Striking the perfect balance between modern design and impeccable craftsmanship, Edgardo Osorio, Aquazzura Founder & Creative Director, combines his passion for contemporary design with impeccable luxury craftsmanship to create stylish yet wearable footwear. He draws his inspiration from European luxury and tradition, whilst creating modern shoes that are both sensual and incredibly comfortable.
Born in Colombia and raised between Miami and London, Edgardo made his first step into the footwear world working with prestigious luxury brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo, René Caovilla, and Roberto Cavalli, after attending the London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martin’s, and in 2011, at just 25 years old, he launched the now internationally-renowned Aquazzura.
From Julianne Moore to Jennifer Lawrence, Gwyneth Paltrow to Nicole Kidman, Rihanna to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Beyoncé to Kendall Jenner, his designs have achieved worldwide status, gracing the feet of trendsetters, Hollywood stars, European royalty, and fashion insiders all around the globe. Collaborative collections have also come thick and fast, most notably with Salvatore Ferragamo, Poppy Delevingne, Olivia Palermo, and recently Claudia Schiffer, garnering even more demand for the colourful designs with uncompromising comfort and craftsmanship.
We caught up with the man who has made us fall for flats all over again him, and get an insight into his uncompromising standards on style, discuss the high heels versus flats debate and find out whether or not heels can truly be comfortable.
Who is the Aquazzura woman?
The Aquazzura woman is a modern woman. She is very active and a multitasker, she carries her kids to school, goes to the office and attends parties, she loves to travel, has a taste for beautiful things and wants to enjoy life. It’s her I have in mind when I design. I want women, of all ages, to be able to walk in my shoes all day and feel great, and not to change their shoes during the day because they cannot walk in them.
Can you share your brand DNA?
The essence of Aquazzura is like me, a mix of cultures and flavours, Italian style, with a Latin flair and
American ease. So, my shoes reflect all these different influences through impeccable craftsmanship, elegant and sensual design, all with an aim towards incredible comfort.
Where did the name Aquazzura come from?
The name Aquazzura comes from the words ‘acqua’ and ‘azzurra’, which means blue water in Italian. I’ve always been in love with the sea and the sun, and wanted the name of my brand to both evoke my love for Italy and to remind me of Capri and of all the sunny places by the water I use to escape to during the winter. It evokes a modern idea of ‘Dolce Vita’ and a year-round holiday lifestyle.
What was the catalyst behind creating your own label, especially in an already saturated market?
I remember that at the time of the launch of Aquazzura in 2011, the market was saturated with shoes that were just too chunky, heavy, and extreme, and that all my girl-friends were complaining a lot about the pain caused by their heels. That brought me to the idea of starting my own brand. I thought women wanted to go back to simple yet elegant designs, but in a new way, and wanted to create something that followed a very specific aesthetic and sensibility, shoes that were sophisticated and beautifully made. Shoes to walk, dance and enjoy that would not make women suffer. I firmly believe comfort should be intrinsic to beauty and luxury, and not an exception.
Where does your love for shoes come from?
My love for shoes comes from my childhood, which I spent surrounded by women who ignited my interest in fashion. I remember my mum used to wear heels at home and wedges to go to the beach, she was pretty laid back in the way she dressed, but she was always wearing great shoes. Since I was a child I’ve been drawing and sketching a lot, and designing shoes soon became my real passion and a natural extension of my love for fashion, something instinctive that always came very naturally. After attending London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins I had the chance to start working for prestigious luxury brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo, René Caovilla and Roberto Cavalli, and thanks to the amazing opportunity to learn and grow my skills with them, in 2011, at 25, I decided to launch my own luxury footwear brand.
Is there another shoe designer whose designs or career path you admire?
French shoe designer Andre Perugia, who was a real innovator in shoe design during the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s. He was convinced that women’s feet were a mirror of their personality, and was always eager to experiment with new materials, shapes, and textures. His avant-garde models are renowned for their humour and originality, following this idea of a new idea of femininity. And if you look at them they feel so modern even today!
