The words functional and practical are not two words that I would generally use to describe chic, gorgeous shoes. However that changed a few weeks ago when I discovered new shoe collection, Zvelle a Canadian based shoe company founded by Elle AyoubZadeh.
When I came across their Instagram, website, and eventually when I got my hands on two pairs of the stunningly elegant and well made shoes, I was more than a little excited and had to reassess my idea of functional footwear.
The shoes are so beautifully crafted; comfortable yet have such a unique aesthetic. The first pair I tried on was the Rayna Slingback Kittens in blithe blue. From the back, the heel looks like a block heel, from the side an elegant stiletto. Perfection.
Then I slipped on the second pair of shoes, the Nelson Arrow Flats, I felt like I was walking on cushions. I kid you not. I also should have prefaced this by saying I rarely wear flats, especially in a business setting and certainly not at cocktail hour. However this pair with their gold shimmer and strong arrow placed in the center, are certainly a pair that could take me from day to night. Particularly with the tiniest of raised heels that gives that satisfactory elegant clicking sound as you walk. With the collection being named #9to9 (shoes to take you from morning to night, as let's be honest, whose day ends at 5pm anymore..) I do believe the company has accomplished its mission.
It’s rare to be so blown away by both a collection and the creative director and founder herself. The ethos behind the company is empowering women. Few companies can state they have a beautiful collection for customers to purchase on one section, as well as an interview with Minister Kellie Leitch in another.
However this is exactly what the company stands for. The shoes are created for inspired and inspiring women. The working mum, the boss lady, the lady that lunches, takes business meetings and finishes the day off at an evening event, before going home and putting her kids to bed and her beautiful shoes carry her through each step of her day.
It’s not so surprising when you begin to understand founder and creative director, Elle AyoubZadeh’s background. A citizen of the world, Elle was born in Iran, and has lived in Dubai, New Zealand and Australia before settling in Canada in 2007. Elle’s career has also allowed her to experience different areas of business, having worked in international finance, as well as co-founding a luxury retail company before launching Zvelle.
Elle first had the idea to start Zvelle in June 2014 and took just one year to see her idea turn into reality in June 2015. The name for the company was born out of a moment of inspiration for Elle. With Zvelle being a derivative of the last part of Elle’s name (Zadeh), and first name (Elle) with a V separating them. Genius!
Having become a fan of the shoes at first sight, Eurasian Vogue was fortunate enough to speak to the women herself as Elle kindly took some time out of her busy day to answer some questions about the company, her inspiration behind the collection, future plans and what it means to be a Zvelle women.
EV: Elle, Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to Eurasian Vogue about your new company. Can you tell us more about your background and when your interest in fashion began?
EAZ: Thank you Stacy for the opportunity. I have an international background like you. I’ve lived in a number of different countries and previously worked in international finance and luxury retail. I have always been interested in fashion though it didn’t become a clear career path for me until a few years ago. I come from a very stylish family. My grandmother took me shoe shopping when she looked after me and she was always dressed like she was going somewhere. My mother is the most elegant woman I know and I used to steal her clothes and walk in her shoes when I was younger. The women in my family love fashion and have always dressed for themselves, which has been a huge influence for me.
EV: Do you remember the moment you decided to begin your own company?
EAZ: Yes, there wasn’t an exact moment but an exact phase where I decided I was going to start Zvelle. I previously co-founded a luxury concept store where we featured coveted emerging designers from around the world. The next stage for us was to develop our own products. I decided that I wanted to put my entire focus on building our own brand instead of doing both, which can be time consuming.
EAZ: Yes you are right. The biggest challenge and opportunity is finding the right manufacturing partner. I wanted to work with the best people and find the right partner who was as passionate and details oriented as I am. I travelled to Spain and Brazil and met with factory owners directly. I spoke to factory owners in Italy. It took a few months and it was worth it because I found the right partner in a family owned factory in the south of Brazil. I didn’t let the language barrier stop me and as result I met with a lot of talented people many of whom I continue to maintain a relationship with.
It was also important for me that the factory treated its artisans well. I love working with the artisans in the factory. We are proud to have a relationship with every supplier.
EV: Being such a new company, the process of launching is still so fresh! What has been the biggest hurdle you have faced so far?
EAZ: Yes, we launched in June of this year! We are a young company and we learn things everyday! The biggest hurdle is to get the word out about your company and product. It’s a challenge most young businesses face and we are not unique in that sense. When you have built it you want to show as many people as possible. This is another reason I am thrilled to be talking with you! The other big hurdles are managing cash flow and prioritizing everything you want to do.
EV: I am thrilled to be talking with you! Especially as I can very much relate to your international background and having called different countries ‘home’. How has your cultural mix and work experience in different countries affected your aesthetic and vision as a designer?
EAZ: The best thing it’s done for me is that it’s broadened my mindset. I don’t have a one-dimensional view of the world. Because of my diverse cultural upbringing I can relate to anyone in the world. In terms of aesthetic I think similarly it has made me diverse in the sense that I am not just leaning one way or the other. I’m aware that there are many different parts of the world and the women who live in those parts have different realities and needs. So when I approach the aesthetic or design of a collection I always have that in the back of my mind. I want to design and produce shoes that a woman can wear in a boardroom meeting in Toronto and later to dinner in Hong Kong. It has to be stylish yet practical.
