Globetrotter Jaqui McCarthy always travels in style, the serial entrepreneur-influencer said, detailing a journey that led her to develop a distinctive, fashion-forward shoe line made from eco-friendly bio materials.
It begins with an unwanted fellow passenger: metal in the heels of her high-heeled pumps.
“As an avid traveler with TSA precheck, I should be able to walk through metal detectors without having to remove my shoes,” said McCarthy, who launched the now-grounded travel app WiGo Trips in 2016. “Unfortunately, when you wear high heels, you’re going to have metal rods inside the heel.”
Tealbottom — which includes a soon-to-be-released collection of bamboo-based shoes engineered in a lab to leave a smaller carbon footprint — strolled from the inconvenient pain point, debuting on social media earlier this year and hitting the boutique shelves at Black Label Threads in August.
Busy with rolling out her travel app, she initially had no plans to develop early ideas and sketches for a high-heeled solution into a real product; it was simply a side project for the tech founder. But with an opening in the market and a growing team behind her, she said, McCarthy crafted Tealhouse Inc. — the parent company to her fashion brand, Jaqui Co. — in February 2020.
Aerospace engineer Suman Saripalli, who serves as the head of research and development for Tealhouse Inc., introduced McCarthy to Bobby Lousbury, who became her lead engineer. The team worked to develop the innovative footwear.
“I’ve never been a super fashionable person until I met Jaqui,” Lousbury said, laughing. “It blew my mind that this was something that had never been done before. Because I am an engineer at heart, the technology behind being able to replace these metals with bio materials was something that really jumped out to me.”
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“ There’s more to life than being a passenger.” – Amelia Earhart . . Hair: @pinkiecouturesalon Location: @ownwithskyking In Collaboration With: @wigotrips Photographer: @jaquimccarthy Model: @modeltheologian. . . . #TealBottoms for #BossBabes . 💖 #CrueltyFree 🌱 #Sustainable 💎 #Luxury . . 🛍 Shop our store *Link in Bio* . . 👉 Follow @jaqui_fashions 👉 Tag #TealBottoms to show of your shoes 👉 Tag #JaquiCo wearing your shoes to be highlighted on our story . . #LuxuryLifeStyle #Fashion #FashionLife #Footwear #Shoes #Vegan #CrueltyFreeFashion #Shoe #HighHeels #JaquiCo #Jaqui #StyleOfTheDay
With COVID-19 putting widespread travel — and consequently WiGo Trips — on hiatus in March, McCarthy was able to pour more time and energy into improving the shoes, she said.
Click here to read about how WiGo Trips connected like-minded travelers.
The sustainable luxury shoe
Luxury is a privilege, McCarthy noted.
“In knowing our privileges, we know what we can do to change the status quo,” she continued. “Usually with luxury, you have the markup to invest in the design and marketing of the product. We have the markup to invest in research and development for the technologies we are creating [in order] to have a more eco-friendly product.
“It’s a completely different way of measuring luxury.”
The rubber soles found inside most shoes take between 50 to 80 years to decompose; the metal in heels takes about 100 years to decompose, McCarthy said. For her own product, it was important to have such materials as bamboo and biodegradable rubbers that would leave a smaller ecological footprint.
Tealhouse Inc. also uses food waste to create its vegan leathers.
The new environmental technology component to the shoes drew in investors, McCarthy added.
“There’s a saying that goes, ‘Shoes don’t save the planet, but the people who wear them do,’” she recalled. “But in our case, the shoes we are creating really do help the planet.”
Click here to check out Tealhouse Inc.’s Jaqui collection and shoes.
All McCarthy’s shoes have a signature teal bottom, a color that holds great significance to her.
“WiGo was my first tech company; I came from corporate America before that,” McCarthy shared. “I was really struggling in this new space, wondering ‘Why aren’t they taking me seriously?’”
“I had people tell me to ‘smile more’ and that I ‘shouldn’t dress that way,’” she continued. “So the teal bottoms represent empowered professionals who live life on their own terms; people who are unapologetically themselves … Consumers have really responded to our message.”
In the future, McCarthy hopes to continue to set a precedent for luxury that is both responsible and innovative, she said.
“If you’re going to create something, you have to sacrifice so much to build it up,” McCarthy said. “If these shoes didn’t have the chance to make a global impact, then they would have stayed a hobby. It is that opportunity for change that keeps me going.”
Click here to read more about Tealhouse Inc.’s mission.