How do you like a woman to feel when wearing a pair of Aquazzura shoes?
For me, when you buy a pair of Aquazzura shoes, you are halfway from holiday. They are shoes that take you to places, and make you want to go on an adventure, and make you want to smile. This is how I want women to feel, simply happy! Fashion needs to make you enjoy life and feel good.
What are your favourite styles of shoes for women and why?
I have to say I love to see a woman wearing sexy strappy sandals.
What made you decide to really glamorise the flat shoe, and what are your thoughts on the growing popularity of flats?
It’s curious that as a footwear designer, when women wearing flats approach me they often apologise for not wearing heels. I actually think it has become fashionable to wear flats, and that it’s very elegant and modern to wear them with a cocktail or an evening dress, it gives the outfit an extra edge. Many stores have been selling out for seasons my Christy and Belgravia flats because there’s not such a wide offering of sophisticated flats made to be chic and comfortable at the same time.
Do you prefer designing heels or flats?
I love designing all different styles of shoes and, most importantly, those that make women feel feminine and confident. Though, laced up sandals are my favourites, and all fun shoes in general!
Can you share with us how an Aquazzura shoe comes to life?
I travel most of the year, and after my trips I head back to Italy and start designing my collection, taking inspiration from things I saw, books I bought and whatever is in my head. I then work together with my Tuscan craftsmen to make my sketches into real shoes.
How about your signature golden pineapple, what is the meaning behind it?
It’s a lucky charm, gold pineapples bring good fortune! I also kept seeing it everywhere in the entrances of villas in the south of Italy, as it’s also a symbol of hospitality, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I think it’s very cool to have a lucky charm on the bottom of your shoes every day!
How do you go about designing to ensure you combine both style and comfort?
The problem with most of the beautiful shoes is that they are uncomfortable. That’s the reason why when I started my own brand I wanted to do something different, and hired a technician who has been making lasts and shoe constructions for over 40 years. Together, we developed a last and shape that fits better on the foot and that distributes the weight of the body not only on the ball of your foot, but also in the arch and the back. Most importantly, we also put extra padding with a memory foam on the soles, so that it is softer when you walk. All my shoes tend to be very slight and soft, as I was tired of women wearing heavy and chunky shoes.
Where do you look for your design inspiration?
As Diana Vreeland used to say, ‘the eye has to travel’, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m travelling around the world 8 months a year and constantly looking at new things, meeting new people, going to see exhibitions, shows or auctions. Getting to know women, my clients, the women I grew up with, my friends from all over the world is what inspires me the most. I’m very lucky as I’ve always been surrounded by wonderful women of all ages and with different lifestyles, coming from many different places in the world. For me it is very interesting to fully understand a woman’s point of view, or the way people of different ages look at things. I am also passionate about photography, and particularly about Slim Aarons, and movies of the Italian Dolce Vita of the 50’s and 60’s, the ones by Visconti or the James Bond saga. That sexy, positive, and glamorous lifestyle is always funny to look at.
Tell us about your collaborations, what was the catalyst behind partnering up to create capsule collections?
The partnerships with fashion influencers came up in a very natural way. With Olivia Palermo, Poppy Delevingne and Claudia Schiffer it started out as a friendship and mutual admiration, and it ended up with joining forces to create beautiful collections reflecting their unique style and taste for fashion.
I also had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with interiors brand de Gournay, renowned for their hand painted wallpaper and fabrics, in a five-piece collection and wallpaper design which I am very proud of. Collaborations definitely bring to the table new ideas, more creativity and allow a brand to remain exciting. It gives you the chance to try things you have never done before, or wouldn’t have done otherwise.
Has there been one partnership that you have been particularly proud of, and what can we look forward to in the future?
