This is how you walk the walk – literally.
Between meeting fans at a Holt Renfrew personal appearance and offering exclusive access to pre-order the SS2015 collection, he snuck in some time to answer a few of our questions:
You’ve stated the Aquazzura Instagram is your go-to to connect with your customers – why is it your favourite social media outlet?
I love Instagram. It’s the greatest tool – it’s the best tool you have to communicate with your customer. It’s direct contact. My memory is completely visual and to me, it says so much more than words. To be able to see my customer, where she is going – I actually take snapshots of the people who hashtag or mention me and those become a part of the mood boards for inspiration each season. We actually get to see who she is and talk to her – whether it’s about fit, what size to get, anything. I want to know who the Aquazzura girl or woman is. Instagram is the best tool for this. I’ve become friends with people we’ve been Instagramming with.
You’re from Colombia, raised in Miami, and studied in London. Aquazzura is based in Tuscany where your shoes are made – what draws you to Italy?
I moved to Italy when I was 19 to work with [Salvatore] Ferragamo and I found that the incredible thing about Tuscany and Florence is that it has the biggest concentration of artisans of luxury in the world. It’s where all the best tanneries are, the best artisans, the best factories, the best of everything. Everything is a half an hour away. I get to work directly with these people who have all this amazing knowledge – magic things happen. You can’t compare that with sending an email from New York. And if you think about all the biggest luxury houses from Pucci to Cavalli, they all started in Tuscany.
The recent collaboration with style icon Olivia Palermo has been very successful — can we expect more to come from this partnership?
I loved collaborating with Olivia. It made me do things that I didn’t think I was going to do, we experimented with things – I had never done a jeweled shoe – it is so interesting to work with other creative people. I love the idea of working on something artistic. I’m actually working on something with the art world, so hopefully that will be the next collaboration.
You worked for Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo, and others — when did you know you wanted to start your own business?
I always knew. It was wonderful to share other people’s vision and to learn from such amazing people. From Ferragamo, you learn how to make shoes, how to construct shoes in such an amazing way. From Cavalli, you learn the workmanship – the laser cutting, the fur, all these techniques. From everyone, I learned something. I always worked with brands that were very strong in craftsmanship. To me, I always knew – it just came down to the right time.
What was your greatest takeaway when you were working for others?
I was able to work with such incredible people in Tuscany – it comes down to the people. Having that network of amazing artisans, technicians, and people who’ve been making shoes for the past 30 to 50 years – and it’s an art.
How did feel when you took that chance to go out on your own?
You’re making your own collection, it’s always very scary. It’s personal. You’re creating your vision of what you want women to look like. At the end of the day, it’s what I want women to wear and what I love. So, to have people respond to it and like it, wear it, it’s so incredible. What makes me the happiest is seeing a woman, not a celebrity, just a woman in the street or in a restaurant wearing my shoes – she worked hard, she bought the shoes and she’s living in it. It’s so rewarding.
You are starting to become known for “it” shoes – which one from the SS15 collection do you think could be the next one?
I hope all of them. Though my shoes are very popular right now, they are also very timeless. You can take them out in a year or two and they will still be contemporary. I think with design, it should last much longer than 6 months.
Is there another shoe designer whose designs or career path you admire?
I always admired Mr. [Manolo] Blahnik. I think he is amazing, had a beautiful vision, followed it, and has been doing this for many years.
What do you always have with you when travelling to stay on top of work?
My iPhone. I need to write everything down and always need to sketch things if something comes to mind – so, also my Smythson agenda. I always carry these two things with me. I couldn’t live without these.
You are just about to turn 29 years old(!) What advice do you have for other young professionals who are striving for success on a global scale?
The first thing you need to do is dream. To have a vision and really know what you want to do and work hard. Anything is possible. There is no limit to what you can do when you really work hard and know where you want to go. If you know where you want to go, the universe will give it to you.
What is your advice for a young professional?
Have a point of view and be passionate, in fashion or in anything. If you’re passionate, everything is easier. We live in a world where social media is so important. As any young company or designer, use this tool to know what your customers want and be connected to them. It’s vital. To have this communication and access, it turns your company global immediately.
Was there anything in particular you were looking forward to for your first Vancouver visit?
The seafood. We went to Coast yesterday and it was delicious. And this afternoon – I’m looking forward to it – we are going to see the exhibit for the Forbidden City.