Young Guns: 6 Hot Emerging Designers

After a few quiet years, young designers are ready to shake things up. Here, six talented up-and-comers claim the spotlight.


Olivia De Ambrogio, Designer


Age: 25
Debut: Spring ’12
Price tag: $315-$630
The look: “My brand can be recognized for its unusual mix of rich materials and exotic skins, with wood, cork and PVC, and the overlap of different components and layers.”
The inspiration: “I have always been attracted to shoes, and [after] growing up and studying fashion, I started having the desire to create my own brand. Being in touch with different cultures and people from all over the world gave me the right inspiration to start up my shoe line.”
On spring ’12: “I like to call this line ‘cosmopolitan’ because it can be worn at any time and everywhere, and it was created thinking of different places around the world.”
Background: De Ambrogio studied fashion design at Istituto Marangoni in Milan, interned for Alexander Wang in New York, worked as a fashion stylist in New York and created a small capsule collection of limited-edition apparel sold at End of Century on New York’s Lower East Side.
Big break: “This is it right now. An important showroom in Milan is [showing] my brand, and I am really satisfied as the collection has interested buyers from several countries. That was my goal.”
Biggest challenge so far: “One of the most difficult parts of starting this adventure was finding the right place to produce my collection because many of the best factories in Italy don’t have availability for small productions. It took some time, but I got the execution I was looking for and I am very happy with the result.”
Most looking forward to: “I just desire to go on doing what I love to do, hoping that my line will succeed because I am putting all my efforts into this project that I really believe in.”
Where to find it: Studio 88, Desenzano del Garda, Italy; Kitch, Gallarate, Italy; Absolute Fabulous, Beijing; http://www.The247.it

The retail buzz:
“Olivia De Ambrogio shoes are a perfect combination of Italian and international taste, [have a] great sense of fashion, are playful but always sexy, and last but not least, are comfortable. The attention to detail and the close watch on quality will be her fresh flair in every market. [Her] shoes become jewels, renewing your collection and wardrobe.” — Chiara Sparacio, sales manager, http://www.The247.it

Angeline Lee, Designer


Age: 34
Debut: Spring ’11
Price tag: $316-$800
The look: “[It’s an] elegant silhouette with sweeping curves, punctuated with beautiful bespoke detailing for a definite edge of sophistication. And beautiful forms are transformed into reality with ultra-luxe leathers.”
The inspiration: “The collection takes a woman through her day, running around town to her business meetings through to her evenings, when she is looking to wear shoes that are beautifully unique and will catch an eye or two. [The shoes have] a quiet yet strong elegance.”
On spring ’12: “It’s a dynamic, non-serious and flirtatious collection of shoes, inspired by the fun and kaleidoscopic palette of colored pencils intertwined with the subtle opulence and luster of pearl beads. It’s casual-chic meets sophisticated poise.”
Background: Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art sculpture from the Slade School of Fine Art in London and followed it with a master’s in footwear at the Royal College of Art and an apprenticeship with Jimmy Choo in his couture workshop.
Big break: “When the Royal College of Art fashion tutors saw the potential in me, even though I had never made, stitched or lasted a shoe before, they allowed me into the master’s womenswear footwear course. I’ve never looked back. I’m forever grateful.”
Biggest challenge so far: “Production has been an exponential learning curve.”
Most looking forward to: “Designing the next collection.”
Where to find it: Deploy, London; Aalis, Hong Kong

The retail buzz: “Angeline’s shoes are beautiful down to the smallest details. They are timeless and elegant with a modern twist. Our clients are chic women who want something fresh and new beyond the usual luxury designers. She has generated a real following, and we have been constantly restocking Angeline’s styles. We have now set up a space solely for her shoes and look forward to spring ’12.” — Alice Tam, co-founder, Aalis

