By Melissa Welsh
It’s time to meet Melissa Welsh, a self-made entrepreneur and founder of Parallel Shoes. It all started back in January 2018, when Welsh said, “enough is enough,” and started designing a new brand of gender-fluid, men’s-inspired footwear. Her inspiration was simple – she was fed up struggling to find shoes that fit her style and her feet. That’s why every pair of Parallel Shoes is designed for anyone – adults and kids alike – who have smaller feet when compared to conventional shoe sizes. Because of Welsh and Parallel Shoes, those with smaller feet are no longer restricted on styles. Read all about Welsh’s life, inspirations and the new Parallel Shoes Confidence and Emerge Collections below:
1. Why did you start Parallel Shoes?
Honestly, I created it for myself. I can’t even count how many occasions I would drive around from store to store trying to find the perfect shoe, coming up empty handed every time. I noticed that whenever I was successful in finding what I wanted, it was always in the men’s section! I thought to myself, I can’t be the only person who has this problem. After an unsuccessful shopping trip, I sat down and started sketching shoes that I liked and adding my own personal taste. These ended up becoming the styles of Parallel Shoes today. When the planning continued I thought, “who would buy men’s inspired footwear?” My answer is clear now: anyone, including those in the LGBTQ+ community - I am so excited to see the different types of people, styles and lifestyles my shoes fit into.
2. How/when did your passion for shoes start?
I would say that it started in high school and progressively expanded. I moved across country with 72 pairs of all different types of shoes. I prefer sneakers, which will always be my go too, but there is something about a dress shoe that really changes your whole mood.
3. What inspired your Confidence Collection and Emerge Collection?
My inspiration came from envisioning where my customers would be wearing their shoes. I imagined the wingtips in The Confidence Collection being worn to interviews, the type of situation where one should always walk in with ‘confidence.’ The Emerge Collection stemmed from a bold style, where someone can show their authentic self.
4. What has been your favorite part about founding Parallel Shoes?
I started this company out of selfishness for my own needs, but quickly realized there was a large demand and benefit to my brand. I really enjoy meeting and talking to the different communities that are being brought together through Parallel Shoes.
5. List three words that describe Parallel Shoes.
Impactful, Personal, Authentic
6. Why did you decide to create your shoes using 100 percent vegan materials?
If you can make the right choice, why wouldn’t you? It required no extra effort to source vegan material over real leather, so the choice was easy!
7. Which is your favorite style of Parallel Shoes and why?
My personal favorite pair is the Linen Plain Toe. Seeing a similar style shoe available only in the men’s department was the inspiration of this pair. I think the plain toe style offers a fun yet professional look!
8. Why is cause-related marketing important to you, and why did you choose to donate one dollar to LGBTQ+ youth programs in Los Angeles from every pair of Parallel Shoes sold?
We are giving the LGBTQ community, a group that is historically underserved and underrepresented, more options to feel like themselves. Living one’s ‘authentic self’ is not only on the inside, but on the outside as well. In particular, transmen can benefit, as they’re typically born in a different body, have smaller size feet and want to take any measure possible to be their true self. Adding the right outfit and shoes can be transformative for your confidence and sense of self!
9. How would you describe your personal fashion aesthetic?
My personal aesthetic has always been a revolving door. Over the past few years, I have found a lot of comfort and confidence in a more androgynous, tomboy style.
10. What is the most inspiring feedback you’ve ever received?
Honestly, the most trusted people in my life had doubts – not in me, but in my passion, which only fueled my fire. I decided to take that feedback and build a successful brand!
12. What are the top three items on your bucket list?
7 Wonders of the World, Ireland, Shark Diving
13. What has been the most fun or exciting job you’ve had in the past?
I am a jack of all trades, but my favorite and most exciting job to date would have to be Camp Counselor/Director. There is nothing more fulfilling than providing joy to young kid’s lives.