From Al Ain to London via Italy, Emirati designer Sultan Al Darmaki personifies a story of hard work, resilience, and strength – values that are translated into his footwear designs for eponymous brand Darmaki. Already a fixture at major department stores around the world, as well as here in the UAE, the young brand is a name recognized instantly by fashion girls around the world.
But how much do you actually know about the designer himself, his inspirations, and why he fell in love with shoes in the first place? Here, the man behind Darmaki shares ten things you should know about his brand with Savoir Flair.
The Darmaki office is never short of excitement with Rupert, the Brussels Griffon puppy, running around. He’s always there to lend a helping hand in the office.
Born in Al Ain, Darmaki was raised in a very tribal family, so his decision to design a footwear line came as quite a shock to his relatives.
The Darmaki collection stands as an homage to the Alpha Female. Throughout the designer’s life, he has been surrounded by strong and powerful women who have formed the inspiration for his collection.
The origami heel is at the center of the Darmaki story. Inspired by the likes of Zaha Hadid and other contemporary architects, the designer perceives the heel as a representation of human resilience.
Tried and Tested
Darmaki’s love and passion for the craft of shoemaking led to his move to London over ten years ago. In search of experience, he turned to Italy, and explains that no Italian factory was willing to work with him initially.
“I was this young boy looking to launch a brand, but knew nothing about the business. I also didn’t have a track record of production, so it would’ve been a gamble for them. After finding the right factory, I had to gather all the courage in the world to walk in and say, ‘I’m not leaving until I’ve learned the craft, you have produced my samples, and you’ve given me space in your production factory.'” This paid off and, as a result, Darmaki was trained by some of the best craftsmen in Italy.
According to his team, the designer has a habit of saying “not chic”. “It’s a phrase that will be squeezed into any sentence if I disapprove. For example, if the coffee tastes weird, it’s not chic. If the pattern on the shoes is wrong, it’s not chic. Even the food can taste not chic,” he says.
Made in Italy
Every Darmaki shoe is handcrafted in Italy. With the decline of the hand-making craft and the shift to fast fashion, it is important for him to continue the legacy of impeccable craftsmanship and timeless design.
Darmaki’s passion for shoe design stems from his mother’s love of shoes. “I remember watching my mom prepare herself for an event when I was ten. She had a pair of shoes in her hand, and I recall her saying that they weren’t glamorous enough, that they didn’t excite her, so she picked up a glue gun and continued to stick crystals across the entire shoe. I knew from that moment that I had to create something that would excite people.”
Back to Black
The color black is an important part of the Darmaki collection. For the designer, black has no gender, no age, and no race. It is a classic and timeless color that can be worn for eternity.
In 2011, Darmaki became the first contemporary Middle Eastern designer to have his work displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The golden stiletto heel is still displayed there to this day.
Shop exclusive Darmaki designs for Ounass, here.