How These Rupert Sanderson Heels Are Like Architectural Furniture

The British footwear designer Rupert Sanderson has announced a collaboration with Nathalie Trad, the Dubai-based accessories designer known for her sculptural clutches.

The collaboration consists of two lace-up styles that are in line with Sanderson’s classic shapes. The shoes’ block heels incorporate natural materials such as mother-of-pearl and agate, which Trad often uses to create her abstract bags.

“I wanted to use a signature shape of ours with the signature technique of hers,” said Sanderson, adding that he came across the emerging designer’s work in Paris and the idea for a collaboration was born from a conversation at his showroom.

“Nathalie developed a lacquering technique using materials from the Far East and the Philippines,” added the designer. “The way she uses crushed shell and pearl gives a rich feel to her handbags, almost like architectural furniture. So I thought we could do something blending our own architecture with hers.”

The “Issey” and “Rayelle” styles — a lace-up sandal and round-toe pump with feminine, paisley cutouts — from Sanderson’s resort collection were the starting point of the project, while the block heels were chosen so that the designers could have a wide enough area to experiment with Trad’s signature materials.

“I wanted to use a strong silhouette that was still quite simple and a heel that I had already developed, that we knew could physically work and go into production,” said Sanderson. “We do quite a bit of gilding on our heels, so we’re very used to working with delicate material, and the result is incredibly robust, which is one of the reasons why I was quite interested working with it.”

The colors, a mixture of metallics and neutrals such as brown and black, were chosen to complement the prominent colors of the stones used on the heels.

Trad also found that translating shell, mother-of-pearl or agate onto a heel was the biggest challenge of the project. “Heels have to carry a woman, so we needed to make sure they are durable and up to Rupert’s standards. We wanted to create a piece that you can really hold on to, and not throw away after one season.”

This is the first time Trad has worked with another medium and sees the collaboration as a window into the footwear world, her long-term goal being to build a lifestyle brand offering accessories across a number of categories.

“I’ve always had an interest in making shoes, and for me, I think the best way to go about it is through collaboration, by working with someone who knows the craft best. I’d definitely consider turning my label into a lifestyle brand, so it’s great to explore alternative ways of using the materials,” said Trad. “The idea behind what I do is to create precious, timeless pieces that are almost like sculptures. I’d love to apply this concept to a wide range of products — be it shoes, home accessories or jewelry.”

Earlier this month, Trad presented her collection during Milan Fashion Week as part of the Vogue Talents initiative organized by Vogue Italia. She is also a nominee of the Vogue Arabia/Dubai Design Fashion Council Prize which will be announced this fall.

Trad said that Dubai has proven a great central location; it’s in close proximity to all the different operations of her business: “Most of what I produce is in the Far East and in the Philippines, while I present my collections during European fashion weeks. Dubai is such a central place to travel around these different locations with a lot of ease. The region is also turning into a hub for designer fashion in the Middle East, and it’s great to be part of that movement and also to have had the opportunity to trigger the movement.”

Sanderson also has an established presence in the Middle East, and is sold at key regional stockists such as Dubai Mall’s Level Shoe District. While the company’s focus in the next year is its continued expansion in Asia, Sanderson added there is an ongoing discussion with partners in the area to maintain the brand’s retail presence.

“We have a wide distribution in the Middle East, and that was one of the reasons why I wanted to do a tie-in with Nathalie, because she’s understood within that market,” Sanderson said. “Our focus is the Far East, but we are constantly in discussion with partners in the Middle East, as they’re always building malls and looking for more retailers.”

The shoes are priced between £745-855 (or ($968-$1,112) and will be sold at Rupert Sanderson boutiques, the brand’s e-store and a select number of retailers.

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