Observing a tremendous demand for luxury shoes in the GCC region, Australian-born Lebanese designer Katrine Hanna decided to launch her eponymous label. Since its inception in 2017, the Dubai-based label has gained a massive cult following. The reason? Hanna’s timeless, elegant, and feminine designs, of course. As her new ‘Nightshade’ collection launches, Katrine Hanna sits down with Savoir Flair to discuss her latest collection, the two seemingly disconnected inspirations behind it, her love for the plant world, and of course her iconic ‘Banksia’ heel.
Have you always been passionate about shoes?
Before I studied shoemaking at University, I completed a foundation course where I explored all avenues of art and design. So through that exploration, I kind of landed on footwear design, because I felt like it was a combination of all the elements that I liked within the realms of art and design. Back in university, I was interested in many things and I felt like footwear design combined all those elements. So I pursued that, of course, with the goal in mind that I want to start my own brand — but I was also open to working for others. It wasn’t my immediate goal to launch my label but I always knew that was my end goal. It happened much sooner than I had initially imagined, as there was this fast-growing industry in Dubai and it felt like the right time to launch my label.
Who is the Katrine Hanna woman? Who do you design for?
I design for women that are feminine, women who have their unique style, not necessarily with what they wear, but within their personality and character – they have something unique and inviting about them. I tend to think of the women that have had an impact on me in some sense. When I design, I tend to think of those women that I’ve met, that have captured me with their aura.
What are the most important factors to consider when designing shoes?
I think the most important thing for me is the comfort, fit, and cut of the shoe. The shoe has to have femininity and elegance to it. So when I design, I tend to make sure that the pattern and the lines and every strap and every piece of leather that are sitting on the foot are in the right place to give off the most appealing and feminine look and feel.
What is the inspiration behind the ‘Nightshade’ collection?
The inspiration is basically the nightshade plant family. And in that family, you have eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, petunias, and a lot of other flowers and fruits, as well as some small berries. I was focused on this particular plant family because it gave me this almost enchanted, dark, surreal aesthetic. And I was also watching a lot of Italian Giallo films at the time, which had a similar color tone — like a lot of reds, purples, yellows, and browns.
So it’s kind of a juxtaposition between these two worlds – between the nightshade plant family and the Italian films. They don’t really have anything in common, but I kind of made them correlate in some sense based on the common aesthetic. This came down to the color palette of the collection and the leathers. For example, I used metallic leather and soft Napa. And these are all in shades of browns, golds, yellows, purples, reds, and metallics. The designs are a bit like the films and the structures of the plants as well. So the silhouette is very feminine and strong. And there’s a bit of a retro shape to the designs. So I wanted the shoes to have this glamorous desirability like that of a strong, powerful woman.
Your collections often tell a story. What story are you narrating through the ‘Nightshade’ collection?
I think not many people notice that tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and even petunias fall under the same family. One thing I am doing is kind of drawing attention to the origins of these particular fruits and flowers.
Also, the fact that two particularly different points of inspiration can somehow blend into one very unique and individual point of inspiration. So the plant world and the Giallo films have nothing really in common. But there is some common ground between their visual aesthetic and the way they make you feel. But it’s not that obvious. You wouldn’t really think of it until you study the two together. So I think in that sense, I’m kind of encouraging people to look at things in a different way or the right way – to try and change their perspective.
What makes your shoes unique in the footwear industry?
One thing that makes me unique is the fact that I do a lot of research when I’m designing to make sure that I don’t end up creating anything similar to anyone else’s designs at that particular time. I try and keep my designs simple and elegant. The most unique aspect of my brand, however, is the heel made out of the Banksia nut – it is a material that has never been used before. So, that is our signature and the most unique element of Katrine Hanna.
Could you please walk us through the iconic Katrina Hanna Banksia heel?
The Banksia is a yellow flower native to Australia, which dries up into a pine cone kind of nut. And then you cut it away and you get this very unique pattern. And it’s the first time that Banksia has been used to make the heel of footwear. Using Banksia is also a sustainable practice, as we are not taking anything away from nature. Our process with Banksia begins only after the flower has dried up and is no longer useful to the environment.
What made you turn to the Banksia plant?
Well, I love plants. There’s always an element of inspiration from the botanical world in each of my collections. And even before I started designing shoes, I was always inspired by the plant world. My debut collection was inspired by Australian flora. And I was already aware of the Banksia at the time. In fact, I had a piece of Banksia on my desk. And that’s how it all started.
One night, when I was designing my debut collection, I looked at the Banksia and thought it would look really cool as a heel. That’s when I started playing with it. I placed it on my foot to imagine what it would look like. I would take a picture of it and then draw on top of my foot to create the pattern and the design for the straps and everything. Then I discussed the idea with my factory and we started researching how we could source the material and make the heel out of it. And it was a real challenge at first. It is an innovation of its own. But we managed to make it happen, and since then, it has become a signature of the brand.
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