Fairfax & Favor team up with Jo’s Odd Shoes
At Fairfax & Favor we thought we understood the power of shoes. Pink shoes, blue shoes, high shoes, stomping-over-muddy-fields shoes, dancing-all-night shoes… our team spend a large portion of each day thinking about how to most comfortably and fabulously protect and support your feet in all situations. And yet, before 2019, we truly had no idea just how much of an uplifting impact a single shoe can have on somebody’s life.
Luckily, Fairfax & Favor customer Catherine was ready and willing to educate us. In 2019 our team received a powerful email from Catherine that gave us an opportunity to become a part of something truly special.
(or, fantastic advice from a Welly Boot Lover)
Dear Fairfax & Favor,
I wanted to write to you with regards to the predicament that I now face on a daily basis.
In 2015 I had purchased a pair of your competitor’s shoes, a lovely pair of leather boat shoes. But in my true eagerness I failed to wear appropriate socks or walk them in. This resulted in a rather large blister on my heel.
Little was I to know that this small blister was to be the start of a disastrous and devastating roller coaster which would result in life changing surgery.
As a result of the blister and the subsequent tissue trauma, and with lot of tests and investigations, I was eventually diagnosed with a condition called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). It's one of the most painful condition, ranked as second on the Magill Pain Score. I couldn't stand anything touching my leg, changes in temperature caused extreme pain, I couldn't have water touching it, simple everyday activities became impossible. My leg tripled in size so I was unable to wear a shoe.
This situation continued until May of this year, so almost 3 years from the initial blister. It was decided that the leg would never heal despite ALL that was tried, I also broke the leg whilst trying to carry an ironing board and the x ray showed an infection in the bone. So the decision was taken, despite the massive risk that the pain would spread to the rest of my body: a below knee amputation was the only option left.
So why am I writing to you?
Once you have had a below knee amputation you learn a few things that aren't explained post-surgery:
- The obvious one - you need to learn to walk again.
- Can you paint your toe nails?
- Can you wear high heels?
- How do you put shoes on a false foot? The answer to this question is in fact pretty easily as they try to match it to the size of your residual limb.
However, boots are another issue…
I was a girl who loved nothing better than throwing on her welly boots, and trailing over the fields in the lovely countryside of south west Scotland. However, this is practically impossible. I have literally lost count of the number of welly boots I have had to cut off with scissors as they get stuck.
I would absolutely love a pair of your Regina boots and I'm hopeful that with the zip down the side that these maybe just what us amputees are looking for. Hence the email. What a life changer these boots would be for us amputees, and one which as a company you could advertise.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.
Our team was so touched by Catherine’s story that our Operations Assistant Sam decided to reach out and ask for her advice. What could we be doing for amputees? How could we help? All of our shoes sell in matching pairs… what does this mean for people with odd-sized feet or only one foot? We had a lot to learn, but luckily it turned out there were already incredible people out there in the UK doing the vital work.
Jo’s Odd Shoes
Catherine told us about Jo’s Odd Shoes, a non-profit group set up by Jo O’Callaghan who also suffers from CRPS. Jo, like Catherine, ended up in a position where amputation was her only option. And Jo, like Catherine and everyone at Fairfax & Favor (and, we assume, like you!) absolutely ADORES shoes. But every time she bought a new pair of boots, sandals, trainers or converse… she was adding to a pile of unneeded right shoes at the bottom of her cupboard. It felt like a horrendous waste. She knew she couldn’t be the only one in this situation, so she decided to set up a Facebook Group to see if there was anybody else who would be interested in swapping or donating shoes.
‘Ending 2020 how it started! All these shoes ready to be parcelled up and sent out.’ – Jo O’Callaghan
The Jo’s Odd Shoes Facebook group is now made up of over 2,000 people from around the UK. Jo is supported in running the non-profit by two lovely ladies, Michele and Heather.
