Candace founded Protégé because she believed women shouldn’t have to choose between beauty and pain.
As an MIT graduate with 10 years of experience in product design, Candace never thought she would find herself in the world of fashion. But after an especially painful day in heels –when a networking event evolved into a dance party – she came home with blister-covered feet and forefoot numbness.
From this point forward, she was determined to take on the challenge of engineering painless high heels. After all, what good are beautiful shoes when they hurt so badly you can't walk confidently in them?
So Candace went to the thrift store and bought 20+ pairs of heels, which she tore apart to learn how they were constructed. She realized how little effort was being put into research and development of comfort and stability, and how much room there was for improvement. (Most heels were made with just a thin layer of plastic or cardboard.)
After 18 months and 67 prototypes, she was finally happy with the aesthetics and functionality of the first Painless Stiletto - designed to reflect the most popular, classic, and timeless style worn from the Met Gala to fashion shows all over the world. They can also be dressed up or down as work heels, date night heels, for tradeshows and weddings, or brunch with the besties.
The innovative design of the Stiletto has been acclaimed for its innovation, providing support on multiple areas of the foot, without sacrificing style - because our mission is to put a woman’s comfort at the forefront so she can put her best foot forward.
Protégé means student. Always curious, open-minded, and determined. We are life-long learners who approach problems with a fresh perspective.
We refuse to see the same boundaries and limitations most others see. And so, when others say it can't be done, prove them wrong.
There is a Japanese concept “Sho Shin” which means Beginner's Mind. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions just as a beginner would. To always be learning new things, even if it means starting with zero knowledge of a subject. Having a Beginner's Mind promotes neuro-plasticity and keeps us innovative.
As a small bootstrapped startup in this huge $41.4 billion heel industry, we are go-getters and have an underdog mentality. Our motto is: “Move Forward. Never Settle.” These are the core qualities that influence how we build our team and products, and also the mindset we look for in our future partners and investors.
Join our team! View our open positions here, and our investor info here.
Our mission is to inspire the $41.4 billion heels industry to prioritize women's comfort and health. Most high heels and work heels are designed by men who never have to wear their own creations, and so a woman’s comfort has never been a consideration for the majority of designers. We're here to change that.
Who We Serve
Created for dreamers and ambitious women driven by a sense of purpose, Protégé heels remove the barrier of having to choose between elegance and comfort - so women can focus on presenting their best, confident selves.