As I just mentioned, my collaboration with de Gournay was a dream come true as I am naturally very passionate about interiors and design, and have always been a great fan of their work. I love wallpapers, and de Gournay hand-paints some of the most beautiful you can get. As part of our collaboration I designed my own wallpaper inspired by an exotic Amazonian jungle full of animals, but using pink as a backdrop which, alongside the shoes capsule collection featuring the same design, was a huge hit!
Who is the one person, dead or alive, that you’d love to collaborate with?
My dream collaboration would have been with Andy Warhol.
Can you tell us about your personal style?
I would define it as classic Italian with a twist.
What footwear designer do you wear for your own shoes?
Slippers and loafers in bright colours and prints are always my favourite. During the summer I love to wear Stubbs and Wooton needlepoint slippers, while for the winter I love Edhen’s Brera boots.
Will you ever look to branch out to menswear design?
Yes, it’s definitely in the plans!
What do you think about a woman’s relationship with her shoes?
A pair of shoes is probably the one thing a woman wears that shows off her personality and what she wants to express the most. Heels change the way a woman moves, stands, and walks. They even influence the way women behave and feel, and are definitely the only thing able to update an outfit and instantly make it ‘current’. You can be any age and any size, and I also think it’s much more fun to buy shoes than anything else!
Which pair of your shoes should every woman have in her wardrobe?
The wonderful thing about being a woman is that there are so many shoes you can have for all the different moments and occasions in life. If I had to choose just one, I would say a woman should own a great pair of flats like the Aquazzura Christy because they are just timeless and chic, and most importantly, you can wear them all day long, from day to night. They can be worn with jeans and a t-shirt or a cocktail dress, and they are sexy and comfortable. If I could choose more than just one pair, I would also suggest a fun and sexy sandal to go out for dinner or to dance the night away, a chic pump for work and as a go to shoe for many occasions, and a bootie that can be worn almost all year round to walk around the city.
Can you share with us your style advice for wearing your shoes?
I think anything goes, and women should just have fun with it! I always say to people to start dressing from their shoes up. Our feet are the part you can have more fun with, and since shoes update your whole outfit, you should try some colour even if you are not used to wearing any. You can wear a beautiful black dress you might have had for years, but if you wear a fun shoe you can completely change it! Wear something different, something strappy or with special details and you will have a whole new look. If the shoes are the focus, it’s good to wear chic, but more simple clothes to complement with the accessories. For instance, in the summertime a beautiful white dress always looks great, while during the winter you should go for a little black dress.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Having had the chance live my dreams. I started my own brand at a very young age and do what I love to do every day. The fact that Aquazzura has had a great success so fast is something I am thankful for everyday, and that I never take for granted.
Can you explain why Aquazzura became such a huge success so fast?
I launched Aquazzura in a moment when the market was saturated with over-priced and chunky shoes, while I was aware women wanted to get back to a certain elegance. Following a specific aesthetic and personal sensitivity, and thanks to a core focus on simplicity, wearability and uncompromising standards on style, the brand hit the shoe-spot almost instantly. I invested a lot in design and innovation, and I believe women appreciated the combination of luxury craftmanship and modern design that the brand was offering. I think many designers live in a bubble and design with mythical muses in their mind, while I want to create something that really fits women’s lives, and creating shoes should incorporate looking chic and pulled together into a normal life. The truth is the client decides. Obviously, you need to dream and to make something beautiful, but your designs should not just live in the pages of the magazines, and you can consider a brand successful when the excitement generated through some fashion pages translates into the product women actually want to buy and wear. Social media, and particularly Instagram, that started together with us, also played a significant role in the growth and awareness of Aquazzura, and influenced the development of its image, together with renowned ambassador endorsements that connected the brand to a large audience.
What are your future plans for Aquazzura?
I really hope to become a lifestyle brand dealing with accessories, sunglasses, men’s shoes, and beauty products, with stores in every major city in the world. I want to make women feel great with what I create and my aesthetic vision.
By Eliza Scarborough