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in high demand Celebrities beg Irish designer Anita Flavin to improve their footwear

The Derry shoe expert has taken on the tango and put the sparkle back in the samba after pros from America's Dancing with the Stars begged her to improve their footwear.

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Anita Flavin is designing shoes for celebs all over the world

Anita Flavin is designing shoes for celebs all over the world

Anita Flavin shoes

Anita Flavin shoes

Anita Flavin shoes

Anita Flavin shoes

Anita Flavin shoes

Anita Flavin shoes

Anita Flavin shoes

Anita Flavin shoes

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Anita Flavin is designing shoes for celebs all over the world

Irish designer Anita Flavin is dancing around the world.

The Derry shoe expert has taken on the tango and put the sparkle back in the samba after pros from America's Dancing with the Stars begged her to improve their footwear.

With her new brand, Anita Flavina, she now has the backing of Strictly's Kristina Rihanoff while world champions Stefano Di Filippo and Dasha Chesnokova are her ambassadors.

And she's tapping her toes until she can announce a tie-in with a household name of musical theatre and another TV star.

The Garvagh woman, who worked for shoe chain Office before starting her own Neet and Minette brands, says she'd never considered making dance shoes until the professionals asked for her help.

"I was in New York a few years ago when I met some dancers from Dancing with the Stars. They told me they couldn't find shoes that ticked every box for them and asked me to make dance shoes.

"I said I had too much on, but they kept on at me for over a year," says Anita.

"Then I was in Italy and I had some spare time and a sourced a fourth-generation dance shoe factory. We started working together and spent two years developing new shoes with the professionals in New York because they are really technical."

She launched Anita Flavina and brought Stefano and Dasha, a member of the Dancing with the Stars team, on board to spread the word.

Anita says she'd love to get involved with the Irish version of hit show.

The designer also started taking dance lessons to learn how the shoes have to work, and her brand has become a massive hit on the pro circuit.

Former Strictly star Kristina has said they're the most comfortable shoes she's ever worn, but Anita is well used to celebrity endorsement.

When she was creative director of Italian brand Ennio Mecozzi, Amal Clooney was a fan and her own brands were sold in Selfridges, Fenwick and Kurt Geiger.

Thanks to the success of shows like Strictly, dancing is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the world, but the right shoes are hard to find.

"You can go into any shop on the high street and buy a pair of snow boots, but you can't buy dance shoes," says Anita.

Passion

"Years ago you couldn't buy trainers outside specialist sports shops, but Nike changed all that. Office was the first fashion retailer to open a sports fashion shop."

She's learned to craft the shoes according to the style of dance so Latin shoes must be open toed while ballroom models have to be closed.

Every millimetre has been engineered to perfectly fit the professionals, who can spend up to 14 hours a day on their feet.

Anita also discovered some of the existing brands lack the passion associated with dance, so she's put some soul in her soles.

"For example, Dasha started dancing at two years old and every day they wake up to dance to win. They spend hours every day practising for international competition. Dance is full of glory and victory and failure. It's the only sport that's an art.

"It's all about beauty and glamour and that wasn't really reflected in the marketing of the companies who have been around for 30 or 40 years, so we've come along and added really high class fashion, portraying dance with the splendour and passion it should have."

Anita added air cushioning from the same company which works with Nike and concentrated on the details which can keep dancers on their feet, like extra straps across the front of Latin shoes so they'll stay in place, and the right heel size on men's shoes.

"For a dancer the shoes are the most important thing because they are the connection with the floor. You have to have your feet in total alignment with your body to prevent injury," says the designer.

"The heel on the shoe has to be in alignment with the heel of the foot. If the heel isn't correct the dancer's feet slip forward and press on the ball of the foot.

"A dancer will flex different parts of the foot and every millimetre of the shoe is a different width according to the support they need."

The Derry woman also has plans for retail sales - the shoes are currently online or available through dance studios - and can make them for everyday use by adding an outdoor sole.

Anita has curtailed some of her sales campaigns for the moment because of Covid, with America the only country that's currently open, but she's ready to go when restrictions are lifted.

Stefano and Dasha are based in Hong Kong and poised to win over the 18 million people in China who regularly dance.

"I've got so much going on. I'll be doing a lot more with Kristina and I've got a project with theatre land and a collaboration with another TV celebrity.

"And it's about time I did something that's under my own name," she says.


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