Brian Atwood Talks Dubai, Heels, Marilyn Monroe, and Beyond

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Shoe designer Brian Atwood is a head-turner in every sense of the word. He walks into Dubai’s Level Shoes impeccably groomed and handsome as ever, where he is surrounded by his latest playful, sexy designs which all feature perfect high heels and delicious pops of color. He flaunts his pearly white Hollywood smile, then sits down to talk to Savoir Flair about heels, his future plans, and everything in between.

BRIAN ATWOOD PORTRAIT
Photo: Courtesy of Brian Atwood

How are you? Are you enjoying your time in Dubai so far?

Very good, enjoying Dubai. It’s a quick trip, but really loving it — it’s my first time here. Today I am going for a desert safari and to see the sunset. I’ve been trying to go out as much as I could, to see the old town and get to know a little more about Dubai and understand it better. I’m loving what I have seen so far!

What have you noticed about the way people dress in Dubai?

It’s interesting. The people here definitely love fashion, color, and statement pieces — I like that! It’s so fun and makes me want to create a Dubai collection or some kind of collaboration perhaps. I need to sit down and think about it.

If you had to pick one design of yours that every woman should have, what would it be?

Probably my single-sole pump, because I think it’s such a go-to piece. Every woman should have a sexy pointed-toe stiletto pump in her wardrobe. The height doesn’t even matter, but it’s definitely a key wardrobe staple.

Do you feel your childhood and the female characters of your family influenced you to go into shoe design?

Yes, definitely. I grew up with strong women in my life — my mother, sisters, grandmother — all of whom certainly influenced my involvement in fashion. Growing up, just watching my mother get ready, seeing what she wore, the shoes she bought — I think that I can’t get away from that, that strong female part of my life. I am blessed that I had and still have them around me and they have a strong opinion about shoes. They all wear my designs, even my little nieces. They steal them from their mom’s closet and run around. It’s too cute!

I find your journey really interesting. I know you have a huge love for heels and have a background in architecture. High skyscrapers and high heels — could that be the reason you got into shoes?

Well, I always consider designing shoes like building a house, because you have to have a great foundation or everything else falls apart. I think that’s one of the things that really interested me, besides the whole fun and sexy part of designing shoes. I think that keeping the body up and supporting a woman’s body on a tiny needle stiletto is interesting. How we do that and how we achieve that is always a challenge. It’s fun.

Do you also focus on the comfort side of designs? 

As much as we can, absolutely! You have to. Especially now, because there are so many different ways and technology. You can put that into the shoes to really give it as much comfort as possible for a certain style. From my modeling years, I know what painful shoes feel like and how wearing them makes you feel. When they are uncomfortable, it’s not fun.

Photo: Courtesy of Level Shoes

Do you think your modeling years contributed to you starting your own brand?

Definitely. It allowed me to travel and see the world, which opened up so much for me as far as inspiration goes. Something clicked and I knew I had to do this.

You are based in New York and Milan. How do you find the double-city lifestyle?

I love Milan. I have been there since the Versace days and it’s great to see the city change and evolve. I enjoy the European part of my life. Then New York city is that “relief”, so it’s great to have both; it makes a perfect balance.

If we were in New York City and Milan for one night, what would be the Brian Atwood-approved places we shouldn’t miss?

In New York, you have to go to Indochine for sure. It’s the best for dinner. Check out Central Park and take a little tour of uptown and downtown, just to understand the city. I think Central Park is such a great luxury to have in the middle of New York; it’s a great oasis. In Milan, you have to go see the Duomo because it’s so amazingly beautiful, and then treat yourself to some good Italian pasta, at the Giacomo. Now I’m hungry! [Laughs]

Your brand has a strong focus on the muses that you work with, under ‘B’s Girls’. How important is that for you?

I think it definitely started with my relationships at Versace and kind of evolved when I started my own collection. I’ve always felt very lucky to have these amazing muses and women, actresses, and musicians who call me for shoes and we collaborate or work together in some way which is very fun to do.

If you had to pick one female character from any era to represent your brand, who would it be?

I love Marilyn Monroe. I wish I had met her because I think there is something so magical and mysterious about her. She loved high heels too, so it’s a good marriage.

Photo: Courtesy of Level Shoes

Just the way you walk, the way you are perceived, the way people look at you — everything is just different when wearing heels.

What women often think about when buying shoes is what styles would be the most flattering and how to make their legs appear longer and leaner. What would be your top tips for that?

I think you have to know what looks good on you and what heel height you can walk in. I don’t like to see a woman walking in heels too high when she is not used to walking in them. Practice at home before you take them out for a ride. It’s really about ‘practice makes perfect’ when wearing high heels. I am all about elongating! Some don’t like ankle straps but I don’t believe in that. It is all about the proportions of the dress, the proportions of the skirt – and good toe cleavage!

In the past year or so, we have seen a huge sneaker takeover in the world. How do you feel about this, being a heel lover?

I love sneakers and actually looking into designing some, but I have to think about what the Brian Atwood sneaker looks like. How does the DNA of the brand translate into a sneaker — does it work at all? But all in all, I love the sneaker trend.

What are your thoughts in terms of women wearing flats versus heels? 

Heels, always! I am a heels guy, hands down. I know they’re not practical to wear all the time, but they do look good. Just the way you walk, the way you are perceived, the way people look at you — everything is just different when wearing heels. And it gives that little lift and changes the body. Everything is moved around as it should be. [Winks]

In terms of future plans, what regions are you focused on?

The Middle East is definitely something very interesting to me, especially this being my first time in Dubai and understanding the women and what the potential is. The potential is enormous here and it just seems to keep growing and they want more. The consumer nowadays is so much smarter social media-wise, with much more knowledge and information that they want quicker. They don’t want to wait and we have to figure out how to match that. I need to come back here soon, for sure…

Brian Atwood’s latest collection is available to purchase at Level Shoein Dubai.

Photo: Courtesy of Level Shoes
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