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Meet the Digital Media Zone’s youngest inventor

By Tamara Sestanj

Nine-year-old Abi Smithson loves fashion — especially shoes.

“When we go to a shoe store or clothes store, I always go to the women’s section and wear all the high heels,” she said.

But her interest in fashion goes beyond every day dress up. Smithson is currently in the process of designing her own shoe line at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone under the guidance of Robert Ott, chair of Ryerson’s school of fashion.

The idea for her signature product — the Love Sandal —came to Smithson while she was attending a five-day inventors camp this past summer. While at the camp, she learned the basics about HTML and CSS web coding and business.

Smithson’s mom, Julie Smithson, says that the experience changed her daughter’s perception of things and really got her thinking about inventing.

“[She had] an idea and we said, ‘why don’t we make it?’’” Julie Smithson said.

“It’s not like a normal flip-flop,” Smithson said. Unlike ordinary sandals that leave awkward tan lines, the Love Sandal is designed to leave a heart-shaped tan on the top of the foot. It will also leave heart imprints behind in the sand.

In addition to the Love Sandal, Smithson is also hoping to expand the line by designing a shoe equipped with LED lights.

“I thought there was a spark in Abi, she set her goal and she works towards that,” Ott said. “I was really impressed with her attitude and maturity.”

Smithson is involved in every aspect of the process, whether it’s designing the actual product to doing market research.

“We didn’t start it yet, [only] the prototype, but I’m very excited to,” Smithson said.

With permission from her elementary school, Smithson will be going to the Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone once a week to work on her sandal line. Smithson wants to become either an inventor or designer when she grows up, so she’s excited about the chance to jump-start her career.

“She’s definitely exposed to some really cool experiences,” Julie Smithson said. “Everybody’s seeing where Abi could go with this, she has such an open education forum right now, who knows where she’s going to take it.”

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