With her covetable designs splashed across social media and worn by the Middle East’s most-followed trendsetters, Andrea Wazen is a name on everyone’s lips right now. So how did one of Lebanon’s most successful shoe designers get her start? What’s splashed across her current mood board? And what’s the one shoe style she would ban around the world? Read on as Savoir Flair speaks to the young designer about all these topics and more.
Can you share with our readers a story about the moment you realized that designing footwear was what you wanted to do?
I have been a shoe lover my entire life, and footwear was always my favorite item to sketch and purchase. The moment I became certain about my career path was when I got asked to design accessories during my internship at Elie Saab. The staff praised my shoe sketches and suggested that I focus on this field, especially considering the market gap in the Middle East as well as global demand in general.
You’re one of the most successful emerging designers to come out of Lebanon. What are the advantages and challenges of being based there?
Thank you! There are many advantages and disadvantages as with anywhere else in the world. One of the main advantages is getting work done super quickly as Lebanese people are very accommodating regardless of the time of day, so you’ll never get “no” as an answer. The artisans and shoe makers in Beirut are always ready and at your service to get a product perfectly made as requested. A disadvantage would be that they’re from an older generation and therefore do not have knowledge of computers and the internet. Everything is written down with pencil and paper, the old-school way.
How does being based in Beirut influence your aesthetic and designs?
I feel really blessed and lucky to be a Lebanese living in Lebanon, surrounded by so much history and art. This applies even more to the neighborhood that I work in, Mar Mikhaël, where I’m surrounded by heritage architecture, beautiful tiles and windows, and secret passageways that lead you to beautiful gems. I have to say this really helps me if I hit a design block, so my advice is to just walk around and get inspired!
It is often said that footwear designers create with aesthetic, rather than function, in mind. What are your thoughts on that?
I would say it’s a mix of both. I try to discreetly blend the two as much as possible. A big struggle as a designer is definitely to create a beautiful shoe whilst bearing comfort – and especially function – in mind.
Do your sisters, one of whom is a mother of three while the other a full-time chef at one of London’s leading restaurants, inspire you to create functional shoes for women on the go?
Of course! They’re both a very big part of my inspiration. The message behind my brand is for women to wear stylish, unique shoes on a daily basis. The shoes are designed for working women, moms, everyone.
If we could peek into your current mood board, what would we see?
You would see a lot going on! As far as its main thread is concerned, I would say I’ve been strongly inspired by my country. The next collection is focused around what Lebanon has to offer in terms of intricate detailing and embroidery.
If you had to pick one shoe to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?
It would be the crossover flats from the Spring/Summer 2016 collection. I absolutely love them. They’re super comfortable, stylish, and add an edge to anything I wear.
If you could ban a certain type of shoe from being worn across the globe, what would it be?
It used to be Crocs until Georgie, my nephew, started wearing them. I fell completely in love! Now, it would have to be the Ugg shearling boots.
Is there any celebrity or personality you would like to see wearing a pair of shoes you’ve designed?
Amal Clooney, of course. She is Lebanese, a working woman, successful, and the perfect figure to represent Middle Eastern women.
What is the one thing people don’t know about you but should?
I actually wanted to be a lawyer before I decided to join the design world.
What’s on the horizon for your brand?
There is so much going on, but one of the things I’m delighted to share is that we are actually moving the production of our shoes to Italy. There are a lot of exciting changes happening for the brand right now!
For orders and inquiries, contact the brand directly at www.andreawazen.com.
Photographer Ieva Saudargaite Photo Editor Maya Itani