Treading on new ground

In the shoe world, beauty and comfort do not always go together.

But for Colombian shoe designer Edgardo Osorio (photo), one does not exist without the other.

The 29-year-old founder and designer of shoe label Aquazzura has successfully fused these two characteristics into strappy, sexy heels that one will have no problems dancing the night away in.

In a short span of 31/2 years, the Florence-based label has built up a following of celebrities, models and fashion It girls, and the shoes are sold in top stores such as Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Browns. The label's first stand-alone store opened in Florence last year and a second one is due to open in London later this year.

"I remember going to twelve weddings one summer and girls would start taking off their shoes before they even started dancing, which was kind of depressing. If you have to take off your shoes, it means they're not comfortable," says Osorio, on why he set out to make comfortable and beautiful shoes.

"Comfort used to be a dirty word that designers didn't like; a word that you would associate with orthopaedic shoes," he adds.

With ten years of experience designing shoes at Salvatore Ferragamo, Sigerson Morrison, Rene Caovilla and Roberto Cavalli, he launched Aquazzura in 2011.

In town two weeks ago to launch his spring/summer 2015 collection at On Pedder, the charming designer with movie star good looks spoke about comfort with fervour.

Many of his designs are crafted from what he calls "cashmere suede", which moulds to the shape of the feet. Osorio adds that colours also appear more vibrant on suede.

The label also has sandals, heels and flats that are made of leather.

Shoes are constructed in such a way that the weight of the foot is spread evenly among the ball, arch and heel.

For added comfort, each pair has a thin layer of memory foam that provides cushioning.

In Singapore, Aquazzura is carried at On Pedder; prices range from $650 to $990. They are also available online at LaPrendo and Net-A-Porter.

FOR THE REGULAR WOMAN

Osorio's fascination with shoes started at a young age, as a result of growing up with a mother and aunt who were shoe fanatics.

"My mother always wore high heels, even at home. I loved spending time in her shoe closet and going shoe shopping with her," says Osorio, who grew up in Colombia and Miami. He dropped out of the accessories design programme at the London College of Fashion when a job offer from Salvatore Ferragamo came along.

Although his shoes have been seen on the feet of actresses, such as Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Bosworth, seeing his creations on regular women excites him most.

He says that he takes screenshots of women seen wearing his shoes on Instagram, for inspiration.

"They love it enough to buy it with their own money, and to style it in a way that is their own," says Osorio, who is single.

Sporting a pair of loafers from Car Shoe, Osorio plans on designing men's shoes and adding handbags to his label some day.

For now, he is firmly focused on building a label that has something for every moment of a woman's day - "from red carpet to skiing and everything in between".

His upcoming fall/winter collection features new styles, such as Timberland-inspired looks and thigh-high boots.

Inside every Aquazzura shoe box is an inscription that reads: "If the shoe fits, buy them in every colour."

One feels egged on to buy another pair.

"A woman can have 1,000 pairs of shoes, but she'll always wear the same three or four pairs - I want my designs to be those shoes that women live in."

staceyc@sph.com.sg

Shoe designer Edgardo Osorio on some of the iconic Aquazzura shoes

BELGRAVIA FLATS

$920

Most women think that this cage-style flat will visually cut their legs off, but I've left a gap in the front of the foot that stretches up to the ankles, which provides an optical illusion of thinness.

There aren't many people creating chic flats. These are flats that you can wear, which are as sexy as heels.

BELGRAVIA ESPADRILLES

$650

Espadrilles are new to the brand. These were inspired by Mochila bags that are hand-woven by the indigenous Wayuu tribe in Colombia. The fabric of this pair was also woven by the tribal people from the Wayuu tribe. Each pair takes them about a day to weave. It's wonderful to be able to take something ethnic and make it modern.

SEXY THING

$850

This was the first shoe I ever designed. I was sitting by the pool and sketching, playing around with silhouettes; it was very organic. I love that it is a very covered shoe, but you still see a little bit of skin.

HELLO LOVER

Not available here

I was inspired by Loulou de la Falaise, a muse of Yves Saint Laurent, who was always piling on bangles. I love this idea of wearing bangles on your ankles.