The non-profit organisation is supported by some wonderful charities such as Finding Your Feet and Steel Bones. Jo’s Odd Shoes describe themselves simply as ‘a group for people who only wear one shoe or two odd shoes, to make a pair.’ Members of the group can find everything from shoes (single or in two different sizes, and members only need to pay postage!) to Zoom yoga classes, from advice and emotional support about being an amputee to memes like this one posted a couple of weeks ago:
A quick glimpse at their newsfeed shows that Jo’s Odd Shoes is about so much more than bringing shoes and feet together: it is about bringing people together in an immense well of online love, humour, and shared experiences. But don’t take our word for it! Jo’s Odd Shoes member @SewLuckyMumma had this to say in a Facebook comment:
When I found this group I honestly couldn't thank them all enough. Unless you're in the situation where we are no one understands how important it is to have nice shoes. I begrudged paying full price when one shoe would go to waste. When I found this group it hit me just how important this simple everyday element of life I missed terribly. Now I'm in the position where I have sooooooooo many shoes.
My wardrobe if FULL! the hall cupboard, which may I add is double doors is FULL, the spare bedroom sliding wardrobes are also FULL of beautiful shoes, wellies, sandals, boots and trainers. It really does give you a new lease on life.
Jo, Michele and Heather are angels for all they do and I for one will be eternally grateful xxx
Fancy Flamingos: Teaming Up
Since March of 2019 Fairfax & Favor has been honoured to contribute to Jo’s Odd Shoes in our very small way by donating all of the odd shoes and boots we have in stock each year. Our single stock is mostly made up of sample boots (the manufacturer sends us one boot/shoe for signing off) or where one boot has been significantly damaged but the other is perfectly fine. We have now sent our third batch of shoes over, meaning that Jo’s Shoes have sorted and shared almost 250 Fairfax & Favor shoes in a range of styles, fits and sizes over the last two years. Each of our shoes are sent in our signature navy blue dustbags (opening them is half the fun!) and our boots are donated with tassels to go with them.
Fairfax & Favor odd shoes ready to send and in their new homes
For Sam teaming up with Jo’s Odd Shoes was a no brainer:
‘I am passionate about this charity because I feel that there are so many people who would love the opportunity to wear our fabulous designs, but who simply can’t justify the price tag knowing that they will only wear one of the boots. And for those with different sized limbs (prosthetics or otherwise) … they would have to buy two pairs just to get one pair for themselves. Everyone deserves to look and feel amazing, and I feel it must be such a boost to have a beautifully crafted boot to wear when you have undergone a life changing surgery.
I also think it’s fantastic for Fairfax & Favor from a sustainability point of view as these boots would otherwise end up in landfill. Jo started Jo’s Odd Shoes because she didn’t want to waste her spare shoes… we don’t want to either! The odd shoes we find each year deserve a home, and it is all more than worth it when we hear about the joy our boots have brought to Jo’s Odd Shoes members.’
Vicky Bateman’s friend Karen reached out to F&F directly just before Christmas whilst Vicky was having her operation. She wanted Vicky’s left leg to look as special as possible and Vicky says, ‘by golly that has been achieved! You so kindly donated me my beautiful Regina which I was just blown away by. The generosity but more so the sentiment and the thought. I think it is wonderful that a company like F&F support something like Jos. To have something so lush on a remaining limb is just the best!’
Spreading the Word
Our Fairfax & Favor team only heard about Jo’s Odd Shoes thanks to Catherine. And we bet that there are more companies out there selling shoes that don’t have a Catherine! What’s more, we wonder how many amputees or people suffering with CPRS don’t know about this incredible charity?
So what can you do? Spread the word, of course! Perhaps email your (second) favourite brand and tell them to get in touch with Jo, Michele or Heather. We are certainly not the only company donating spare shoes to Jo’s Odd Shoes, but we bet there are more out there who would love to do so if only they knew.
And in case you needed any extra convincing… we shall end this blog on the story of Mim Collins and her Fairfax & Favor boot and tassel, both organised by Jo’s Odd Shoes.
Everybody deserves to feel like a Fancy Flamingo, after all…
If you wear only one shoe, or two odd shoes, or if you know somebody who does, the link to join Jo’s Odd Shoes can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OddShoesJo/