Why Midnight 00’s Ada Kokosar Has the World at Her Feet

On Dec. 3, Midnight 00 designer Ada Kokosar will be honored with the Emerging Talent Award at the FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 2 print issue about the fairy-tale rise of her Cinderella shoes. 

“It is almost impossible to scroll through Instagram without passing an image of Midnight 00’s polka dots and PVC ruffles,” observed Saks Fifth Avenue accessories fashion director Casey Winston. She’s right. Midnight’s creative director, Ada Kokosar, has taken the fashion world by storm with her signature shell shoes and ruffled mules — one of which appeared in this year’s “Camp” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

It was all born out of a desire to create something completely new to the market, noted Kokosar. “I thought, ‘What is the most iconic shoe I could think of?’ It was the glass slipper out of the Cinderella fairy tale, and everything came from that,” she said.

Midnight began as a capsule for luxury shoe label Cesare Paciotti. Kokosar helped revitalize the Italian brand at the behest of Paciotti CEO Marco Calcinaro, who later became her business partner. The line she developed swiftly gained its own identity, launching in its own right as Midnight 00 for spring ’19. Retailers have been quick to buy in.

Among the first was Matches Fashion. “It felt innovative, something that had been lacking in an evening shoe, where it’s often challenging to find that originality,” said Cassie Smart, Matches Fashion’s head of womenswear buying. “From a sales point of view, we had an unprecedented sign up for an unknown designer and also a high conversion rate from wish list to basket.”

Likewise, Mytheresa fashion buying director Tiffany Hsu said, “Midnight 00 offers very creative and unusual styles, which is great for customers who want something completely different with a real wow effect. Midnight 00 was easy to get on board with.”

Kokosar had been working as a stylist and consultant on fashion editorial and runway shows for some 15 years and then transitioned “very organically” to design. In 2015, she created a clothing capsule with & Other Stories, marking the first time the H&M-owned label had collaborated with a stylist instead of a designer.

Then in 2017, while styling runway shows for Public School, she covered the label’s fall footwear in ribbed knits, which caught the eye of Paciotti’s Calcinaro. “He asked me to help him revamp [his] brand,” she said, “but I told him no because I’d never designed a shoe in my life.” Calcinaro eventually prevailed. “I figured he’d been in the industry for 20 years, so maybe he was right and I should give it a try,” said Kokosar.

According to Winston, it’s Kokosar’s editorial styling background that sets the label apart. “Her ‘editor eye’ brought a fresh point of view to her footwear,” said Winston.

The fact that Kokosar is also something of a street-style star was icing on the cake, noted Hsu: “People want to be like her, so it was a no-brainer.”

For spring ’20, the designer is evolving her offerings in innovative ways. For some styles, she’s cleverly updated her signature PVC wrap to feature patent leather uppers swathed in tulle, and [she has] also introduced more ruched satin and Lycra fabrications on pumps and slingbacks, plus sporty sandal styles. “The concept of Midnight is a dress for the foot, but sometimes you also want to dress down,” explained Kokosar.

Her spring sporty shoes made their debut on Rihanna’s Fenty runway in September, thanks to stylist Jacob K, and they went on sale in October in an early drop.

For upcoming seasons, the designer aims to address fashion’s sustainability drive by testing recycled PVC that could replace her signature ruching. It’s been a long process, Kokosar explained, “because the eco versions often change color over time.”

However, she said, her styling background has given her the tools to face any design obstacle: “In my work, everything is possible. You just have to navigate to find the solution.

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.

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