From Manolo Blahnik to Brian Atwood: Meet 5 Designers Behind Your Favorite Shoe Brands

From Manolo Blahnik to Brian Atwood: Meet 5 Designers Behind Your Favorite Shoe Brands
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Legendary shoe designer Manolo Blahnik once said that shoes can "instantly transform whatever it is that you are wearing." It's true—shoes have the power to pull an entire outfit together. And behind every great shoe brand is an even greater designer. We spoke with five power players in the footwear industry to learn what inspired them to pursue this field and what they love most about their careers.

Shop the shoes (above): Manolo Blahnik Hangisi pumps, $965; nordstrom.com. Brian Atwood Cleta sandals, $558; theoutnet.com. Sophia Webster Chiara, $420; sophiawebster.com. Charlotte Olympia Kitty flats, $495; charlotteolympia.com. Aquazzura sandals, $695; shoescribe.com. Aquazzura flats, $695; intermixonline.com. Sophia Webster Layla, $495; sophiawebster.com. Charlotte Olympia Amanda, $965; charlotteolympia.com. Brian Atwood platform sandals, $950; saksfifthavenue.com. Manolo Blahnik Mary Jane, $735; bergdorfgoodman.com.

Manolo Blahnik

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Was there a specific moment you remember thinking, 'I want to become a shoe designer'?
"
I started my career as a stage and costume designer until I met Ms. Diana Vreeland many years ago. She pointed out the shoes in my drawings and recommended me to focus on the design of shoes. I truly admired her and I, of course, took her advice. After some time I was offered to collaborate with Ossie Clark, in 1971, for his show and made my first pair of shoes. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given."

Were there any difficulties you faced pursuing a career in this field?
"Of course there have been difficulties, like I assume everybody faces at some point in their careers. First of all, I had to learn how to make the shoes, study their proportions and balance, etc. It took a lot of research and it is an ongoing process. Nothing is easy in life but if one wants to succeed you have to work very hard. I never give up working and I am constantly researching and learning. It is my world and it is what I adore!"

What is your favorite part of your career?
"Everything! I feel very lucky to be able to do what I really love. I truly enjoy traveling to the factories in Italy to sample the shoes and watching them come to life after they have been in my imagination for so long, I feel very privileged to be surrounded by incredible artisans who understand my vision and designs."

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Charlotte Olympia Dellal

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Growing up, what did you want to be?
"Since I can remember, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I used to love watching old Hollywood movies with my mother as a child, it was all the glamour that got me interested in fashion."

As opposed to ready-to-wear, why did you choose shoes?
"When I was doing my foundation course at London College of Fashion, I always designed a different hat, bag and shoes for every outfit. For me, it was always about the total look. My tutor mentioned that I was very accessories focused so suggested I do my degree at Cordwainers [a leading shoe design college in London], so I did.

What is your favorite part of your career?
"Dreaming up ideas and them seeing them become a reality. Also, sampling all the shoes in my size!"

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Sophia Webster

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Growing up, what did you want to be?
"I wanted to be a dancer."

Was there a specific moment you remember thinking, 'I want to become a shoe designer'?
"I always knew I wanted to be creative, as I was into arts and crafts from a young age. I thought I would go into fine art but on my Art Foundation course when I was 18, I spent a day drawing shoes and I loved it. From there I applied to Cordwainers College to do my footwear degree and didn't look back."

What is your favorite part of your career?
"My job is a complete dream come true. I love that I have the opportunity to travel so much with my collections."

Brian Atwood

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Was there a specific moment you remember thinking, 'I want to become a shoe designer'?
"When I was a teenager I was always sketching feet and shoes. It never sunk in that the shoe business would or could turn into what it is today! A psychic did tell me I will be famous for something to do with feet—go figure!"

As opposed to ready-to-wear why did you choose shoes?
"Shoes can make or break an outfit. I think the relationship between women and shoes is so fascinating—it intrigued me so much! It wasn’t until Gianni Versace asked me to design shoes for his haute couture show that I really got my hands dirty and started my life in shoes."

What is your favorite part of your career?
"I love starting a new collection. I love looking at colors, skins, leathers. The best part is seeing a client wearing my shoes—that is the highest compliment any designer can get."

Edgardo Osorio of Aquazzura

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As opposed to ready-to-wear why did you choose shoes?
"I've always found shoes more fascinating, more emotional. The shoes and the eyes are windows to a woman's spirit. They have always come naturally to me. When I sit down and design, it's shoes that always appear."

Were there any difficulties you faced pursuing a career in this field?
"I was lucky that I started very young since I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do. But, my father is very conservative and he never considered fashion to be a real career, but something I could pursue as a hobby. He wanted me to be a doctor and at one point I thought of becoming a plastic surgeon. Thankfully, I managed to convince him otherwise and now I make woman beautiful in a less drastic way!"

What is your favorite part of your career?
"Everything! I love to sketch. I love to turn an idea that is in my head into reality. I love to work with the artisans. I love to sell. I love to meet my clients and talk to them. I love to travel and discover the world."

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