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Georgiana Ghiciuc discusses creating timeless heels to innovate ethical luxury

Behind-the-scenes inspiration talks about the fusion of fashion and sustainability in heel manufacturing.

Georgiana Ghiciuc discusses creating timeless heels to innovate ethical luxury
Photo: Georgiana Dumitru

When Georgiana first reached out to me on Instagram to tell me about her brand, I must admit that I was sceptical. This was not due to the quality of her products; I knew she had worked with my dear Diana Cojocaru, so I expected MAD Shoes to be of high quality. My scepticism stemmed from a sense of hypocrisy when discussing high heels. 3–4 years ago, I could barely stand in heels and walked like a 5-year-old trying on her mother's heels.

But you know (I hope) that I am really honest in what I do, communicate, and promote, and that I am in that period of my life when getting out of my comfort zone—which has kept me captive in a not-so-great area for me—so I have decided to say yes, let us give these absolutely gorgeous high heels a try.

I swear, they are extremely comfortable and stylish.

I also admire Georgiana as a woman and a female entrepreneur, so I had to invite her to an open and inspiring discussion about ethical luxury in the manufacturing of heels.

In addition, all MAD Shoes pieces are made in Bucharest, Romania. Proud as can be!

PS: You can order your favourite pair with my discount codes: Raluca15 for simple pairs and Raluca20 for those with exquisite accessories.

Georgiana, a pair of Mad Shoes high heels inspired me to fall in love with this style of footwear for the first time at the age of 36. And this is something amazing, you know. So I am very interested in the Mad Shoes brand's backstory. How and why did it all begin?

It has somewhat of an abrupt beginning. At a time when I felt like I didn’t want to (only) do marketing and employer branding consulting, I decided to switch gears and go into shoe design. I’ve loved and worshipped shoes for as long as I can remember, so it only felt natural that I’d go in this direction. However, it was never planned because I knew at the time nothing about how to design shoes—nothing about the manufacturing process or the materials required. 

I only knew that I’d wanted a pair of fuchsia satin heels with unique accessories. Since I couldn’t find them on the market at the correct price, I decided to make them myself. And if other women would also find these shoes enticing, all the better.

Not your ordinary Carrie Bradshaw
Here’s the story of a girl whose opinion on high heels was.…

What do you think about these 3 concepts: slow, premium, and ethical fashion?

All of these 3 concepts are incredibly hard to combine into the same brand. MAD Shoes aims to remain in the slow fashion area because the shoes that we create are timeless pieces that can be worn continuously; also, we cannot and would not compete with brands like Zara or Nike. 

I love the “ethical” part, and we aim to achieve as much of it as possible. Our shoes are handcrafted in a factory in Bucharest (a very good one!) and the accessories that I use for the shoes are purchased at a very fair price from the talented artists who create them.

Other than that, we work primarily with satin, but we still use leather for a few of our models.

I am aware that each pair of MAD Shoes is handcrafted in Romania. Tell me about the craftsmanship process, including the colours, fabrics, design, and creation steps.

The process here is extremely straightforward. As I come from the tech sector, I would like to adopt a business model where we only produce a small variation of models (the same stiletto in a lower heel and a higher heel). Diversity would come from the colors of the satin used and the accessories that adorn the stilettos. 

The shoes are produced by hand in a factory in Romania; we’ve worked hard with our collaborators there to achieve a prototype of a shoe that is well put together, looks and feels (and is!) expensive, but is also wearable for several hours in a row. It was not easy, but you know it firsthand, Raluca—despite the 10cm height, it is totally possible to walk (and even dance) in them.

For the accessories, we’ve worked with Diana Cojocaru for porcelain accessories (which are absolutely ethereal) and with Cezar Petryan for glass, and so far, they’ve been a combination of trend and imagination. Hearts are very in trend at the moment, so I thought, “Why not make a lush fancy heart of glass and 24k gold leaf, which would stand the test of time and would look absolutely luxurious?" 

I also admire your brand because it offers "limited edition collections in collaboration with artists." I appreciate the intersection of fashion and support for local artists. How did you come up with this idea, and with whom have you previously collaborated or do you intend to collaborate?