Ferdy Tumakaka, Designer


Age: 27
Debut: Spring ’12, with soft launch in fall ’11
Price tag: $150-$250
The look: “Prajaa is all about comfort, with versatile designs that can be dressed up or down. We aim to blur the perimeters between high and street fashion, [using] unorthodox materials such as Indonesian handcrafted fabrics, cross-pollinated cotton and nylon webbing. And I paired a sneaker-inspired base with more-formal design.”
The inspiration: “For our spring campaign, we shot an array of incredible multidimensional men, one of whom is Hlynur Atlason, a product designer and a drag bike racer. These guys are who we strive for, and that’s where we get our inspiration for the brand: from our customers.”
On spring ’12: “It’s a vast expansion of our previous [fall] collection, composed of three categories: first, a continuation of blurring high and street fashion; second, a desert-inspired story with batik fabrics; and third, a juxtaposition of industrial and organic elements. The silhouette is masculine and the style active, with twists such as a rubber lug- and espadrille-sole combo and metal accessories.”
Big break: “Being featured in Footwear News’ ‘First Look’ feature.”
Background: Tumakaka was formerly a professional pianist with musical duo Ferdiko, but he started sketching at age 8.
Biggest challenge so far: “The balancing act between designing, running a shoe brand and practicing the piano.”
Most looking forward to: “To seeing a lot of guys happily walking in their Prajaa shoes.”
Where to find it: NMRKT.com; Moxsie.com; Nos, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Habitat Shoes, Leawood, Kan.; Spindle & Canister, Malibu, Calif.


The retail buzz: “We picked up Prajaa this fall, starting with one style and will add additional styles [for spring]. The shoes are impeccably designed and produced with the highest quality and attention to details, but at a price point that can actually sell. … The designs are forward thinking without being unsalable. This is crucial in menswear because even the fashionable man is slow to move on trends. But the reaction has been great so far.” — Julia Jacobson, CEO, NMRKT.com

The Office of Angela Scott
Angela Marie Scott, Designer


Age: 34
Debut: Fall ’11
Price Tag: $450-$825
The look: “The Office of Angela Scott is a collaboration of two concepts: the traditions of a man — structure, sophistication and strength — and the whimsical nature of a woman — sensuality, sensibility and vivaciousness. The shoes are all handmade and Goodyear welted, as it’s important that the same standards of craftsmanship and quality that were instilled in me as a child by my late Italian grandfather are carried on in each pair.”
The inspiration: “From the smell of his cologne to the tailoring of his suits and the richness of his freshly polished loafers, my [grandfather] Nonno was undeniably a gentleman. The integrity, quality and menswear influence in The Office of Angela Scott is a symbol of strength and love, fashion and character — the four corners of where my style originated.”
On spring ’12: “Inspired by the works of Jackson Pollack and Henri Matisse for their bold use of color, this collection uses shoes as a canvas. From hand-painted, cap-toe oxfords to pop-colored, hand-striped pumps, this line takes traditional men’s dress shoe silhouettes and infuses them with a whimsical femininity.”
Background: Besides working for Ugg in college, Scott has been immersed in the footwear industry for 15-plus years through her husband, who founded Medium footwear and served as CEO until 2007.
Big break: “Returning to fashion at Neiman Marcus doing public relations in 2010. Being back in fashion sparked my love for luxury goods and reminded me of how passionate I was about footwear.”
Biggest challenge so far: “Running a new business from the ground up. But at the end of the day, there is no greater satisfaction than to be living your dream.”
Most looking forward to: “I feel privileged to be able to do what I love and look forward to every minute I get to create. I look forward to continuing the search for all that makes me a better designer, thinker and doer.”
Where to find it: Louis, Boston; Ten Over Six, Los Angeles; Anastasia, Laguna Beach, Calif.; Guild, Venice, Calif.; Post 26, Santa Monica, Calif.; Dressed & Ready, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Carrots, San Francisco; V.O.D. Boutique, Dallas; E35, Modena, Italy; Pinceau, Tokyo


The retail buzz: “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a new company that has attempted to do everything right from the start, from her design sensibility and quality of make and fit to just her overall passion for the product. … It has been a good reaction from the start. [Angela’s] shoes are quite sophisticated and therefore can be appreciated by women of all ages.” — Michael Rosen, co-owner, Guild

