“It’s a very popular silhouette,” Mary Katrantzou, 33, tells Bazaar of the espadrille. “It’s so easy for women to wear, and I feel like now more than ever women appreciate comfort, and being able to wear a shoe every day because of it.” Though she has designed shoes before – in collaboration with Gianvito Rossi – this is the first time the British designer has turned her hand to the Mediterranean style. “We wanted it to be really reflective of what we do and make sure that the prints were perfect and the colours vivid. We felt like we could strip it back from any seasonal design and just do a shoe that is quite democratic and fits so many of our customers.”
Is the woman wearing this espadrille the same one who buys her ready-to-wear pieces? “I think it’s a more diverse customer,” Mary says, thoughtfully. “Because it’s such an iconic shoe that people want to own, even if you don’t own our clothes, if you like the colour and the print, you’ll buy it. Plus, it appeals to no one specific age. Whether you’re 15 or 75, it’s a shoe that you can wear.”
Mary visited Dubai two years ago and, as a designer, the region is one she truly admires. “The women I met had this very strong individual sense of style. I was so impressed by their knowledge of fashion and how excited they were about my work and how much they knew of it. It was very flattering to be amongst women who appreciate fashion as an art form. It’s refreshing and quite rare.” She adds that she’s long overdue a return trip. “We were just talking about this the other day. I wish I had my espadrilles with me when I came last time but I came with cowboy boots instead,” she says with a laugh. “Next time, I’ll have an espadrille for every occasion!”
Espadrilles, from Dhs1,000, All Things Mochi for Level Shoe District. Efraim Evidor
The collaboration between Ayah Tabari, the 29-year-old designer behind Dubai-based label All Things Mochi, and Level Shoe District came about in the most random of ways. “I was sitting in a cafe in Milan on my own, and I’m terrified of pigeons and this one kept trying to attack me,” Ayah recounts, reenacting her attempts to dodge the bird. “There’s a man next to me, watching this all happen, and it turns out it was Alberto [Oliveros, Level’s head of buying]. We looked at each other and both started cracking up. We became friends that day.” A few months later, Alberto approached Ayah to be a part of this new capsule collection.
“This is the first time I’ve ever designed a shoe, and it was very difficult,” she tells Bazaar. “Everything has to be exactly the same with shoes, because they’re a pair, whereas the concept of Mochi is that every piece is different, which is what keeps us unique, so it was challenging to merge those two different concepts. Plus, there’s so much to think about: the sizing, the materials, the placement of the branding, the length of the lace-up ties, how the shoes are wrapped in the box.” After a year of hard work, the results speak for themselves. The 10-piece capsule offering features prints from each of Mochi’s past collections, serving as the perfect addition to any existing Mochi customer’s wardrobes, or the perfect entryway for new buyers. “A lot of the Mochi pieces are quite daring, so these shoes allow people to get into the brand in a more casual way. Plus, an espadrille is the perfect addition to any shoe collection because they’re so comfortable, and can be worn day-to-night.” - Maddison Glendinning
The Level Shoe District exclusive espadrilles collection will be available in store from April 13. This article appears in the April issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia, on shelves April 1.