Stacey Head Managing Director and Founder of she wear is a continuous innovator. Her award winning business continues to expand, with export growth and the launch of a new range of work sneakers developed to cater to the needs of front line health care staff, nurses, and hospitality workers who are on their feet for hours at a time.
she wear is now Australia’s largest supplier of PPE, safety footwear and workwear for women. Stacey has built her business from scratch, from a desire to provide women with fit for purpose personal protective equipment (PPE) options to address the trend of organisations supplying women with ill fitting men’s PPE as a default.
Her mantra is Quality, Comfort, Fit and Functional, and she’s determined to ensure that employers, and women themselves understand how correctly fitting PPE improves health and safety outcomes for women, and organisations.
I started my career wearing men’s PPE, and wore it for years while I worked in heavy industry, because there were simply no products being designed for women. When over 90% of the workforce was male, creating and supplying PPE for women just was not a priority, yet it is unlikely we’d ever experience this situation in reverse.
I can absolutely attest to the difference a well fitting shirt, pants, winter jacket, and pair of safety boots designed to fit a woman’s foot, made to my and every other female colleague’s comfort level at work daily, once options for women became available. And it’s industry disruptors like Stacey we have to thank for this welcome change.
What led you to develop a range of work sneakers designed specifically for nurses, health care and hospitality workers?
We discovered many of our customers were wearing our she wear safety footwear styles even though they didn’t require the safety protection. After researching the relevant markets, we realised women were struggling to find good quality, comfortable, supportive and durable footwear, and that there was a gap in the market for women in industries such as health, hospitality and retail.
It is so vital women wear supportive “fit for purpose” footwear, especially when working long shifts or standing for long periods of time. So we re-engineered our safety footwear into a range of work footwear, catering specifically for these markets.
It’s shocking that women are still being supplied PPE and safety boots designed for men. How do properly fitting boots and PPE impact health and safety outcomes for women?
Where do we start!? First of all safety. It is vital to keep safe in the workplace and/or work site, and having correctly fitted safety footwear, workwear and PPE is a necessity. The safety implications of wearing ill fitting footwear or “baggy” workwear are far reaching and very serious. Issues include oversized shirts being caught in machinery, and rolled ankles from boots that are not contoured to suit a woman’s more slender ankle.
It is also a matter of comfort. It is difficult to do your best work when you feel uncomfortable and awkward. Our footwear has been designed for function to keep women safe and protected. However comfort level is just as important. So we feature modern technologies (such as anti leg foot and fatigue materials and lighter safety toe caps) in our footwear for utmost wearability. This ensures women can spend long periods of time on their feet during their working day, and do so without pain or health implications.
How has COVID-19 reshaped global retail?
Retail has certainly had an interesting year! The global trend of online shopping has exponentially increased in 2020, and as far as predictions are concerned, it will certainly not slow down any time soon. There has definitely been a mindset shift. We are seeing more and more customers purchase footwear online, who traditionally prefer to purchase at a bricks and mortar retail store.
What are the future trends in safety footwear and PPE for women?
The safety industry has seen many changes over the last 5-10 years and trends like colour and more stylish design has definitely become more accepted and will feature heavily in the future. When we launched she wear in 2013 as the first to offer colourful, fashionable women’s specific safety footwear – it did challenge some perceptions and certainly created conversation! We are proud to be the change makers in the industry and even though it is frustrating to be copied by the large manufacturers, we are relieved to see the industry start to embrace women’s requirements.
Sustainable and vegan footwear options will feature in the future however it is a big challenge for the industry due to the implications and complications with safety compliance. We have a focus on only using small, family run factories with ethical and good social standards, and manufacture using gold rated leather, sourced from suppliers who are rated on their environmental and social practices.
We have prototyped non leather, vegan and recycled plastic upper options however, at this point, the quality isn’t up to our standard. Durability is one of our top priorities – there aren’t many boots that get the harsh treatment that work boots do! We will continue to forge ahead for alternatives for the future so watch this space!
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