London-based, Darmaki creates luxury footwear, expertly handcrafted from the finest Italian leather. Inspired by contemporary architecture, designer Sultan Al Darmaki’s signature origami heel can be seen on statement pumps, cut-out lace-ups and slippers.
Here the local shoe designer talks about his Emarati roots influences, his journey into becoming a designer and inspirations behind his latest collection.
Tell us more about the DNA of Darmaki shoes?
Our DNA is rooted in having a strong architectural and constructional understanding, at the same time we focus on drawing strength from our artistic disposition which we showcase both feminine and masculine qualities. Merging all of this together gives you the formula for the Darmaki DNA.
To what extend did or does your Emirati heritage effect your design aesthetics?
Obviously my heritage influences me as a designer in the way I may do things or operate, for example not giving up or taking no for an answer. In relation to my aesthetic, I try my best to separate the two. The reason being as a designer you can’t afford to be solely influenced by one thing, instead you have to open yourself to various different avenues for the best possible outcome.
How did you first become interested in designing shoes?
I was always interested in fashion and had a deep appreciation for its beauty and the craft as a whole; from very early on I knew that if I were to join the fashion world and do something for myself it would be designing shoes. The only thing was, being a shoe designer wasn’t really a route that was seen as feasible for an Emirati. So for a time I worked in marketing and communications, I knew this wasn’t my passion and one day I decided that enough was enough and I needed to live my life for me.
What do you think makes a pair of shoes iconic and timeless?
In my opinion, what makes a pair of shoes iconic or timeless is the simple elegance in its construction and design. When I say simple I don’t mean plain, I mean that the less that is there to distract from the craftsmanship and care that has gone into the design is a beautiful simplicity.
Where do you find you seek inspiration?
I find my Inspiration in many different areas, be it from architecture that I find unique and beautiful to current affairs and events that are happening around us each and everyday.
Tell us a bit more about your creative process.
It begins with inspiration and building an idea/collection around whatever it is that has my creative juices flowing. I do my research and start mocking up designs and drawing them out, from then on it’s really going back and forth refining the designs until I find something that I truly love. Next we have our samples made so we can get a detailed look and feel for the collection, it’s here is where we would make any crucial alterations before finalising the designs and getting them made and ready to be stocked.
What is your all-time favorite piece of design?
I would say Chanda. It started me on this journey and is a design that without fail I will continue to carry season after season.
What is the hardest type of shoes to design?
It really depends on the technical construction of the shoe. The simpler the design the easier it is, the more complex it gets the more difficult it is. Looking back at our latest collection our kitten heel ‘Holly’ was quite a difficult design as there were so many different components to it, but for the result we got it was well worth the labor.
Tell us more about your latest collection, and where can we find your designs in the Middle East.
Our latest collection is named the ‘Midnight Collection’. At its core, it is really about creating a happy story. I find designing and being an artist very similar, in the way that art can reflect on deep personal thoughts and feelings that people at a certain time are feeling. As a designer I was really looking at the things that were going on around us in the world, there was a lot of uncertainty happening due to some big changes that had happened. I felt that there needed to be something that reminded people that there is always hope and happier/brighter times to come. This is where the Midnight Collection was first conceived.
What are the challenges of working in the fashion industry?
I think the pace of which everything moves in the fashion industry is quite a challenging thing, keeping up with it all can be a task, but at the same time it guarantees that nothing is ever the same there is always something new, a continual creation process.
What’s a major life lesson you learnt from your father?
I learnt many things from my father, I think one thing that has really stuck with me over my life is him telling me to always to be true to myself, if you know yourself and you are sure in that then no matter where you go in life you can never be steered wrong. Share a goal or dream you hope to achieve that you have not done yet. I am really looking forward to the day I open up the first Darmaki flagship store. A message you would like to share with the Arab women of the Middle East. Really I would like to thank them. They were the first to really support and push the Darmaki brand and receive it so well, it started with them, so thank you.
Many years from now, how would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as a person that even if its by a fraction, began a process of opening the door and making the path that little bit easier for other designers from the Middle East that want to one day have their own brand or work in a fashion house.
What is your favourite motto?
You only live once.
What is one thing you hate the most?
What has been the most significant breakthrough moment in your career?
I don’t really have one breakthrough moment, more so many different moments that are meaningful to me. The stockists and clients that we have worked with and still work with mean a lot to me, we tried extremely hard to get them as we don’t work with any and everybody, I have to feel like a relationship can be fostered and grow from it. So looking back at my client list is something I will keep with me forever.
Slide through the gallery above to view Darmaki’s footwear creations.