia, which has one of the most fashionable scenes in the entire territory of Indonesia. Besides the streets of Bandung, her shoes were spotted in KL as she and her shoes are both frequent travelers to KL.

When she’s not busy sketching shoe designs, she’s a feature writer for Venusbuzz.com, a women’s media network.


Why the name ‘Sepatu Merah’?

Sepatu Merah is an Indonesian brand, thus I want it to be reflected in the brand’s name (Sepatu Merah means red shoes in Indonesia). Why the colour red? Because I feel that the hue embodies women – strong yet feminine at the same time.


Tell us, what do shoes mean to you?

Shoes are like magnets to me. When I people-watch, I make up stories about people with interesting shoes. For instance, I imagine ladies with chunky heels to be edgy, cosmopolitan, and active. Those with stilettos or tower-high heels are more of the princess type, very perfectionist and a tad fierce.


Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a pair of shoes. 

When I get inspirations, I sketch them and then think of the details: Colour, material, height. From there, I discuss with the shoemakers on the technical aspects of the shoes.


How would you define the style your line exemplifies?

Sepatu Merah aims to be classic but not appearing old at the same time. I feel it is futile to design something that is merely trendy – because people stop wearing them after a few months. We are trying to embrace femininity in our designs, without being unpractical or unhealthy. For instance, no thin pair of heels should go past 7cm to ensure any aches, bunions, or other orthopedic problems from wearing pretty shoes.


What makes you different from other designers?

Perhaps it’s the fact that I attempt to capture the joy of my childhood and translate it to my collections. For example, I feel that Mary Janes are very ladylike and classy without being overly girly – but they are not easily found in the market. That’s why I choose to rediscover Mary Janes; I want to achieve that both in the current and future collections.


What’s the most difficult aspect of running your own label?

The social media bit is quite challenging – you have to keep them updated although not every time people respond to your posts. The maintenance needs a lot of creative juice when sometimes one can only have so much juice after a long working day.


What’s the best perk in being a shoe designer?

It’s really fulfilling to see others wear your designs. The feeling is nothing short of priceless.


Do you keep up with the trends or create your own? 

I try to keep up with the two aspects, with more considerations about being timeless. I do incorporate trends such as velvet and polka dot in my designs but I keep the styles classic.


What’s your current obsession?

I’m quite intrigued about exploring androgynous style – what can you combine to get the perfect balance of clean cut boyish pieces with a touch of femininity.


Since you’re constantly flying between KL and Bandung, what are some of the differences between these two cities?

I think the two cities are currently emerging in terms of local brands, however I see KL’s rising designers as more on the high-end side whereas in Bandung you get the fine mixture between mid to high-end; which makes the fashion scene more colourful.

If you’re on Twitter, do follow Nina at @ninahidayat or find out more about Sepatu Merah  here.


– Elaine Neo


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