"It's my first time here" – Brian Atwood in Dubai
Shoe designer talks a Brian Atwood shop in the UAE
M eet Brian Atwood! The American model-turned-shoe-designer who started his career under the watchful eye of Gianni Versace is now celebrating 15 years at the helm of his own eopnymous luxury shoe label. Now in Dubai for the fist time, Buro 24/7 Middle East's Editor in Chief Shannon Wylie sat down with Brian Atwood to discuss Mexico, the it destination that inspired his new Spring/Summer collection, the Middle East, the location of his next flagship store, and Milan, his home away from home.
Welcome to Dubai!
Thanks. It's my first time here. So far, so good. I arrived late on Monday night, then went to Maine for dinner. I loved it. My friend Joey took us around, so we saw quiet a bit. On Wednesday, we went to the desert and the souk. So we have one full day in Dubai.
You're here to launch your latest collection, which is exclusive to Level Shoes. Tell us more...
This spring collection was inspired by my trip to Mexico. We had a lot of inspiration from Frida Kahlo - the flowers, the colours and the Mayan beading. I hear that people in Dubai love a lot of colour in their shoes, especially green. I definitely feel that this collection is a statement. The feeling of life, fiesta, that's definitely what we wanted to aim for.
Mexico is so exotic. Describe your favourite moment from your visit.
It was in Tulum, and it was during New Years two years ago. We stayed at Coqui Coqui, which was on the beach. It's very bohemian, cool and simple, which is something that I loved about Tulum. That Mexican spirit is wonderful! So of course the horizon and the water were obvious inspirations but it was more of the attitude, and the way they dressed and mixed different colours together, which was very inspiring.
Speaking about different colours, can you tell us more about your 13-inch heel?
Ever since J.Lo wore the fuchsia pair in suede, everyone started talking about this shoe. I think people wanted something kind of extreme. It's probably the maximum height you can walk in comfortably, or at all. They are really high, but they are beautiful.
You've been in the industry for about 15 years now. Congratulations! Did you ever see this kind of success coming?
Thank you. Well when I was young, probably around fifteen or sixteen, I was always sketching shoes. Back then it really wasn't the industry that it is today. It was more ready-to-wear. Accessories were pretty much dyed to match your dress, that's just how it was.
I've read that when you started working with Gianni Versace, that's when your interest in footwear really took off...
I started working at Versace, where Gianni hired me, and he asked me to design shoes for their Haute Couture three weeks after I started my job. Being there in the factories, I just found this love. I've also wanted to be an architect, so shoes were like building something. Being in the 'Versace school' and being a part of such a small family business with Gianni and Donatella, is incredible. Gianni always had collections that he had put out there and he didn't care if you hated it or loved it. There's a certain respect and an amount of courage in knowing what you really want to do. Never compromise on something that you believe in - this is his statement and this is what is going to be in next season. Love it, or hate it, that's it. Today I feel like we tend to compromise a little too much, but that was Versace and it was amazing to be a part of that.
What would you want people to remember you and your shoes for?
I think probably something similar to that. I'm still having a great time doing this, the second I'm not, I won't do it. So, I think it's important to not compromise on my integrity and to really love what I do and believe in it.
What's something that you haven't designed yet that you really want to create?
A croc (laughs). I've designed pretty much everything else that you can wear on your feet.
How many shoes do you own?
Probably in my closet, just in Milan, 100 pairs of shoes. They're all different brands. I did make myself a pair of turquoise crocodile loafers two years ago. They're finally getting beaten in and worn in and I love them.
What is your daily routine? What does it look like?
I get up, floss. Do my hair. I'm lucky my grandfather has given me such good skin and hair. I think taking care of yourself is important, so that's why I'm up at the gym at 7'oclock in the morning, sweating. It's good to keep the body moving.
A stale body is a stale mind.
It must be so important because you split most of your time between New York and Milan.
With jetlag, you need to find of a way to exhaust yourself.
Do you have very separate lives in each city? Or do you tend to replicate what you do in one city, in the other?
New York is definitely more social for me. I could go out every night to a black tie event. I don't love it but I'll pick certain things to do. Milan is great and I have a very tight group of friends there. My design studio is in Milan too, so it's about chilling and working. New York is also work, but more on the PR side.
What's next for Brian Atwood?
I'm working on finishing resort now, which we'll be presenting in June. Then we're also working on Spring/Summer '17 that we'll show in September.
Can you let us know what we can expect to see from the resort and Spring/Summer collections?
It's going to be very art inspired let's say, with some colour too.
What are your expansions plans here in the Middle East?
It's such a big market that continues to perform and expand at a rate that's phenomenal. I think to neglect it is just ignorant. But I want to get more of an understanding from this trip, since it is my first time here. Expanding could include a shop. You heard it here first!