PARIS — Ludovic de Saint Sernin and footwear maverick Alfredo Piferi came together over a shared vision for inclusivity in fashion.
Piferi, a Jimmy Choo veteran, often wears his stiletto heels out himself to test their comfort; makes a point to offer his full collections in a wider size range, and incorporates different shades of nude across his entire offer.
Now he’s joining forces with de Saint Sernin — whose ready-to-wear collections have challenged gender stereotypes from the get-go — on a gender-neutral shoe capsule, unveiled during the buzzy young designer’s catwalk show during Paris Fashion Week.
“Many people have tried to do what he’s done, but it never looked so sharp and so credible. That’s what caught my attention, plus the sensuality of the brand was really matching the core elements of my own label,” said Piferi, who worked with de Saint Sernin to create a range of sleek flat sandals and sexy lace-up kitten heels.
The shoes were done in an elastic natural rubber material that can easily adjust to larger feet and came in white, silver and a range of nude shades.
“I sent Ludovic a doodle I did on the plane as a starting point but he loved it, so at the end that was the finish line. I managed collaborations like Versace for H&M or Off-White for Jimmy Choo which are usually extremely painful because of all the back and forth, so this was very organic and straightforward,” said Piferi.
The shoes will be sold on both brands’ websites and across shared wholesale partners for spring 2022, marking de Saint Sernin’s first foray into footwear. This will also be Piferi’s first collaboration since exiting Choo and launching his namesake label in 2019.
The majority of the new label’s life has unfolded amidst the pandemic, yet Piferi said that he still managed to grow his business by 130 percent during the lockdown, picking up wholesale partners like Harrods, Browns, On Pedder, Level Shoes and Neiman Marcus.
Part of his success lies in his responsible ethos: the shoes are made of vegan materials including a bio-leather composed of corn oil, heels are made of recycled materials, and the collections are focused on core, season-less styles.
“I’m sure a big percentage of our success was the responsible and vegan aspect: people were ready and they were looking for it. If it was another leather shoe brand I would have probably still pushed forward but not as much or as quick as this. At the end of the day we all like a good story and this is a genuine story that comes from my heart and from really wanting to change the perspective of the market,” said the designer, clarifying that his is a story on responsibility, not sustainability.
“Sustainability is a dangerous word and a very big word. A hospital is sustainable because we need it but realistically, nobody needs another shoe brand — the moment you start a brand you’re not sustainable, you can just be responsible with your choices,” he added.
Being responsible in the luxury footwear space came with many a challenge, including having to convince an 80-year old Italian manufacturer to completely rethink its ways and invest in new machinery that work with bio-materials.
As eco-friendly materials like mushroom leather become more popular, young brands like Piferi now also have to face intense competition from the conglomerates. When it comes to mushroom leather for instance, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Hermès have bought manufacturers’ full production, according to the designer.
“My concept is that there should be no trends or seasonality. Trends today, you can’t even explain what they are. The moment I’m a big corporate, I have money and I gift the same pair of shoes to 50 people that are influential, I create a trend. It’s not like in the ’80s where people looked up to fashion and designers created trends for people to absorb. Today it’s the street that demands and creates trends in a very mechanical way.”