Necessity is the mother of invention, but for Jamie Haller it’s also the starting point for her recently-launched eponymous footwear collection. “All the shoes I make are iconic silhouettes that I needed to create a version of for myself,” she tells TZR via Zoom from the backyard of her Craftsman style home in Los Angeles, with trees and shrubs surrounding her and the faint sounds of bird chirps and her toddler running around in the background. For the last 22 years, Haller has been a fashion designer; she also runs a highly-successful home restoration business with her husband (more on that ahead). One might call her an interior-cum-fashion designer with impeccable taste that transcends traditional career trajectories. In other words? The kind of person you might turn to for style advice.
Last year, during the height of the pandemic, Haller did the unthinkable and launched a new business. Her debut shoe brand features three timeless silhouettes: ballet flats, penny loafers, and Jutti slippers. Versatile, beautifully crafted, and built to last, Haller’s tightly-edited assortment of staples are the culmination of her extensive industry experience. Ahead, Haller shares how she balances her work in two worlds of fashion and interiors — plus her secret sauce to making shoes that feel like a second skin.
Cultivating A Career In Fashion
Despite the fact that Haller is innately imbued with a strong sense of style, she never thought of fashion as something she could do. “In college, I was a Spanish and Philosophy major, and even though I loved speaking Spanish, it wasn’t really feeding me,” she says. “Then I met somebody who worked in fashion and I was like, ‘Wait, hold on, what do you mean you work in fashion?’ I grew up in San Diego and I would watch Elsa Klensch, but I didn’t feel like it was something I could do for a living, you know?” Fast forward to now and Haller has designed for both big name corporate retail companies and independent labels with cult-like followings.
Exploring The World Of Interiors
Amidst her growing career as a fashion designer, Haller also picked up a side hustle with her husband in 2012, which — as many side hustles do — transitioned into a flourishing business. “We had this hobby of buying and restoring homes and it started as a way to think about our future. We didn’t have a retirement plan or a pension and so we were thinking about what was going to be the thing to help out when we’re older,” Haller says. The two started out with rental income properties and would refurbish, remodel, and rent out places in Echo Park and Silverlake in Los Angeles, many of which were beautiful Spanish and Craftsman style bungalows and fourplexes. “ I got this education in taking something back to its bones and bringing it back to life,” she explains. “I loved doing it through the lens of respecting the originality and authenticity of its architecture.”
From there, the couple shifted their focus to houses, starting with a Mid-Century property in 2014. “We started buying Craftsman homes, then we moved into a neighborhood full of Craftsman homes and Victorian homes, and then we started buying things in our neighborhood,” she says. “I’ve had the ability to X-ray through whatever the current state of something is and only romantically see all of its potential, for better or worse. It’s been a really amazing journey that I'm grateful for and that I'm taking day by day.”
Launching A Shoe Brand
Between her work in fashion and bourgeoning home renovation business, Haller was busy. And then the pandemic struck. “It was the first time in 20 years when everything stopped — so much was unknown,” she remembers. “There was a lot of reflecting during that time and I realized that I wanted to do something on my own that I was in charge of. I guess the loss of control and being told, ‘oh, this is all stopping’ was just very unsettling.” She had been collecting shoes for over two decades but had never designed a pair. “With clothes, if you’ve designed like 82,000 pairs of jeans, you're not as constantly inspired every time you see a pair of jeans, you know? But shoes just felt like this fresh thing, something entirely new,” she says. “I didn't have any experience designing shoes but I have so much experience designing and producing. Those skillsets transfer. So I decided I was going to try something personal.”
Introducing The Jutti Slipper
Haller began with a pair of Jutti slippers. “The first shoe I made is a Jutti slipper, which is an authentic Indian (and sometimes Moroccan) slipper. I didn’t design the shoe, the shoe in its concept existed but I had a pair of them that I bought in Rajasthan when my sister got married,” she says. “Her husband has family there so we were in India for a month and traveling through cities and visiting all the amazing sites. I found a pair of them that I died over and fell in love with. I wore them every single day for 15 years until they finally fell apart.”
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The Penny Loafer
Next was the penny loafer, another classic that resonated with Haller’s own wardrobe. “The loafers were mostly because I have this collection of men’s penny loafers in my closet that I buy at vintage stores or on eBay or at flea markets,” she says. “None of them fit me: I just buy them because I think they’re beautiful. I always see beauty through the lens of age and patina, which translates very clearly into what I do with home as well. I find the way leather transforms over time to be beautiful, so I wanted to make a pair based on the ones I love that would actually fit me.”
The Ballet Slipper
Finally, Haller rounded out the line with a pair of ballet slippers. “I usually buy about three pairs of Capezio ballet slippers at a time and I wear them until they have holes in them, which happens fast because you’re not meant to wear them outside,” she says. “I love the shape that it gives my foot, I guess I want to feel like a dancer all of the time.” Haller also chalks up her motive to design a ballet slipper to a desire for comfort. “In my twenties I remember having thoughts of ‘Oh I’m never not going to wear high heels, I’m only going to wear high heels for the rest of my life.’ But honestly, now I’m only going to wear slippers for the rest of my life. I just have to keep making new beautiful versions for myself... really it’s all for me. That’s always been my inspiration — it’s very selfish!”
Looking Forward, With Intention
Haller will continue to expand her range — but with intention. “I don’t really follow trends too much, I just kind of take it from a very internal place. I mean, I wore the same pair of slippers for 15 years,” she says. “What’s most important to me is that why I’m making something matches the quality of what I’m making. These shoes are inspired by something I wore for so long, so they should really be of that same caliber.” So, what can you expect from Jamie Haller in the months and years to come? For starters, fresh versions of her loafers, a pair of Oxfords, a new slip-on mule, and a boot. “I don’t want to give too much away, but the boot has a fairly low heel and a really cool menswear-inspired shape that’s been streamlined to make it more attractive on a woman’s foot,” Haller shares. “It’s exciting to figure it all out as you go.”