Celebrated shoe designer Brian Atwood steps out in Dubai

Celebrity designer Brian Atwood tells us about how his exotic new footwear line – now available in Dubai – draws heavily from Mexican culture.

Brian Atwood's colourful designs are inspired by everything from Frida Kahlo to Aztec beading. Pawan Singh / The National
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Hundreds of fans turned up at Level Shoes in The Dubai Mall last week for a glimpse of footwear designer to-the-stars, Brian Atwood.

The American-born cobbler extraordinaire – who established his eponymous brand in 2001 after working in-house for Versace and following a stint as a runway model – is famous for glamorous designs sought after by royals, actors and style savants, including Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson.

Atwood spoke to The National about his craft, future collections and plans to return to the UAE.

How is Dubai treating you?

Amazingly. I can’t wait to see more and I’ll definitely come back for a longer period of time. I’m going to see the souq, the desert at sunset, the hawks and camels – everything. I’ve been overwhelmed by the people I’ve met and by hearing about the city’s future plans.

What have you made of the footwear you’ve seen ladies in the UAE wearing?

It’s very impressive; they love their footwear and handbags. There’s something very special about ladies wearing abayas where the accessories you’ll see most are the shoes and handbag.

Any plans to develop a shoe exclusively for the region?

Yes, I want to, and I’ve heard ladies really love green here. So I’ll have to think about the design, but I’d make something rare and special.

Walk me through your current collection.

It was inspired by my trips to Mexico – Frida Kahlo prints, Aztec and Mayan beading. The collection is like a fiesta on your feet. I wanted to give women a great pop of colour with these shoes.

What can we expect for autumn?

A very art deco bohemian collection with lots of deco motifs and animals such as peacocks. The boots have inlay made from many different materials, from snakeskin to suede to leather. Then there are the Dark Angel sandals which are very dramatic with their green and black wings. You have to have drama in shoes. People want to be wowed.

Which materials and exotic skins do you love to work and which prove challenging?

I love traditional materials such as nappa leather and suede – but I also love snakeskin and crocodile. Stingray is quite tough to work with, as it’s so hard to sew through. But I can pretty much work with anything these days, and I like to do so in an unconventional way.

How do you go about creating your designs?

I usually have headphones on and design to music. I always think the most exciting and most terrifying moment is when our inspiration boards are empty. The anxiety of creating another collection is there, and it all starts with one piece being stuck on the board – be it a colour, a photo or even a leaf. I don’t know how the mind works but when I start designing, it opens up and goes down different vias. That takes me in a certain direction; the energy becomes huge.

How quickly are tastes in shoes evolving?

Fairly quickly, whereas before it took a lot longer. For example, the change from single sole to platform – and then there being no platforms and then them coming back again. There are definitely certain styles, though, that will always be in a woman’s wardrobe – it’s just that now, we’re more open to having shoes that make more of a fashion statement. Ladies will always know what works for them and what they can walk in.

What are the staple styles a woman should have in her wardrobe?

You need a great pump, a metallic sandal for the evening – be it platform or single sole. You also need a really sensual boot – whether it’s ankle or over-the-knee and also a great flat. I think a sneaker should be in there too.

Brian Atwood’s shoes are stocked exclusively in the Middle East at Level Shoes in The Dubai Mall, www.levelshoes.com