Luxury cobbler Charlotte Dellal shares why it’s platforms and nostalgia all the way for her, and of course, a big dose of fun. She also reveals an exciting new foray into handbags.
Charlotte Dellal is a well turned out young woman. Even if she’s not dressed to kill, which is highly unlikely, there’s always the bright, red lipstick. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
In fact, given half a chance she’d be living in the 1940’s, dressed up to the nines and looking like Rita Hayworth. The glamour of black and white movies inspire her, she’s dyed her hair red like Rita’s, and watched Gone with the Wind too many times to remember. When she’s not at socialite parties she’s curled up with an Agatha Christie novel. So it’s no surprise that her day job heaves with nostalgia.
For Charlotte is none other than the driving force behind Charlotte Olympia (her middle name), the brand of shoes that has rocketed to recognition on the feet of stars like Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City, Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyonce. Her shoes are individual, vibrant, full of lavish detail, and usually very, very high.
In a luxury market crammed with the likes of Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik, she’s making her mark. In December 2010, Charlotte picked up the Emerging Talent honour at the Vivian Infantino awards, the Oscars of the shoe world, held in New York.
Her trademark gold spider web can be found on the soles of her shoes. It’s a reference to the award winning children’s novel Charlotte’s Web that struck such a chord with her. So much so, that she framed the words and hung them on her wall.
“Some parts of the collection are more tongue in cheek. I had some complete fruit shoes”
"I’m trying to build a brand and have an identity. The spider is universal. Every detail is extremely important. I like to think about all the small details. The inside of the shoes have a seasonal print. I like a shoe to be pretty." And it was the feeling that, ‘shoes seem that little bit special’ that drove her into the market.
After studying at the London College of Fashion and Cordwainers, Charlotte pursued her love for accessories. Deciding to focus on shoes, she went to Brazil to find a factory for her first capsule collection. The country was a natural choice as Charlotte is half Brazilian and half English. She says: "London is where the heart is, but Rio is a home from home."
So when Rio pops up in her collections you know why. Last summer’s collection, for example was called ‘Blame it on Rio’. "I have an idea that gives an essence of a collection. I like to give a little story or title to it," explains Charlotte. Her inspiration came from Carmen Miranda, the flamboyant samba singer of the 1940’s, famous for her fruit laden hat. And yes, the collection featured fruit. "A few shoes are more editorial pieces," she says. "Some parts of the collection is more tongue in cheek. I had some complete fruit shoes."
Her shoes always feature an element of fun. "I love the thirties, forties and fifties because back in those days accessories had a sense of humour, like poodle bags," she says. "I’d like to bring that back into my shoes."
And it’s certainly something that runs through her life. When she married last year she had her favourite milliner, Marie Mercie, design a cat hat with ears for her flower girls. So if you too like to make a statement, there are shoes with a gold pineapple on top, a pair in bright python leather and a banana bag to accessorise. A little see through bag, the zipped interior comes in different colours to mix and match.
Five years after graduating, Charlotte’s four collections a year are made in Italy. "You need model makers who understand where you’re coming from," she reasons. And she’s now found someone who completely understands what she’s trying to achieve. She describes the process: "I’ve got several constructions, heels, platforms, and each season I’ll add a new one, which is a whole technical development. I like to work three dimensionally on the last. I draw on it, put straps on it and I’m very into texture and colour."
It’s a long way from the sandals she used to design for her Barbie doll as a child. Barbie used to get the complete makeover. Charlotte designed her clothes and cut her hair. It could be that as a daughter of a Brazilian model something may have rubbed off. Charlotte used to go backstage with her mother as a young child and she comments: "My father says I definitely get it from my mother."
Charlotte recently departed from her signature towering heels and designed some flats. She remarks: "I think it’s a rolling process." She’s also developed a range of hosiery and says: "There’s a nice little surprise in the box for the girls." By that she means the matching stockings to the shoes. "It developed naturally from the shoes," she explains. "Next are the bags."
“I love the thirties, forties and fifties because back in those days accessories had a sense of humour, like poodle bags”
However, for her ‘at the end of the day it’s about shoes and babies’, her two abiding passions. Her son is now two and she wants four children like her mother. She and her husband spend weekends with their families and close friends, something which is very important to her. She says they provide all the support she needs. "My mother and mother-in-law are fantastic, and I now have a nanny. It works."
What also works is her ability to turn her desires into reality. At 29 years old, she’s transformed her individual style into a must-have fashion item and last July opened her very first shop in London’s West End on Maddox Street. It’s like walking into an extremely well-ordered and well-designed candy shop full of enticing goodies. If like Charlotte you want to make ‘the effort and dress’, this is the place for your fashion fix. As she comments, "I like the art of dressing. It makes Mondays a bit more exciting."
For more information, visit the Charlotte Olympia website or call 0207 499 0145.
By Michele Nevard