Over 10 years ago, Beks Anderson and her husband sold everything they owned and moved to Italy so Beks could learn to design shoes at the Instituo Europeo di Design in Rome. She was taught by tutors who’d worked at Valentino and Fendi, among others, and learned how to infuse her lifelong love of texture, materials and leathers into high-quality, hand-made shoes.
Twelve months later, they returned to Mount Maunganui and created Chaos & Harmony – the market-leading, boutique shoe company we all know and love today. We recently sat down with Beks for a much-needed catch up about backing yourself, going ‘all in’ and also the exciting new Bridal Space she’s just launched in collaboration with Blak clothing.
Tell us about that life-changing decision to go to Italy – what made you take the leap?
When you’re younger, you’ve got all this energy to put into the world, plus you’re not afraid to take risks.
I was searching for what I wanted to do with my life. What was my calling? What was my purpose?
Shoes were a fascination for me since I was a child, but I didn’t know if it could be a viable career option. After researching for more than a year and a half, trying to figure out how I could make it happen, we decided to go overseas.
There was no reason to not do it. My husband and I weren’t tied down to anything, so we just decided to go for it! I’d rather do something and regret it, rather than not do it and wonder ‘what if’.
It was an incredible experience. I loved learning how the Italians think in terms of design, and it was a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in the culture, but there were also challenges. It was an 18-month course delivered over just 12 months, and trying to communicate with people in another language was exhausting.
I was burnt out after that year, but it’s given us a lot of stamina now.
What have you learned about yourself over the last few (crazy) months?
Anything is possible, both good and bad!
Like many people, we’ve done about a year’s worth of work over the past three months. There were things about my business I wanted to change and hadn’t. It made me realise I’d become a little complacent, so I took this opportunity to action the things I’ve been putting off for far too long.
There was a chance our business was in trouble, so we decided to go all in. We thought we already were all in, but then an experience like this happens and you realise you need to go further.
I definitely became a better decision maker, learning not to dwell on things too long and be confident in the choices I make.
What inspires & motivates you?
I draw inspiration from travel. I love people, stories, culture, the world…
We sell shoes, but it’s so much more than that. I want to create a business that’s helpful, valuable and leads people to a better place. Shoes are a part of my story, but they’re not my only story. As long as I’m making a difference, I’ll keep doing what I do.
What do you love most about the brand you’ve built?
I love that people feel so connected to Chaos & Harmony.
People say, “Your shoes make me feel so good”, and this feedback is something we really strive for.
Some time ago, we had a woman come into our store, who was looking for shoes to wear to her husband’s funeral. It was a real privilege to be able to connect with her in a moment where she needs help finding the right shoes to make her feel good about presenting herself on that hard, but special day.
Then of course there are brides! The first time I had a bride bring her dress in store to try on with her shoes, I got emotional and started crying! I love being part of these special moments.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Communication, communication, communication.
Covid has made this more important than ever before. Over the past few months, I’ve had to communicate very clearly with staff, our China team, customers, wholesalers, the bank, my husband and my kids.
It was exhausting, but it paid off. It’s better to bring people along on the journey, rather than them wonder what’s happening.
On a personal note, I love the saying ‘human beings are not rational, but we’re very good at rationalising.’ Whether it’s dating people or spending money, people make decisions based on emotion, but tell themselves they’re based on rationality.
It’s something I’m working through in my own life and becoming more aware of.
Anything exciting coming up for Chaos & Harmony this year?
Yes! In collaboration with Blak, we’ve just opened our new Bridal Space. It’s a new area that’s been created to offer bridal parties a beautiful space to come and try on dresses and shoes.
Brides will find the full collection of Chaos & Harmony Bridal Shoes in store, where our Bridal Consultants will help them find their perfect pair. Blak bridesmaids also allows bridal parties the chance to choose their favourite style of dress in their preferred fabric and colour.
Quick fire questions…
What’s your morning routine?
I’m a person of faith, so I get up and read my bible, pray, then either go to the gym or for a walk. I then organise the kids for school and kick into work.
Coriander – yes or no?
I have a gorgeous Russian Blue/Burmese cat called Frankie.
Your last meal on earth?
It’d have to be a long Italian lunch… with wine… and about 5 courses.
Black & white – does that count? Otherwise lilac… I love it for spring.