- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

Leave it to a former Peace Corps volunteer to pierce the peaceful veil of Indira Gandhi and come up with a wild woman and that's exactly what the former Indian prime minister was, says Toddre Monier, an artsy attorney who has been around the world and knows a few things about powerful ladies.
A portrait of the late prime minister hangs on kaleidoscopic walls of Wild Women Wear Red, an inviting shoe boutique Ms. Monier owns in the 1500 block of U Street NW. The walls are adorned with pictures of other female notables all independent thinkers who weren't afraid to go against the grain or think outside of the box.
The eclectic boutique, which opened in April and carries a wide variety of "funky and functional" footwear for women, is the brainchild of Ms. Monier, who could easily be described as one of the "Wild Women."
Nothing is subdued about the store: its furnishings, its bold color scheme (a combination of orange, lavender and red), its lighting and its stylish selection of shoes.
"In terms of creating an environment, I wanted it brightly colored a communal space for women a space where women can feel comfortable. The whole concept of wearing comfortable shoes is revolutionary, that's why I have pictures of revolutionary women on the walls Indira Gandhi, [1960s radical] Angela Davis [and] Rosie the Riveter ," Ms. Monier, 28, says.
So, don't expect to find the standard, run-of-the-mill two-toned pumps in taupe and black patent leather, or strappy stilettos at Wild Women. Ms. Monier, a native of Burbank, Calif., decided to present a new well-heeled look to her clientele one that addresses women's sensibilities their need for comfort and their desire to make a fashion statement.
"I knew in order for the store to survive in this market I had to find a niche. The shoes had to be comfortable and attractive, because I hate ugly shoes," she says.
"Stilettos aren't exciting. Most shoe companies do not make a flat or a comfortable shoe today. So the challenge [for many women] is finding a shoe that is attractive and a pair you can walk in. D.C. is a walking town, unlike California where everyone drives," Ms. Monier says.
Ms. Monier did her fair share of walking when she attended trade shows around the country. She looked for unique shoes with a primary focus on comfort. Wild Women showcases a variety of styles from sleek, brightly colored mules to vibrant handmade clogs with wooden soles, platforms designed for comfort and leather thong sandals encrusted with semiprecious stones.
Prices range from $44 to $215 because, essentially, everything in the store which also includes clothing, crocheted hats, bags and jewelry is made by hand. It's all about giving clients options, she says.
Marsada Zor, 27, was sold once she checked out the selection of footwear at Wild Women. Ms. Zor, a business analyst for the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), could tell the buyer had an appreciation for both comfort and style. So, she treated herself to a pair of shoes since she does a lot of walking. Before Wild Women, the Silver Spring resident says she couldn't find what she was looking for in shoes.
"They're conservative and funky at the same time," Ms. Zor says of her new black-and-white walking shoes. "They resemble ballet slippers, but they work perfectly in the office and they make a transition to an evening out."
Not only was Ms. Zor impressed with the merchandise, but the boutique's feel reminds her of a lounge with its portraits and rich velvet drapes. Most importantly, she says, is the store's universal appeal Wild Women welcomes all women, says Ms. Zor, who had an unusual experience at Wild Women that she won't soon forget.
"I happened to be in the store one day and a woman in her 50s came by. It was the wildest experience. She stuck one foot in the door. She was wearing a pair of red shoes. And then, she started screaming: 'I'm wild and I wear red,'" Ms. Zor recalls with a laugh.
Even if you don't wear red, don't consider yourself artsy or won't scream at the top of your lungs Ms. Monier says don't despair there's something for every woman at Wild Women.
The engaging graduate of the University of Denver law school, who lives in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Northwest, initially set her sights on a career in international policy with a focus on human rights.
To get her feet wet, she signed up for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in 1999 and was stationed in Namibia while a civil war raged right next door in Angola. She didn't have access to a television or telephones, but she did have lots of time to read and think. And that's exactly what she did.
"It was interesting I was in the bush [in spring 2000] and I thought about my life. There were two things that I promised myself I wouldn't do: work at a job that I hated or wear uncomfortable shoes," Ms. Monier says.
"I knew once I returned to the United States I wouldn't have time to sit and contemplate life. When I moved here in 1998 [after law school], I wasn't able to focus because I was so busy trying to find a job," she says.
While in Namibia, Ms. Monier had an epiphany she dreamed she opened up a shoe store in the District. Thanks to a friend who had given her an audiocassette of "Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype," by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the name for the shop was a cinch. The best seller encourages women to pursue their dreams and unleash their creativity it challenges women to dare.
She took the author's advice. Her Peace Corps service was cut short in 2000 because of the war in Angola, so she returned home to the District, landed a job with a nonprofit organization to make ends meet and spent the remainder of her waking hours at the Library of Congress doing research to make her dream a reality.
After she had finished her legwork and thoroughly researched the demographics of the area, it was time to choose a storefront location. Ms. Monier says the bustling U Street corridor instantly came to mind.
"I love U Street and I love D.C., although I'm from the West Coast. The only two things I miss about California are the weather and the ocean. But I love the vibe and culture here and the fact that I don't have to drive everywhere I go," Ms. Monier says.
She says the U Street community its residents and its business owners has warmly embraced the boutique since its spring opening. Fashion-conscious women, who are well established in their careers, shop at Wild Women as do graduate students and young professionals.
"We get a lot of neighborhood clientele, people who are walking to and from the Metro. And our best clients are well-established women who have already developed their own style," Ms. Monier says.
"But, then again, there's a little wild woman in every woman," she says.

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