Carmelinas founder and creative director Lina Gutierrez had no experience or background in footwear when she decided to go to India to attend a design workshop in 2011.
“I’ve always loved fashion and design, but it was in India that I started creating shoes,” said Gutierrez, 27. “There was a cobbler in the village who would make them, and when I brought them back to Madrid, all my friends wanted to buy them.”
After an acquaintance put her in touch with a small factory in Madrid, Gutierrez began to develop custom loafer looks on a limited-edition basis. She came up with a name for her brand in the process. “I’m Lina and Carmen is a friend who has been my biggest supporter since I started. She guided me in the beginning, so Carmelinas is a combination of both our names,” the designer explained.
When sales started to flourish, Gutierrez decided to go to Alicante, a popular region in Spain for shoe manufacturers, and create an official branded line. She now splits her time between Alicante and Madrid to remain hands-on throughout the design process.
Her first official collection will launch for fall ’14 with a tight edit of mainly loafers, boots and oxfords, retailing for $170 to $400.
The shoes, all handmade, will be available at retailers such as Modaoperandi.com, Piermarini Boutique in Dallas, American Rag in China and Turkey, as well as on the brand’s own website. Moda Operandi last week hosted an online trunk show for the brand, offering five styles for pre-order.
Lina Gutierrez studied international and comparative politics with a specialization in developing countries (and a minor in international communications) at The American University in Paris.
“[Carmelinas] can be worn every day, from day to night. Our customers are working women who don’t have time to change from their day clothes to their night outfits, so Carmelinas fits right in with their lifestyle,” said John Piermarini, owner of Dallas-based Piermarini Boutique. “It’s so great to find a line that gets what women want. I imagine our customer buying every style in their size.”
Gutierrez was born in Miami and lived there until she was 14. Her Latin roots and appreciation for the arts inspired the fall collection. “Carmelinas is a very vibrant brand. My Miami upbringing, surrounded by tropical colors, influenced my designs, as did [visual artist] Gerhard Richter’s painted photographs,” she said.