Rosh Mahtani, of fashionista-favorite jewelry line Alighieri, has launched her second footwear capsule with Net-a-Porter this week, plus additional shoes exclusively available on her e-commerce site. The London-based designer, whose celebrity fans include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Elisabeth Moss, was also announced today as a nominee in the 2019 British Fashion Awards.
Her Net-a-Porter capsule consists of three ’90s-inflected styles: a strappy sandal, a pump and a slingback that come with hammered metal embellishments and removable anklets that double as jewelry. The Alighieri site exclusives feature a mule and a toe-ring sandal with chunky heel silhouettes.
Mahtani said she was inspired by the shoes and anklets of tribes in South America and Africa. “I loved the idea of carrying your stories on your feet as you travel through your life,” she explained.
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The shoes are priced around $480 and made in Italy. They share their accessible price structure with the new wave of quality-driven footwear labels like Wandler and By Far. It’s the same idea as with her jewelry: “When we launched five years ago, our brand of quality modern [heirloom-style] pieces didn’t exist at $250,” she said.
Hitting that sweet spot reaps dividends. In the financial year ending last January, the label grew 600% and reached around $4.1 million in revenues. The numbers are consistently growing. The in-house team has increased from three to 30 people and will soon move into a new building to accommodate this growth.
Mahtani’s jewelry line takes its name from iconic 13th-century Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, and all the pieces recall cantos within his famous “Divine Comedy.” And just as many aspects of the “Comedy” were allegories for the political upheaval of the time, the same could be said of Mahtani’s pieces and today’s tumult.
Her Net-a-Porter Fragment shoe, with its metal mosaic detailing, was inspired by Dante’s notion of “a broken world,” she said, observing that the idea was certainly “very pertinent.” It was about “finding beauty in fragments,” she added, “rebuilding them and maybe creating something even more beautiful than before.”
Her Wandering Traveller sandal was inspired by Dante collecting pieces of hope and light to guide him through hell and purgatory, while the Initial Spark Mule looks at one moment in the story when Dante meets a friend and becomes hopeful recalling happier times.
FN caught up with the designer to talk footwear, responsible fashion and beating Brexit.
Your silhouettes are very ’90s-inspired. Does the decade particularly resonate with you?
RM: I’ll forever be a ’90s girl. I love the simplicity of it. It was so classic and timeless, and that’s what appeals to me. It’s also how I dress myself — cigarette trousers and slip dresses and layers of jewelry. It was such a time of joy, and although I was just a kid, it was a world I wanted to be part of.
What drew you to combining your jewelry universe with the world of footwear?
RM: I was excited about going into a new product category. We have done lots of anklets before, so I thought maybe it was time we had our own shoes. It all happened really organically with both Net-a-Porter and our Italian factory approaching us at around the same time.
Do you see any parallels between the two métiers?
RM: For us, jewelry is about forever pieces that elevate everyday basics like jeans and a white T-shirt to make your look your own. Shoes do the same thing. Both shoes and jewelry are about creating something that lasts.
Tell us about your process.
RM: We were really lucky with the factory as they’d worked with Net-a-Porter before, so they were used to doing these sorts of volumes. They also manufacture for very big brands, so we knew the quality would be incredible, but at the same time, they’re family run and understood the Dante story as he’s such a seminal poet in Italy. It was a very collaborative process over the course of three to four months, making samples and trying things out. They were very open to the way I do things, which is very instinctive and abstract. I don’t draw or sketch; I like to play and work in 3D.
Did you learn anything surprising?
RM: Shoes are a whole different ball game. With jewelry, you don’t have to worry about fit and size. I learned so much about taking your time and really working to get it exactly right. I make my jewelry in London’s Hatton Garden and work incredibly fast, so this was an exercise in patience [because] you’re constantly making alterations. It was good to slow down though.
Where do you stand on sustainability?
RM: With the exception of the tiny caps on the heels, all the materials we used for the shoes are biodegradable, and all were sourced from the vicinity of the factory. While we could have increased our margins by making the shoes in Portugal, I wanted to create something long-lasting with the best possible quality. Similarly, we make the wax molds for our jewelry in our London studio and then the casting is done just around the corner. Everything happens within a radius of three streets.
How has the Brexit situation been affecting your business?
RM: We’re lucky in that we’re manufactured in London and don’t import very much, though we do source our bronzes from Italy. Obviously, the value of the pound dropping would prove detrimental since the price of raw materials would go up. Logistically, we don’t know if we will have to charge customs duties in Europe, so it’s difficult to plan and we’re in such a time of uncertainty. However, our price structure and the timeless nature of our pieces tend to work in our favor, so we haven’t felt too much impact.
What’s next? Any further diversification planned?
RM: You will certainly see more shoes, and we are also shortly launching homeware with MatchesFashion, like glass vessels and candlesticks cast in bronze.