Instagram is my favorite platform for discovering new things beyond what my girls have been up to all weekend, one of them being for its ability to show me what I want to see based on what I’ve liked, who I already follow, and often unpopularly, perhaps what I’m talking about. I discovered Daniella Shevel shoes one day while scrolling through my Explore page and followed after clicking through her Instagram and website learning that she is an up and coming female shoe designer with a mission to empower females through the piece of clothing that quite literally grounds us - shoes. Her first two collections showcase beautiful styles that don’t compromise comfort, which is extremely important for someone like myself who is constantly on the go from meetings to events to dinners, with no time to change or room in my prized micro bags to fit additional pairs of shoes. With fast fashion being a hot topic, finding investment pieces that don’t require my life savings but can still serve their purpose for many years to come, it felt like a breath of fresh air discovering Daniella Shevel shoes. Below Daniella chats with us about her biggest inspiration for starting her own line, how she went from corporate fashion to small label entrepreneur, and what advice she would give to other designers dreaming of launching their own line.
Wearing BellaDonna shoes by Daniella Shevel in Black.
What sparked your interest in fashion/shoes?
I was 13 years old on a family trip to NYC from South Africa when I first came across a Jimmy Choo store. We didn't have stores like this in South Africa yet. This was my first encounter with beautifully made, luxury footwear. I was so in awe of how artfully the shoes were crafted. They looked like sculptures to me and I became fascinated with how they were designed and made. I wanted to learn as much as possible about the process. That is the earliest memory I have and from there my fascination grew and I began to sketch and design on my own.
While I studied business in college, I always gravitated towards fashion and decided to move to NYC after I graduated to pursue fashion. I worked in digital marketing for brands like Shopbop, ShopStyle and Rag&Bone before deciding to start my own footwear line.
How did growing up in South Africa inspire your shoe line?
In South Africa we didn't have exposure to so many brands like you would in the U.S., but growing up with an interior designer for a mother, I remember conversations were often geared towards the significance of textures, color, and fabrics in holistic design. This continues to inform my designs and my use of bold and happy colors much like you'd see from African inspired interiors and beadwork.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to be an entrepreneur and start your own shoe line?
Working in fashion for the past 7 years meant that I had to keep up with a demanding work schedule. I was running to meetings and events around the city and I wanted to feel stylish and wear beautiful shoes but after three hours I always had to have a back-up, flat pair of shoes to change into which I carried in my purse (I think most women can relate to this back-up pair). This finally led me to pursue my own line after seeing that there was a gap for women and their footwear where luxury brands weren't providing the comfort and functionality for a modern and busy women. I noticed that myself, as well as the women around me, were busier and more mobile than ever, yet our footwear was falling short. Feeling stylish meant having to suffer in uncomfortable and extravagantly thin heels.
I think that shoes should be reliable and stylish for women, not just beautiful which is why I decided to launch my line.
How did you finally make the transition from working in corporate fashion to starting your own line?
It was a difficult and very scary decision to walk away from a stable job. I knew however that I had to follow what I was passionate about otherwise I'd always wonder 'what if'. I was very determined and flew to Italy in the middle of winter and took my designs around the industrial parts of Italy from one factory to the next looking for a factory that would understand my styles and aesthetic, produce top-quality products and get them to agree to work with me. Most factories are hesitant of new designers, as we can’t fund big production lines, and it’s a financial risk for them, as well. Finding a factory means they also have to believe in you. I had to face rejection along the way but finally I found the right factory which was the start of everything.
What do you think separates your line from other up and coming shoe lines?
The superior craftsmanship and high quality coupled with unique designs and materials, which include Italian leathers and extra insole padding that make the shoes very comfortable, functional and soft for all day wear is what separates the brand. Women are often shocked when they first try on a pair and feel just how comfortable and soft the shoes are, yet still very flattering. Every pair is fit tested by me to ensure this level of comfort.
Selling directly through our website also allows us offer superior quality at an exceedingly affordable price point for luxury shoes by as much as 50% less than traditional retail prices.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting your own company?
Feeling very vulnerable and facing rejection in the beginning when I was trying to find a factory and get started as a new designer was a huge challenge. Many people told me that I would never even get my company off the ground and that I had no business to be doing what I was doing because I would get taken advantage of due to my lack of experience as a young person and a woman. I had to learn to filter out the nos and keep going.
What advice would you give to young designers?
If you want to start your own line you need to define very clearly what separates you beyond your designs from the competition. Know that it will be a roller coaster, but most importantly be tenacious.
How do you want women to feel when they wear Daniella Shevel shoes?
Any great pair of shoes should make a women feel stylish and still comfortable in her own shoes. Like a best friend, I want my shoes to provide support for a woman throughout her day through their comfort and functionality. She should feel like she can trust her shoes as soon as he puts them on knowing that they will be reliable, provide her the comfort she needs and still look great with her outfit.
What’s a motto that you live by?
I love this quote by Maya Angelou as I think it's important to be kind and strong.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."