Sisters Celyn and Trifina Sala have been into shoes for as long as they can remember.
Paying close attention to fashion trends, they saw the emergence of the edgier “IT” shoe several years ago. They also noticed how customers became obsessed with getting that perfect fit: “Shoes with just the right arch and silhouette, heels that weren’t chunky, shoes that elongated the leg.”
With specialization and customization came higher production costs, so it got harder for shoe lovers to find pairs they liked at affordable price points. That’s when Celyn and Trifina asked themselves: “Why don’t we just make our own shoes?” Soon after, their shoe company Sala Chaussures was born in 2013.
A homegrown business in Cebu, Sala Chaussures features limited-run shoes with a dose of decadence. Every design is extraordinary, always with that added element—whether it’s an extra large bow in front or satin ribbons at the back. Singular and impressive, their designs are both wearable and affordable.
“We consider what our buyers would be willing to spend on our shoes. We ask ourselves: ‘Are we willing to pay this much, for this shoe?’ If not, then we’re probably overcharging. We believe that creativity doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive,” they share. “That’s why we try and make our shoes as creative and extraordinary as we can possibly imagine without sacrificing affordability and wear-ability.”
It takes months for a Sala Chaussures shoe design to grow from conceptualization to production, so Celyn and Trifina focus on designing shoe collections rather than keeping up with the ‘seasons.’
They first settle on a theme, from a variety of inspirations: family trips, old photographs, scenes from nature, and mythological stories, among other things. Next, they select key features, characters, and colors that will form the basis of their collection.
For their Shakespeare-inspired collection, they focused on their favorite characters: Oberon and Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, and Viola from Twelfth Night. Choosing the colors and features that would best represent these characters now forms the basis for their designs: “We sit down with our shoemakers to explain the idea behind each design. For example, how we want the lace ribbons in our ‘Capulet’ design to look like corset ribbons, or how the wings of the ‘Titania’ should look like fairy wings,” they explain.
The sisters launched their company with a Greek-inspired collection. Now, they are working on their Silk Road collection, inspired by a recent trip to Uzbekistan. “Expect colors and shapes reminiscent of what Marco Polo might have seen on his travels along the Silk Road,” they say. “Admittedly, we’ve been spending more time on this than our other collections because we want to get everything just right.”
They are also debating on designing a collection inspired by Norse or Philippine mythology. What would you rather wear, a shoe inspired by Valkyrie or Bathala?
Since launching their company, the Sala sisters have faced challenges, the biggest yet most fulfilling of which was developing prototypes for their shoe designs. There are times when first attempts at executing designs are so different from what they envisioned. Disappointing and costly, the sisters also see these mistakes as valuable opportunities to learn and improve.
“It’s such a special feeling, seeing your designs come to life,” they admit. “From conceptualization, to paper, sketching and re-sketching, to picking the materials, to the first attempt, and re-doing the attempt, and finally seeing the prototype you envisioned in your head—it’s one of the best parts of running this business!”
Another challenge is convincing customers to wear heels and pretty shoes on a daily basis. The Sala sisters commonly meet customers who say, “That’s so pretty, but where would I wear that? I don’t have anywhere special to go.” Their answer? “It doesn’t matter. Wear it anyway—to work, to coffee, to cocktails, to the grocery, wherever.” Wearing the right shoes, the pairs you love the most, should be a habit, not a once in a blue moon occurrence.
Over the years, Celyn and Trifina have observed how their customers often request for certain designs more than others. This prompted them to develop the Les Classiques Collection: classic staples that they began producing in more colors. They also tweaked the designs by making flat or block heeled versions of them, for example.
The Les Classiques Collection was launched at the HoliCOW Gallery-Store in Crossroads, during the HoliCOW x Sala Chaussures Parterre Party trunk show in April. Reaching out to customers in Manila, the sisters have also partnered with the Fifth Rack concept store in BF Homes, Parañaque.
When asked if they plan to open their own shoe store soon, they answered: “Eventually, definitely! When the time is right, we’d love to own a little boutique. Somewhere customers can browse leisurely, try on shoes, and maybe sip on a cocktail.” [Pictured is Celyn Sala. Trifina could not make the shoot as she was out of town. -Ed.]
photography Dan Douglas Ong makeup Nicko dela Peña hair Gino Fonghe