Amina Muaddi has become synonymous with statement shoes. Her distinctive, glamorous aesthetic has made her one of fashion’s most in-demand brands, with her opulent heels selling out throughout lockdown, no mean feat in a climate where many labels and household names are struggling. Shoppers may not have had anywhere to wear a pair of crystal-embellished sandals, but they still couldn’t resist buying them.
Muaddi’s signature flared heel caught the attention of one star in particular, Rihanna. After the singer’s stylist, Jahleel Weaver, put Muaddi on her radar, she immediately fell in love with the brand and was regularly seen wearing them. Fast forward a couple of years and the musician-turned-designer enlisted Muaddi to design the shoes for her latest Fenty drop.
“Fenty reached out to me because Ri liked what I did and she was wearing my shoes and rocking them flawlessly,” Muaddi tells me.
She first met Rihanna at a party in Paris, where they hugged and waxed lyrical about their mutual love for each other’s brands. “Her style is super edgy and feminine at the same time, so the silhouette is always balanced,” she explains. “My style is very similar; I love to contrast and mix things up. With my shoes, you can wear them with a gown or with sweatpants and they look great regardless.”
Their shared design aesthetic was what glued them together. “It was very simple really and felt like a natural fit. We wanted to create shoes that would make every woman feel a little bit like Rihanna,” she laughs.
The way that women feel in Muaddi’s shoes is a big part of the brand’s appeal. Every shoe is carefully designed and crafted to make the wearer feel empowered and confident. As Muaddi says, all she wants to do is make women “feel good”.
Although it might seem that Muaddi has become a fashion star overnight, her success hasn’t been as instant as it seems. Her enthusiasm for fashion has been a long-standing, deeply-rooted part of her life, which has seen her move from her home countries of Romania and Jordan to the global fashion capitals of Milan, New York and now Paris.
“I’ve had a love for fashion as long as I can remember,” Muaddi recalls. “My first inspiration and icon was my mother, she had a great sense of style and combined the eighties and nineties together.”
“My mother grew up in Romania during the communist era,” continues the designer. “After we moved to Jordan, she’d always bring back beautiful things to her home friends that they didn’t have access to. My roots will always be a source of inspiration to me.
“She always had great shoes. I’d try them on and wear them around the house when I was four years old. The more I grew, the more I tried to leave the house in her shoes.”
At age 16, Muaddi moved to Italy to start high school and then went on to study at the European Institute of Design, which led to her early career in fashion editorial and celebrity styling.
“It was always in the back of my head to run my own shoe brand at some point,” says Muaddi, adding that she wasn’t sure if she could after only working in the magazine industry. “I didn’t know if I could start something on my own without the right knowledge, so I moved back to Italy and spent a year learning everything about shoes.”
She fell in love with the technical aspect of designing and still today favours being in the factory over the office. Muaddi started her first brand Oscar Tiye and worked there for around six years, an experience she calls “a beautiful journey that prepared me for what happened next”.
In 2018, she launched her eponymous label, Amina Muaddi, which went onto become the industry’s most-searched shoe brand of late 2019, according to global fashion search engine Lyst. Her signature kick-flare heel has been instrumental to her success and marks her out among her peers.
“After leaving my other brand I kept thinking ‘who am I today?’” she remembers. “I wanted to create a collection that felt in tune with the woman who I’ve become and who I’ve grown into. It wasn’t edgy enough, I kept thinking of a flared heel but usually that makes the silhouette chunkier and I wanted it to stay feminine.”
“Then I mixed the two and drew a sketch and it looked so exaggerated,” she says. “I went straight to Venice to my heel-maker and started adding it to most styles as it looked so good.”
Six months later, the shoes arrived on shelves and proved an instant hit among shoppers.
“I definitely didn’t expect this amazing reaction,” she says. “All I wanted was, regardless of your shape or form, that the shoes would look good on you. That was really important to me.”
Muaddi’s distinctive heel and clear design vision makes it all too easy for others to copy her work. Fast fashion brands have been quick to reinterpret her signature designs, highlighting the problem that plagiarism presents to rising labels.
“As a designer, no matter how flattering it can be when a brand does that, it’s something that cheapens your vision,” says Muaddi. “What really worries me about is that when the shoes cost so little, the working conditions are probably inhumane. Fast fashion doesn’t respect people’s human rights and the work conditions are so poor.”
Despite living in a time of conscious shopping, there is still a long way to go before consumers stop buying cheap, low-quality clothes and instead invest in bigger purchases that truly stand the test of time. That said, Muaddi believes the pandemic may have shifted the way we look at our spending habits.
“Until now, people didn’t really care about where the products were made and what factory was used,” agrees Muaddi. “But I do think people are thinking more. This pandemic has really woken people up to many things, so with all the pain, people have become less superficial because pain makes you grow.
“We’ve been given more time to pay attention to things and therefore become better informed and educated and that’s when you learn.”
Of course, Muaddi recognises that her brand isn’t within everyone’s budget. “There is a middle ground,” she points out. “Now we have fewer occasions to go out, we don’t need to buy as much. But when we do go out, we want to feel amazing so we invest in a beautiful piece that will do that and can be worn forever.”
So, what’s next for Anima Muaddi? It’s good news for bag-lovers - the designer will launch a small collection of mini bags this autumn. “I wanted to take my time to give it the same energy as I gave to the shoes,” she explains. “I don't feel the need to rush anything; I always move at my own pace. Being authentic comes with feeling confident and I didn’t feel like I needed to prove anything when I launched this brand,” she says. “I just hope people keep liking what I do and that’s it.”
We will, that’s for sure.
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