Sole mates: Emirati artist Sumayyah Al Suwaidi creates unique artwork for luxury shoemaker Rene Caovilla

The digital artist uses her skills to show two of the brand's most famous styles in a new light

Rene Caovilla's Galaxia shoe with illustrations by artist Sumayyah Al Suwaidi. Courtesy Rene Caovilla
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Emirati artist Sumayyah Al Suwaidi has created a series of works for the fabled Italian shoemaker Rene Caovilla to coincide with Eid Al Fitr.

Using two of Caovilla’s most famous styles, the Cleo and the Galaxia, Al Suwaidi has blended her signature photographic style with the glitz and glamour of the shoes to create dreamlike, almost whimsical imagery.

Artist Sumayyah Al Suwaidi's artwork for Rene Caovilla's Cleo shoe. Courtesy Rene Caovilla 
Artist Sumayyah Al Suwaidi's artwork for Rene Caovilla's Cleo shoe. Courtesy Rene Caovilla 

The works Al Suwaidi created were inspired by the Italian city of Venice, near to which the shoemaker has its atelier. One of the most distinctive buildings in the lagoon city is the Santa Maria della Salute basilica (in English, Saint Mary of Health), affectionately known in Venice simply as Salute. Situated on the banks of the Grand Canal, it is one of the most famous landmarks of the city and for this reason, Al Suwaidi chose it as a backdrop for the footwear.

Since it was founded in 1934, Rene Caovilla has built a reputation for elegant shoes that are stepped in traditional craftsmanship.

From its atelier in Fiesso D’Artico, the brand's shoes are pieced together by hand, taking up to 48 hours to create a single pair. It was this sense of artisanship and expertise that digital artist Al Suwaidi wanted to capture, along with the beauty and style of Venice.

Speaking of the collaboration, Al Suwaidi revealed inspiration came from the "history of the brand and drawing from my personal experience while walking in Venice".

"[It] flowed from the gondolas, the buildings and the fashionable people, [and] I wanted to capture all these elements into visual images that would resonate in the minds of the viewer."

One artwork features the Galaxia shoe, with a delicate heel, sharply pointed toe and ankle sock made entirely from a mesh of crystals. It sits in front of the Salute, which is shown upside down, and surrounded by etched peonies. Four hands come out of the base of the church, like flowers in a vase, and clasp the shoe in a surreal, but beautiful image. Despite the oddity of an upside-down building, with its cool tones of greens and blues, Al Suwaidi has captured a still moment, like the city itself, before the descent of tourists.

For the Cleo shoe, with its elegant ribbon of crystal that spirals around the ankle, there is another image of the Salute, this time as seen from the Grand Canal, where it heralds the entrance into Venice.

With a sky filled with pink roses, Al Suwaidi has made sure to echo the Italian tradition of never giving roses in an even number, with three  blooms framing the building. Ramadan lanterns hang from the night sky, as the crescent Moon and twinkling stars complete the image. Dreamy, intricate and deeply feminine, the images draw the viewer into Al Suwaidi’s beautiful world of delicate surrealism.

Sumayyah Al Suwaidi's depiction of Rene Caovilla's Cleo shoe. Courtesy Rene Caovilla
Sumayyah Al Suwaidi's depiction of Rene Caovilla's Cleo shoe. Courtesy Rene Caovilla

Al Suwaidi launched her career in 1996, and in 2003 held her first exhibition in Abu Dhabi. Now with her world showcased in exhibitions all over the world, from the US and UK to Morocco and China, the artist was part of the 2012 auction Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art Part II at Christie's, and exhibited at Sotheby’s Galleries in London in 2013.

Working with Rene Caovilla marks a new direction for both the house and Al Suwaidi.

"A collaboration with an iconic brand such as Rene Caovilla is an achievement and a milestone of success for any artist," she explains. "The brand resonates in many ways with Arab women, from the crystals to the colours and the feminine design of each piece, it fits so well with our fashion sense, especially the Emirati woman, with our abayas, kaftans and gowns."