Size inclusivity has been an openly spoken topic within ready to wear as of late, and with luxury brands showcasing an array of different sizes on their runways for the past few seasons, it's had an effect on even the most archaic brands. However, this level of progressiveness has yet to trickle down to footwear, as the small range of sizes seems to be the norm almost everywhere. A woman on a mission to change that is Ieva Juskaite, who's recently launched footwear brand Jiij, who offer a minimum of ten sizes per shoe. "Being a woman interested in fashion and having a 44 EU size feet was never an easy combination, in terms of self expression, styling and even comfort. I always had to squeeze my feet into heels or flats that were too small, or pretend that my style was always casual. As a result, I never felt good about myself; a stranger in my outfits," explains Ieva. "Year after year no one seemed to be offering a solution despite changing conversations around inclusivity and gender, so I embraced myself being an outsider/misfit and turned my flaw into a business. I knew in my gut there were others like me out there who deserved a brand who catered to them as well." 

Her first collection is a curated edit of shoes that many with larger sized feet may struggle to wear; including Mary-Janes, square-toed block heels and your day-to-day boot. Taking cues from the 70s but designing through a modern lens makes them as unique as they are timeless, which Ieva also believes. "I think that the aspect of the 70s in the details, and a mix of shoe style inspiration from the 2000s era (taken from when I was a kid interested in western fashion), makes the shoes classic but with a funky twist." Sustainability is also a vital pillar for the brand. The shoes are manufactured within Europe and are made with apple leather – a bio-based material made using the leftover pomace and peel from the fruit juice and compote industry. "I was aware that plant leathers were being used increasingly, and I was actually first introduced to the material when I first met my
materials manufacturer in Italy. Apple leather behaves exactly like traditional leathers, so this would allow me to offer excellent quality products whilst maintaining my sustainable ambitions," says Ieva. "There is no space for a brand to exist anymore if it doesn’t take sustainability on board as a real concern... I’ve made a pledge as part of founding JiiJ to continually support any advances in the discovery of new materials and practices that can help make the fashion industry less harmful."

Want to know more about the lady who's taking strides towards shoe inclusivity? Learn more about her with our 8Qs below.

What is a book you always come back to and why?
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It changed the way I look at life and myself. And when I am not feeling myself, I come back to the book to remind myself who I am and where I belong.

What is your morning ritual like?
Take my dog for a walk. Make an iced oat milk latte. Watch some Youtube videos. Go make another coffee and start checking all the emails and to do lists. After the second coffee is done, emails checked, I go hoover my apartment (lots of dog hair), shower and then start my work. I make my mornings methodical because that’s what gets me into the working zone. The beauty of Paris (where I live) is that popping out for even the shortest walk your senses are going to be brought to life. People here and the city itself are committed to living to the fullest.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
To be myself. I know it sounds silly but it took me a long time to figure out that I was never fully myself, I was influenced by too many things and people around me, and becoming fully myself has been really rewarding and creatively inspiring. For the first time I feel settled.

What is an ongoing goal of yours?
I guess I always want to find justice. In all aspects of life and for everyone.

What’s your party trick?
With Corona and having been sober for nine months (a choice, not a necessity) I think I’ve forgotten what my original party trick was. But now with life opening back up and me markedly changed as a result of JiiJ, I’m ready to find my new party trick. Where should I be going out and what should I be doing? People tell me!

If you could travel anywhere right now, where would it be?
Mongolia. Because it’s where my far family roots come from.

Name something you’re grateful for.
I am grateful for my flaw (having big feet) to have come to me as an enlightenment for the path I need to take in life, which is helping others.

Name three things you can’t live without.
Addictive personality alert: iced oat milk latte, Youtube and hummus. Oh, and also my dog but we won’t count the dog because children are never counted as part of these questions. 

Shop Jiij shoes here.

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