As a young child in Beirut, bespoke shoe designer, Andrea Wazen, already knew that her passion lay in the arts. She was constantly sketching and drawing and, being a twin, was less than pleased when her mother used to dress her and her sister alike. “I was very particular about what I wanted to wear,” she laughs, an ‘obsession’ that would last into her adulthood and propel her into the world of high fashion. Her sister, by the way, is a Chef – another profession that relies strongly on creativity and vision.
Andrea was born in London and raised in Beirut, but her life has seen her return to ‘the city of dreams.’ Her official training took place in Paris, at the highly renowned Istituto Marangoni Italian Fashion School, where her teachers instantly noted that she had a particular talent for shoe design. Says Andrea, “I initially knew I wanted to work in fashion and the choice was between Milan, London, or Paris. I chose the latter because it was a peak moment for designers such as Karl Lagerfeld in Chanel and there are various large companies that interested me in terms of an internship.” The Istituto Marangoni was another source of attraction: “Italians are known for being the best in design so for me, this school, in the middle of such a lively city such as Paris, was the perfect choice. Also, the fact that it was Italian possibly opened my doors to yet another city.”
Soon after her graduation, Andrea felt confident in her knowledge of drawing, designing, and pattern making. “At this point I felt I had to delve more into how to manage and market a brand and London was the best choice for this.” She notes that although many designers are based in Paris, ‘their communications offices are in London. In London I worked for Louboutin, where I was able to hone my skills in social media. Instagram was just starting back them so I learned a lot about how to harness its power to raise brand awareness, target customers, etc.’
Her very first job was at Rupert Sanderson: “I was lucky because Rupert Sanderson’s entire operations are based in London, so I was able to learn about how various departments work.” Afterwards, she completed her internship at Christian Louboutin. “While at Louboutin I was offered a job at Céline… initially I planned to accept but I eventually decided to stay where I was. It turned out to be a very good choice because the job at Céline focussed on leather and pattern making for leather jackets and fur, while at Louboutin I continued to specialise on footwear, which was my passion.”
Andrea lived in London for almost two years, learning “two very important things. In Paris, workspaces were more private, compartmentalised. In London everything was open so people were working together much more and sharing vital information. Secondly, I learned all about celebrity endorsements – for instance, how to approach celebrities of interest.” Stylists, it seems, are everything when it comes to landing the right celebrity for a campaign. “I also learned how to manage stock and retail stores. I worked in the retail section so part of my job was to visit boutiques.”
In 2013, Andrea took her rich portfolio of experiences and put it to the best use possible, opening her own boutique in Beirut. “In Lebanon, there is a savvy fashion industry, with designers such as Elie Saab or Zuhair Murad, but there was little in terms of my area of focus: shoe couture, a custom-made service in which every client can have shoes made for their needs. For many women, shoes can be painful because of the way their foot is shaped. We get around that through our bespoke service.” Andrea notes that she was inspired by companies like Louboutin, where “clients would send us their shoes after three years to have the soles changed. That level of service was what I aspired to.”
Today, Andrea has an online store as well, since “E-commerce is booming and Instagram is our baby. Around 80 per cent of our sales come from Instagram. Clients consult our social media and often know which shoe they want to buy before stepping into the shop.” The company is aiming to grow its Internet sales organically. Our plan is to launch our collections through pop-up stores in cities like Milan, Paris, and London. By seeing the quality of our shoes and our different designs, clients can then either visit our store or order online.”
If you love designer shoes and want the type of shoe that is completely unique, visit the Andrea Wazen website and view the plethora of booties, platforms, loafers, and thigh highs, each of which is an artwork of its own. Despite being high fashion, the shoes are affordable and there are frequent sales on recent collections. Sensual, vertiginous heels, lush materials, and feminine touches are just a few characteristics of a series of collections to wear proudly for many years.
WORDS Marisa Cutillas Photography Courtesy of Andrea Wazen
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