From kick-flare heels to runway-ready collaborations, meet the next generation of shoe designers leaving their footprint on the fashion industry.

Amina Muaddi made her mark on the footwear industry back in 2017, when she stamped her first flared heel down onto the runway. The stiletto—which looks sort of like an upside-down martini glass—has since become the signature of Muaddi’s namesake label, and it’s been sported by just about every A-lister there is.

But it wasn’t just the 33-year-old’s solo brand that earned her the Designer of the Year title at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in 2019—by the age of 26, the Jordanian-Italian-Romanian-raised designer had already co-founded the Italian luxury brand Oscar Tiye. Now located in Paris, she’s also the creative talent behind Alexandre Vauthier’s eponymous shoe line and Rihanna’s Fenty footwear.


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What sparked your interest in footwear?

I’ve always had a shoe obsession. After my studies, I started working as a fashion editor in New York, and when I realised I didn’t feel fulfilled, I moved back to Italy, went straight to the shoe district in Veneto with sketches and started learning how shoes are made. But it’s been a long, rocky road.

Do you remember your first pair of heels?

Yes! I was 14, and it was a pair of off-white patent mules with a pretty small heel, and I was so happy. At that time, I was still getting grounded and my mum would forbid me to wear them if I didn’t behave.

Who do you design for? Who’s in your mind when you’re thinking up styles?

I start with myself, with my vision of what is modern as a woman. And I think about flattering my customer’s silhouette, about comfort and practicality based on different types of bodies, legs, and feet. I like to think my fashion is for a woman who wants to look feminine, glamorous, yet fresh and sophisticated—all of this while not taking fashion too seriously.


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What does ‘feminine’ mean to you?

I think every human being has a feminine side. Being a woman, you get to emphasise it through your behaviour, attitude, and style. To me, it is refinement, sensuality, delicacy mixed with strength, fierceness and fearlessness.

Sometimes, as modern women, we want to prove we are independent and strong, but we can do that without losing our femininity.

Did you always feel the need to have some kind of ‘signature’—some clear Amina Muaddi branding—or was the flare heel more of a happy accident that stuck?

After leaving my first brand, I was thinking about how I was going to create something completely different that represented who I had grown into. I designed the whole collection and then I felt like something was missing, as if it was too plain, not modern enough. I wanted to keep the product refined, so I thought of just making a stiletto heel-end like a big flared heel. I created it and then I felt it looked better on many of the styles. I did not know whether people would like it or not at the time.


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What’s been the biggest challenge about breaking out and going solo?

[Laughs] What’s not?! Being an entrepreneur is extremely challenging; it takes sacrifice, hard work, and a lot of responsibility. Often people see the glamorous part of the job, but that’s just ten percent of it.

And what’s been the biggest reward?

The biggest reward is doing what I love for work and being able to own my company and my decisions 100 percent. Of course, getting awards, getting to work with Rihanna, and seeing women happy in my shoes is great as well.

Is there a point in these awards and celebrity endorsements that makes you feel like you’ve made it?

I don’t think I’ve made it; I think I just started. I am extremely grateful for the amazing response I’ve received both from the press and my clients. I’ve been doing this job for eight years now, so I’m just focussing on creating a great product and a healthy business.


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How would you describe the Amina Muaddi mindset in three words?

Determined, original, fun.

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