Women are usually afraid of wearing cuffs on the ankles because it can make legs look shorter, but the beautiful thing here is that the straps around the ankle are so thin and gold that they don't cut off the legs visually.

Cool girls in the fashion world - an exclusive tribe of hip denizens from TV presenter Alexa Chung to model Cara Delevingne - have a new go-to designer shoe brand.

Started in 2009, the up-and-coming Tabitha Simmons (photo) shoe label is named after its stylish British founder. A triple threat with plenty of cool girl credential herself, Simmons is a working stylist, editor and designer.

"I wanted something very timeless, that you could wear season after season," says the New-York based designer of the brand's beginnings.

"Something slightly classic and that wasn't an all bells and whistles kind of shoe," she explains, during a phone interview with Urban last month.

Her fun, feminine and easy-to-wear designs consist of items ranging from embellished mid-heel sandals, to pointy-toed flats, to buckled ankle boots. They do not fall prey to quick trends and are made for a confident, modern kind of girl, she adds.

Products range in price from roughly US$390 (S$530) for a pair of flat espadrilles to more than US$1,200 for a pair of boots. They are available online in fashion-forward outlets such as Club21 Online and Net-A-Porter.

The label has garnered plenty of buzz, and Simmons was most recently nominated for Accessories Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the Oscars equivalent in the fashion world.

This puts her in direct competition with some very good company, including designers Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, The Row's Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen and Irene Neuwirth. The awards take place on June 1 in New York.

Simmons, who is married to British fashion photographer Craig McDean and has two young sons, is appreciative of the support that the brand has enjoyed since its start.

"I've been very lucky," she says of the brand's famously stylish clientele, who also include A-listers such as Kate Moss, Miranda Kerr and Emma Watson.

"These women are really known for their style, and I know they have so many choices!"

WIDE APPEAL

The brand is attractive to a larger audience as well and Simmons is quick to point out its diverse appeal. "I see women in their 60s wearing our shoes and I love seeing that too."

The designer brand has also reached out to the larger public through collaborations with mass labels Toms and J.Crew; these links were forged from her CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nomination for emerging talent in 2012.

Despite her brand's success, Simmons - a chic brunette who will only reveal that she is more than 35 years old - is adamant that she will not be giving up styling or editing work to devote herself solely to the label, any time soon.

She works regularly with brands such as Dolce&Gabbana and Tory Burch and contributes to American Vogue.

"When you love your jobs, it's really difficult to say I just want to do shoes, or I just want to do styling," says the multi-talented designer. "I don't want to give up any of those."

The sources of inspiration for her collections are equally varied, ranging from the Victorian era, to Peru to Sailor's Valentines shell sculptures. She trusts her instincts to guide her, instead of following shoe trends of the day.

She says, with a chuckle: "I'm not prejudiced when it comes to inspiration. It comes from all different areas."

Simmons seems content to stay in the realm of footwear, as opposed to getting into the ready-to-wear game.

"I never think of shoes as a limited canvas," she says, when asked whether there are constraints to working in this medium. "Yes, it's of a certain scale but there are endless possibilities and different ways to design a shoe."

"Sometimes, I think we have too many ideas and need to edit," she says, adding with mock drama: "That's my problem!"

llim@sph.com.sg

Urban picks four Tabitha Simmons shoes to look out for

 

FUN AND VERSATILE

US$536 (S$727)

net-a-porter.com

These fun glitter-finished leather sandals have a perfect mid-height heel.

They would work equally well with jeans and dresses.

FEMININE POINTS

US$628

net-a-porter.com

Pointed-toe flats are all the rage these days, and these come with a delicate ankle wrap to emphasise its femininity.

CAT POWER

US$885

net-a-porter.com

These leopard ankle boots will add a dose of rock 'n' roll chic to even the simplest errand-running outfits.

MODERN FLORAL

US$690

eshop.club21global.com

A classic pointed stiletto sandal gets livened up by floral embroidery. It is a modern update on the lady who lunches.


This article was first published on April 10, 2015.
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