Maison des Talons
Susanne Villiger, Creative director


Age: 34
Debut: Spring ’12
Price tag: $450-$1,200
The look: “Our principal features are an avant-garde signature platform and edgy heel
constructions. With their clean and fresh look, [the shoes] project confidence and style.”
The inspiration: “We are inspired by the quote ‘Style is the dress of thoughts’ and strive to escape traditional conventions and predictable designs. We consider shoes to be wearable art that allows you to express yourself and to delight in the senses. By walking through life open-minded, inspiration can be found everywhere, in modern art, architecture, nature. … We try to capture all these experiences on a concise artwork space: the shoe.”
On spring ’12: “Beyond the elegance of black, striking color combinations of pristine lagoon and ocean blues, flamboyant hibiscus red and the mysterious shades of the desert characterize the spring collection. From divine ballerinas to captivating stilettos, Maison des Talons’ heel assortment covers four different heights to complement the lifestyle of the modern woman.”
Background: Villiger has a master’s degree from Istituto Marangoni in Milan, plus experience working with labels including Bruno Peters, Antonio Berardi, Donna Karan, Alessandro del’Acqua, Bikkembergs and Hugo Boss.
Big break: “At this stage, it is all about networking and getting the right brand exposure. It was a major step for us that we managed to present our collection at Premiere Classe in Paris during fashion week.”
Biggest challenge so far: “To find the right factory in Italy where the craftsmanship corresponds with our quality expectations.”
Most looking forward to: “Presenting our future collections. We are bursting with ideas and can’t wait to share them with our customers. The upcoming fall collection is going to be amazing. Just expect the unexpected.”
Where to find it: The Convenience Store, London; Lo Spazio, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Monadico, Zurich; Seen By Me, Hong Kong; Boutique White Exclusive, St. Tropez, France


The retail buzz: “One of the reasons we love the collection is the innovative use of different yet flattering shapes. Each pair is unique with an essence of European glamour and romance. These shoes are made for an intelligent, well-cultured woman who travels the world. They are, in short, every woman’s glass slipper.”
— Violeta Boroja & Silvia Brunschwiler, owners, Monadico Shoes

Del Rio London
Linda del Rio Jansson, Founder & designer


Age: 36
Debut: Spring ’11
Price tag: Adults: $335-$425; children’s: $195-$245 (or more for special-order exotics)
The look: “I strive to create instantly recognizable footwear and to become an enduring icon all over the world.”
The inspiration: “I’ve found inspiration from the type of footwear the Spanish kings wore during the first century. I wanted to design something that could replace my Converses and ballerinas, that would be comfortable yet stylish. I like history and recycling, so I wanted to combine these elements in my design. Even the shoebox is made of recycled paper. I also wanted to work with local producers.”
On spring ’12: “New this season is the City Chic line, created in rich velvets to be worn on more elegant occasions, or in linen for a more laid-back style. The farmed pearled stingray that I only make on special requests is also new for spring. I will be keeping my classics in printed leathers such as croc and snake, as these are extremely popular.”
Background: With no formal training, Jansson relies on a good eye and extreme attention to detail, plus fashionable parents.
Big break: “[The shoes were] handpicked by the English royal family to be worn at prestigious events. And when I saw the sandals for the first time in British Vogue, that was big.”
Biggest challenge so far: “Every day is a challenge. That is the beauty of life.”
Most looking forward to: “Handpicking the leathers for spring ’13. I’m also looking forward to meeting with new people in the industry. And, most importantly, to supporting the charity Tree Talks in Uganda. We plant a tree for every pair of sandals sold, and the dream would be one day to build a school with all those trees.”
Where to find it: Hirschleifers, Manhasset, N.Y.; Biondi Couture, London; Älva, London; Boutique Molly Love, St. Tropez, France; Nathalie Schuterman, Stockholm; Gift-library.com; Scandinavianminimall.co.uk; made-to-order service: sales@delriolondon.com


The retail buzz: “I heard about Del Rio London from a friend who lives in Los Angeles. We contacted Linda after that to show us the shoes and we loved them. The reaction has been strong, especially for the python. We will definitely have the shoes for spring ’12 and will select [a broader range].” — Nathalie Schuterman, owner, Nathalie Schuterman

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