Holly innovates for women in the white leather K-89 sneaker

POWER IS having a female perspective

By Holly Curtis

Keds VP of Product, mom of 2, and lover of
local baked goods

Photographed in New Hampshire by Heather McGrath

I started my career in footwear surrounded by men. Every day, every project, every shoe was framed in a masculine way. My designs became bold and driven by trend or commercial needs. Or hyper feminized and too sweet. In design meetings I would start conversations about wearing occasion or styling. What if she were to wear this high top with a dress? Is this ankle height still flattering for most women if it hits her at the widest part of her calf? These felt like simple enough questions that I asked myself anytime I went shopping or got dressed in the morning. Shoes are a special kind of product…yes it’s about fashion and looking great, but it’s also about function and this fundamental question…do I look good in this? And more importantly, do I FEEL good in this? But again and again I was met with blank stares or, even worse, “you’re overthinking it.”

Holly Curtis
“I started my career in footwear surrounded by men. Every day, every project, every shoe was framed in a masculine way.”

Fast forward a lot of years, a lot of seeing the world, a lot of learning through living and I found myself with the opportunity to join the team at Keds. This opportunity came two weeks after having my first baby and honestly I was completely in the weeds and completely freaked out, but I jumped at the chance. At Keds I knew I had the opportunity to make women’s sneakers (which I had already been doing for MANY years) for ACTUAL women. What I didn’t know at the time was what a good decision it would be for me personally to move to a more women-centric brand. I knew I wasn’t going to leave my career after having a baby, but it was really, really hard (still is!). I started on day one at Keds as a working mom in a role I knew I could slay. I had to trust myself that my work was going to stand for itself and that sick days home with my baby or not saying yes to every trip was going to have to be ok. And the irony is that I got to make Keds the kind of place that I wanted to work.

The first thing I did at Keds was dive head first into the long legacy this brand has of making product for women. Something immediately rose to the top for the entire team—an old ad from the earliest marketing materials we could find that said, “Today’s modern lady looks her best when she feels her best, and that’s why we made Keds.” This has stuck with me. I can’t get over it. I think about it all the time. It’s a borderline obsession. This idea that so intimately links how women feel and how they look came from Keds at a time when women were still wearing corsets. This idea that all you need to do to look great is to FEEL great.

Luckily women are no longer being forced into corsets (or high heels!), but the reality is that women still carry so many insecurities about how they look. Fashion should be fun and footwear should be functional. We try to bring both of these ideas into our product, no matter what size, shape, or style you identify with.

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Heather McGrath, @heathermcgrath, Boston

Power is facing your fears and coming out stronger.

“Photography and directing gives me the power to show my point of view on a subject. I choose lighting, angles, location, and colors based on what I am trying to say about them. All of that is so crucial to help me show my take on a subject. My subjects are always strong and fearless. I gravitate towards people more like myself. I want to elevate fearless and courageous subjects.”

Heather McGrath

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