I was always attracted to those shoes that looked different. Aquazzurra has many models that look like actual pieces of jewelry, with big Swarovski rocks inside the heel; Dolce and Gabbana also have very inspiring collections every year—maritime, floral, celestial—practically the sky is the limit. 

My personal preference sits at the intersection of a classical satin Manolo and a Sophia Webster. Which is why some of our shoes come in plain satin (and are extremely beautiful and elegant as such), and others are adorned with an accessory that is unique. 

I was always into art. Even as a child, I would browse through my mom’s art albums and imagine how wonderful it would be to maybe go into this direction myself. I chose a completely different career path, but my heart always remained close to art in all its forms. I only sing, so maybe this counts 🙂

In any case, I have an eye for style and fashion and I thought my love for art could be fulfilled through these accessories. We have so many talented artists here in Romania who paint or sculpt—some of them never worked on small pieces, some of them did; however, the people I talk to all seem intrigued by this idea of condensing what they do into a small nugget that would go on a shoe. Diana already worked on jewelry, but Cezar’s work is primarily in designing these huge glass ornaments, some of them multiple metres tall.

I’d love to do a collab with the talented Ramona Biciusca or with Art Georgies.

What kind of woman loves wearing Mad Shoes high-heels?

The woman who is crazy about shoes and who wants her heels to feel and look different. The woman who can afford to buy a pair of Manolo but chooses to buy a Romanian brand instead, for sustainability purposes and because she wants to stand out from the crowd.

I mean, there’s immense beauty in a pair of Louboutins (there’s a lot of pain there as well :))) ) but so many other women wear them. For some people, this is not a problem, but I know many women (myself included) who already own famous luxury brands and want something different. We aim to bring out that something.

Photos: Georgiana Dumitru complements this noble universe of yours. Are you shipping throughout Europe?

We are and for now, it is our main saleschannel. We’re exploring additional partnerships to diversify our selling mediums all over Europe.

MAD Shoes
Made by footwear artisans, in collaboration with local artists! Custom satin high heels, available in limited-edition capsule collections.

Tell me more about the Madgician Podcast.

I love doing live interviews! As much as I am artistic and creative, I still have an entrepreneurial heart and still pursue my consulting career (I mostly do corporate training at the moment).

However, I find the most joy when talking to people, exchanging ideas, exploring options for business, and whatnot. I had another podcast in Berlin, which I ran for almost 3 years; it was an employer branding one, and I started it during the pandemic, shortly after settling down in Berlin. It was instrumental in my professional career development, as it helped me get to know everyone in the industry. 

So, drawing from the learnings (and success) of that experience, I’m willing to repeat it, this time for fellow women in my situation—women who have recently started their own venture and are struggling with marketing, strategy, or product. 

Georgiana, Photo: Georgiana Dumitru

By talking to very experienced women entrepreneurs (many of whom I proudly call my friends), we explore strategies for accessing new markets, prioritising marketing budgets, and assessing new product lines, as well as the challenges of navigating it all as women.  So many interesting insights came out of the 2 episodes that I’ve done so far. I'm, first of all, learning a lot from it myself.

The Madgician aims to bring a bit of MADGIC :)  into this world of entrepreneurship by shedding light on the struggles we all face, be it in fintech, fashion, production, or services.

While I was living in Bucharest, Romania, I founded Connecting Women Entrepreneurs, a series of events honouring exceptional Romanian women entrepreneurs. Now I want to turn this into an international community. So I was wondering if you could recommend any other brands or businesses run by inspiring women.

I think this initiative is impressive. For the effort you put into it, the whole process of weaving these invisible threads between women who have never met, but who have so much in common. It is really essential that we, as Romanians primarily, get out of our comfort zones and start socializing first, and secondly, support each other. I have so many times attended conferences where French, Germans, Israelis, or Americans would meet for the first time and then explore possibilities for collaboration, and where Romanians would avoid each other deliberately for the remainder of the conference that I feel this is a stigma we absolutely need to overcome. We can and should support each other. 

Other brands that I admire and that are run by women are Ioana Ciolacu, Ami Amalia, or Hardot. Newer brands are Mia Ru jewellery (by Delia Mia Rotaru) or Muselline bags (Calina Bilt).