An interview with the famed designer of the most-sought after accessories designer of the moment
When did you first entertain ideas of entering the fashion world?
As a little girl, I always liked the element of dressing up and was surrounded by very glamorous women who certainly inspired my love for fashion. I wanted to be a fashion designer from a very early age, but only decided to specialize in footwear during my foundation course at London College of Fashion. I then went on to do a BA at Cordwainers, learning the craft of footwear.
What impact did growing up as the daughter of a famous model have on you? What doors, if any, did it open?
My mother certainly influenced my love for fashion. Sometimes, I would go to see her walk in fashion shows, which would be exciting for any little girl. I always found the energy backstage so exciting.
You’ve worked under Giambattista Valli in Paris while you were a student. What’s the most valuable lesson he taught you? I first interned with Valli when he was creative director at Ungaro. Being exposed to a big fashion house showed me what goes into building a brand. It’s important to have a good team, and, when it comes to design, every little detail counts.
You gave birth to your son, Ray, and created your first full collection in the same year. How much of a challenge was that? I have always wanted to be a mother and I’m fortunate to enjoy what I do, so it was an exciting time in my life. I was also very fortunate to have both my mother and mother-in-law living close by and desperately wanting to help me with the baby!
How do you balance building an empire and being a mother and wife?
With my iPhone! I try to be full-time at work and a full-time mother, so I need balance to make both work. I love designing and enjoy being a homemaker, so it really helps that my office is a moment away from my home. Every day is different, but an ideal one would be breakfast with my sons Ray and Ike, then to my office/studio with my dog Marlon where I design and have meetings throughout the morning and afternoon. If possible, I try to cook dinner for my husband so we can enjoy an evening together.
Every designer is asked about inspiration and muses. Do you have a constant source of inspiration or does it change from season to season?
The essence of the brand comes from my love of Old Hollywood glamour. I love movie stars and pinups from the 40s and 50s. Rita Hayworth is a favorite!
Your collections have been a roaring success in the Middle East. Why do you think your designs appeal so much to women in this region?
Charlotte Olympia is feminine and colorful with a sense of humor, and this appeals to women who enjoy dressing from the feet up.
If you could accessorize the wardrobe of any woman, who would it be?
My Grandmother Zehava was always very elegant and glamorous, and came from an era that I love. My 1940s waves and red lips are inspired by her.
Where does the spider web trademark come from?
The idea came to me from E.B. White’s children’s classic Charlotte’s Web. The gold spider web appears on the sole of each shoe and is referenced in a number of designs in the Encore collection.
Your personal flare for fashion and your incredible designs have prompted fans to ask: is there a Charlotte Olympia ready-to-wear collection on the horizon?
For now, I am very much focused on designing shoes and accessories. I’m currently working on expanding my range of products to leather goods.
With so much success at a young age, it might be easy to take it all for granted. What keeps you grounded?
My family – which I love far more than shoes.
What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
My father always taught me the importance of a business plan and to think ‘big’. It’s also key to remain true to your brand aesthetic and to have a point of view.