On Dec. 3, Amina Muaddi will be honored as the Designer of the Year at the FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 2 print issue about her rapid rise to the top of the luxury market.
Amina Muaddi is one of the girls who are cool, glamorous, global, effortless. Even if Instagram didn’t exist in all its aspirational FOMO, she would still be “that woman” at the party with the impeccable outfits and the right friends. Above everthing, there’s an elegant nonchalance about her.
Maybe that’s why, when the shoe designer launched her namesake brand last year, it sold out in a day. After all, the shoes are every bit as chic as Muaddi herself. It’s as if she distilled herself into miniature sculptures, matching the color palette of her own modern wardrobe, dotting them with crystals, decorating them with feathers and glazing them all with a sophisticated sensuality.
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“We knew that there was an appetite for anything Amina,” said Hollie Harding, buying manager at Browns Fashion, which released an exclusive capsule with Muaddi in July. “The silhouettes are modern yet very iconic and easily recognizable. Amina’s use of materials and color palettes are like no other. [She] has shaken up the established shoe world in such a short amount of time.”
So far, it’s been about as picture perfect as it could be for a shoe designer launching a brand today. She’s landed big retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrods and Harvey Nichols; her “drops” continue to sell out; and she just found a few more factories in Italy to improve the quality of her intricate embellishments. Her second collection is also a solid step forward for the brand but one that retains all of Muaddi’s design DNA, including a martini heel that is already a signature. No sophomore slump here.
But it hasn’t been all martinis for Muaddi, and this isn’t a naive venture in shoes. Back in 2013, she co-founded the brand Oscar Tiye and enjoyed a steady rise in the industry, only to leave the label in May 2017.
“This world is a jungle and you have to be persistent and not allow disappointment or failure to stop you,” said the 33-year-old designer, reflecting on her early years in the industry. “People don’t get to see the story from the outside. Behind what seems to be a success story, there is still a lot of failure.”
When she decided to launch her current line, she was determined to do things differently. That meant no PR retainers or traditional marketing plays. “I talked to a PR house and I didn’t feel that they understood how to handle my brand,” said Muaddi. “I wanted to do things my way, so I launched on social media, just by posting it by myself. I did what felt natural. And it turned out to be the right choice.”
Muaddi also eschewed the seasonal model, choosing a “see-now, buy-now” approach and a “drop” system with her retailers (for now, she is strictly wholesale). It’s a structure that has worked well so far and one that she’ll continue to employ in her second year.
“Now more than ever, it’s difficult to maintain mystery around a product. We are so overflooded with imagery. Every day there is something new,” said Muaddi. “By the time the product is in stores, we are already bored with it because we have been seeing it. [But] when you discover something, you want it then and there. Shoes are such an emotional purchase.”
Following that principle, there is perhaps no better place for shoes (hers and others) than Instagram, where psychology and emotion play heavily into follows, likes and, often, sales. This is where Muaddi has a clear advantage.
Though she, like many today, tend to shun the term “influencer,” Muaddi could accurately be called just that. On her Instagram grid, there are trips to Ibiza with her friends and like-minded designer-influencers Giorgia Tordini and Gilda Ambrosio (the duo behind The Attico), and there are front-row seats to runway shows by Prada and Valentino.
It’s all very envy inducing in an insider-fashiony way. But Muaddi insists that it’s just business. “I don’t feel any pressure on social media. I feel like it’s a tool, and we have to use the tool and not let the tool use us,” she said. “I use it in a professional way to showcase my work and to showcase my style, which is something that I enjoy doing. And that’s about it. I don’t overshare.”
Besides, Muaddi has even more influential people to think about when it comes to her business. Like Rihanna.
A few days after debuting her brand last summer, Muaddi received a message from the pop star’s stylist, Jahleel Weaver. “He said, ‘Congratulations on a wonderful collection. I just wanted to let you know that I bought a few pairs for Rih from Net-a-Porter and Browns.’ He didn’t ask me for shoes; he just literally communicated that he had bought them for her. That was amazing,” recalled the designer.
Rihanna is such a big fan of the shoes that she recently hired Muaddi to work on the footwear for her Fenty collection. The freelance project is one of many on the designer’s plate. Along with work on her own line, she also continues to create shoes for couturier Alexandre Vauthier.
“Amina is someone whose work I’ve respected for some time now,” Weaver told FN. “Her shoes always have a strong sense of sex appeal and femininity, which she embodies herself, and is something I look for in my work. We naturally developed a strong friendship on the mutual respect for each other’s sensibilities in terms of style.”
Muaddi lists her new boss as one of her design muses, but it’s not all about celebrity to her. “It’s not about one type; I just want women to feel feminine,” she said.
Ultimately, though, Muaddi’s brand remains deeply personal. “This is me and this is what I do,” she said. “It’s an extension of me and who I am as a designer and an entrepreneur, and it’s my idea of the modern woman.”
The 33rd annual FNAA ceremony will be held at the IAC Building in New York. Sponsors for the event include Klarna, Geox, The Style Room Powered by Zappos, FDRA, Micam Milano and Buchanan’s Scotch Whisky.