There seems to be something in the water of the footwear world at the moment. Whether through creative marketing campaigns, friends in high places, or savviness on social media, a new, ambitious generation of footwear designers are challenging the footwear elite with a wave of fresh, original shoe design. Regardless of their geography, gender or background, these designers are taking on the footwear elite with an insatiable hunger that is driving their success. Here, AllSole picks out five of the footwear world’s most exciting emerging designers who you should be keeping an eye on over the coming years.
Achilles Ion Gabriel
Swedish-Russian designer Achilles Ion Gabriel founded his eponymous footwear label just two years ago, and with each passing collection since his reputation in the footwear world has soared. The son of a sculptor who worked with tombstones, Gabriel’s mother chose a name that would attract attention to the casual passer-by in a cemetery and, somewhat ironically, her son has gone on to produce work that is attention-grabbing in itself. His footwear fuses minimalist charm with an almost futuristic style that catches the eye and makes his collections stand out season after season.
Established with the aim of “not only preserving the artisanal shoe-making skills in Africa, but also creating and sustaining jobs”, Aurora James’ label Brother Vellies exclusively produces footwear handmade by traditional methods in South Africa, Kenya and Morocco. The brand made its name with its original velskoen shoes—an early ancestor of the modern desert boot—before broadening its range to take on several more traditional African footwear styles. James’ dedication to bringing never-before-seen shoes to the Western world while also creating jobs and developing communities makes her brand one of the few footwear companies in the world with such a unique altruistic business model (see TOMS for how such a model can succeed).
Founded in 2012 by a 21-year-old Turkish-born Cordwainers College graduate, Dora Teymor’s eponymous label has quickly built up a reputation as one of the most intriguing and forward-thinking footwear brands in today’s fashion world. Now in just its fourth season, the designer’s style has been praised for its ability to seamlessly merge the old with the new, with Vogue recently describing the label’s AW16 collection as “Marie Antoinette-Meets-Punk”.
While fashion footwear is constantly being evolved for each new season, there are areas of footwear design that have been neglected for far too long. The humble slipper is one example of a piece of footwear that has remained untouched in its design for decades, if not centuries. mahabis is a London-based footwear brand which claims it has reinvented the slipper. Inspired by a Scandinavian minimalist aesthetic and proclaiming itself to be “the essence of chill”, mahabis’ new slippers feature removable soles and cushion-fold heels that optimise comfort around the house. The brand has already proved a huge success despite its small profile, becoming one of the fastest growing footwear labels just two years since its original launch.
Nicolo Giannico Beretta
Nicolo Giannico Beretta announced himself to the world when he scooped Vogue Italia’s “Who Is On Next?” content for his Giannico label last year at the ripe old age of 19, judged to be one of the industry’s most exciting emerging designers by the likes of Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino and Silvia Venturini of Fendi. With Lady Gaga and Anna Wintour already wearing his shoes, Baretta is demonstrating himself to be a precocious designer well aware of the Italian heritage in shoemaking while also executing distinctly modern, fashion-forward footwear that is just as, if not more, exciting than some of the biggest names in today’s industry both in and outside of Italy.
Images property of the brands. Header image property of Giannico.