In her past life working for corporate oil giants, Tiburon resident and engineer Anyi Lu spent most days on her feet visiting chemical plants, but she still had to maintain a professional appearance. All that trekking around on concrete floors while wearing high heels motivated her to offer a solution for career women who suffer in order to look sophisticated. She took the leap into fashion design, creating her own eponymous line of footwear in San Francisco in 2005. Handsewn in Florence, Italy, the high-tech shoes are equal parts comfortable and fashionable and are sold at Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus stores across North America.
What do you like about working in the Bay Area?
It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s a great mix of art and technology sprinkled with entrepreneurship. The lifestyle is sophisticated yet really practical. People walk here, and that’s what my company is about, sophisticated shoes that people can walk in comfortably.
Who are your favorite local designers?
Marie and Karen Potesta, San Francisco sisters behind the knitwear label Micaela Greg. It’s made in California using Italian yarn. And Lan Jaenicke, who makes cashmere coats and sweaters. She has a minimalist design, and like me she finds inspiration in menswear and brings the bespoke tailoring to women’s pieces that are timeless and classic.
What are your favorite stores in San Francisco?
I love Eden & Eden in the Financial District, between Jackson and Kearny streets. They carry lots of vintage jewelry and eclectic handmade items. On Maiden Lane, I love the candle shop Diptyque. It’s not a big space, but you feel like you’re back in the 1920s. I loved the flagship in Paris and was so happy when they opened in San Francisco.
What are your favorite footwear trends for fall 2014?
Subdued color palettes, smoky taupe, oxblood. The men’s tailored look. That’s incorporated into our fall collection; Katherine Hepburn is our inspiration. Her look—the pants and attitude—I was especially drawn to.
What neighborhood would you explore on a free day?
I love Hayes Valley. There are so many unique shops and restaurants. There’s Straw, a place that serves carnival food, and an ice cream stand called Smitten that uses a liquid nitrogen machine to make its made-to-order flavors.
Where do you take your visitors?
I live in Tiburon. It’s such a quaint little town with a fantastic view of San Francisco and Angel Island. We’ll go hiking to the Tiburon ridgetop where you can see a panoramic view of the Bay Area, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco on one side and the Bay Bridge on the other. Afterward we’ll eat at this fantastic Mexican restaurant on the water, Guaymas, or the ice cream shops in the downtown area.
Where do you like to eat in the city?
I love The Rotunda in Neiman Marcus—the space, the stained-glass dome and the view, you can see all kinds of people down at Union Square. I love Golden Boy Pizza, this hole in the wall in North Beach that sells slices to go for a few bucks. Take them to Washington Square Park for a pizza picnic. And I love Bar Jules and Souvla in Hayes Valley.
How often do you travel?
I travel at least a couple times a month. I’m a Million Miler with United.
What is your flying outfit?
I prefer to dress very comfortably because I often fly from San Francisco to Florence, a 15-hour flight with a stop at Frankfurt. Good shoes are important because your feet swell sometimes during a long flight. It’s the worst thing if you can’t put your feet back into your shoes when you land. I bring a very good cashmere shawl or sweater that doubles as a blanket or pillow since you never know what the temperature on the plane will be.
What else can you not travel without?
My passport and Dr. Hauschka lip balm, which doubles as eye cream for me on the airplane.
My Perfect Day
Go to Muir Woods for a morning walk, just to smell the redwood trees, the salt water and misty fog. Looking at those fantastic trees is a great way to start the day.
Drive into the city and stop by the Golden Gate Bridge lookout on the way for a beautiful view of the bridge and the city. You have to walk a lot, but the Marin side isn’t as crowded as the other side.
Go to Golden Gate Park. I love the California Academy of Sciences museum. I could sit and stare for hours at the Philippine coral reef with the colorful fishes. It’s always mesmerizing to me.