PARIS – After ten years in the shoe industry, Alexia Aubert decided it was time to go solo.
“I was bored with the notion of seasons,” said the founder of one-year old French footwear label Solovière. “There is so much rush in the market and the styles become disposable so quickly. People are putting too many different elements into one shoe – it becomes like a panini of trends: one layer of espadrilles, one layer welt sole, one sandal. I’ve had enough of that.”
Her mantra: “Less trend, more style.”
“I just wanted a piece of leather: a slip-on and a lace-up, the two simplest styles ever,” said the 33-year old, sitting at her chic Rive Gauche studio in Paris.
Her purist approach has quickly found admirers among high-profile retailers. Paris concept store Colette picked up the styles the first season, Le Bon Marché and United Arrows followed suit. Within a year, the brand tripled its number of stockists, with Japan and Korea at present accounting for more than 60 percent of total business. In the U.S., Barneys New York will carry the up-and-coming label from spring 2016.
Aubert said her signature and bestseller is the Matthieu, an ultra-soft, laced loafer made of one piece of leather and with an origami-like fold on top, which the designer refers to as “vagabond chic.” It’s aimed at both sexes.
“I was actually thinking of Jack Kerouac wearing it on the road. Because you cannot write a book and wear a sneaker,” she deadpanned.
Aubert is among those designers who think the days of the sneaker are numbered. “One of the reasons why United Arrows is working so closely with us is they believe the sneaker is over – leather and fabric are back,” she said.
Naturally, her 2016 fall-winter collection – currently in the works – will focus on warm and cozy fabrics, including suede, astrakhan, velvet, brocade and tweed-like fabrics.
Having learned the ropes as an assistant of Christian Louboutin, where she started in 2004, she became the head of studio at Pierre Hardy only four years later. In 2010, Aubert moved to New York to become director of footwear design at Oscar de La Renta. “At Louboutin, I spent a lot of time in the factory,” she said. “It was really about understanding the basics. At Pierre Hardy, I learned how to do men’s and sketch – Pierre is an amazing sketcher – and at de la Renta it was all about the U.S. market,” she explained.
Aubert still designs for other brands, including Leonard, Shiatzy Chen and Elie Saab, but that’s mostly to finance her own label. “It’s where all my money goes, and the company is profitable, but to grow we need additional expertise on the managerial side. We have a rather artistic approach to business,” she admitted.
Staying true to the label’s artisanal touch, the shoes are all crafted in Italy, in the Tuscan countryside, renowned for its shoe-making culture. “We could have had a better price point in Portugal, but the finesse is not the same. Italian shoes are instantly recognizable. Elsewhere, they are just a product,” she said.
The pairs retail between 280 euros, or $318 at current exchange, and 390 euros, or $443.
For spring, the designer has added a capsule collection for children, which is currently available for pre-orders via the label’s Web site, before it hits stores in January. The leather slipper and low-cut bootie, boasting Solovière’s signature print – a multi-color harlequin check which Aubert describes as “daft Punk-meets-skater” – are to go for 70 euros, or $79, and 90 euros, or $102, respectively.
Winter 2016, meanwhile, will see the launch of a little evening collection.