EAZ: I have had a long love affair with shoes. It’s the first thing I think of when I dress. Even as a university student I saved up so I can wear great quality shoes. Shoes do something chemically and emotionally that other accessories or clothes don’t. They instantly give you a lift literally! Your face and posture changes. I wanted to create beautiful designer shoes for the independent, professional and multi-faceted woman at an accessible price point. I decided that I wanted to fill the void in the market. The Zvelle woman is confident and she has a strong personal vision. She dresses for herself.
We’d love to expand in to other product categories in the future and it’s definitely a possibility. For now, our focus is to design shoes for every occasion in a woman’s life and we have a little ways to go.
“Shoes do something chemically and emotionally that other accessories or clothes don’t. They instantly give you a lift literally!” - Elle AyoubZadeh
EAZ : Thank you. I’m thrilled you like it and that it’s resonating with the kind of women we want to reach. I’ve always had an interest in architecture and design. My business partner and I did the interior design of our concept store. I tend to like strong and unique shapes. I want you to notice it whether you like it or not. I was also inspired by strong women architects such as Farshid Moussavi and Zaha Hadid.
EV: What else inspires you as a designer?
EAZ: I am a very curious person so many things inspire me. I’m interested in people and have the good fortune of meeting very interesting people who inspire me in different ways. Culture inspires me. In terms of what inspires me for designing a shoe or collection it could be anything. Sometimes it can be a feeling I want to give birth to.
EV: This collection has kitten heels and flats. Do you think you might incorporate a higher heel in other collections or is the kitten heel going to be a Zvelle trademark?
EAZ: Yes, we have a higher version of the heel in the next collection. We are planning to introduce new heel shapes and heights. Every woman needs a few good pairs of kitten heels in her closet. It offers height yet is very practical. We will continue to make more kitten heels and I’d also like to expand our flat styles. If that becomes our trademark I would be happy.
EAZ: Thank you for your kind compliment. When I was designing the shoes I wanted to offer the Zvelle woman something she can wear 9 to 9. Like the Zvelle woman I am also always going places so I wanted something that will take me to where I wanted to go in style and comfort. The Zvelle woman is a global citizen and I wanted the shoes to have a global appeal.
EAZ: I wanted to have a forum where we could have conversations with the Zvelle woman and share her stories. The Zvelle woman is inspiring and she is a force to be reckoned with. I had the pleasure of meeting Minister Leitch through a phenomenal woman Colleen Moorehead who I also interviewed. I had never paid much attention to politics until I met the Minister. She is so dynamic and focused and she is passionate about her role in office and her role as a Pediatric surgeon. After interviewing her I visited her on the campaign trail. She taught me that you are never too senior or important to do what is necessary to get the job done.
EAZ: I would love to interview many women. Few of those incredible women are Zhang Xin, CEO of Soho China, Shirin Ebadi, first female judge in Iran and the first woman to win the Noble Peace Prize, Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President , Apple Retail and of course the best interviewer of all time Oprah Winfrey.
EV: Your collection is currently only available on Zvelle.com, do you ever see yourself opening a store in store or have your own storefront? If so where would your ideal location be?
EAZ: Yes we would love to expand our footprint and that would be one way to do it. The ideal location is to be anywhere the Zvelle woman is which means I’d love for us to be everywhere ;)
EV: Are there any designers that you look up to?
EAZ: I love what Donna Karan did for the professional woman’s wardrobe with her seven easy pieces and just the strong force that she is. I am inspired by Tory Burch and by what she has done through her company for women. Both Donna Karan and Tory Burch are their own people and I always like people like that.
EV: would you describe your own personal style and what’s your favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe?
EAZ: I would describe my personal style as classic with an element of surprise. My favorite item of clothing in my wardrobe right now is any of my knitwear. I love a luxurious knit top that you can throw on quickly whether it is with a jeans, skirt or dress pants.
EV: How has your personal style changed since moving to Canada? (The colder weather must have changed your style since your days of living in very hot Dubai?!)
EAZ: I certainly dress for colder weather now though there haven’t been any significant changes in my style. My style has probably become a little more relaxed and functional since I became an entrepreneur about five years ago. If I were in Dubai I would probably dress more conservatively so I can feel more comfortable and out of respect for whatever social setting I am in.
EV: What has been your biggest accomplishment with Zvelle so far?
EAZ: The biggest accomplishment is those women love our shoes and what we are offering and how we are doing it resonates with them.
EV: Where would you like to see Zvelle in 5 years from now and are there any imminent plans for the company that you can share with us?
EAZ: I would love for Zvelle to grow organically and in our own way. We want to expand our product offerings and our reach so as long as we are on that trajectory we are happy.
EV: What kind of women is a Zvelle customer?
EAZ: The Zvelle woman is independent, professional and always going places (figuratively and literally).
EV: How would you describe Zvelle in one sentence?
EAZ: Zvelle is a global luxury brand for sophisticated women who are confident and have a strong personal vision.
As the interview comes to an end, I ask Elle, if she had any advice for a new designer, what would it be and she tells me:
“I would say be who you want to be and do what you want to do. It will take some time to be confident in your own skin but once you are there you’ll never want to go back. Be prepared to have your heart broken and be ready to nurse your own heart back to health. It’s worth it.”
Beautiful and wise words to live by, designer or not.
Thank you so much for your time, Elle.
To find out more about Zvelle or to purchase the collection visit their website
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