As NY Fashion Week continues, we can’t stop thinking about shoes! We’re certain to see the incredible styles of award-winning shoe designer Marion Ayonote pounding the pavement at the Lincoln Center.
The African-born, London-based designer launched her first collection in 2000 to high praise. Her signature shoe the “Conqueror” pump has become a red carpet staple, gracing the feet of celebrities such as Ashanti, Keri Hilson, Erica Campbell and Devious Maids star Edy Ganem, as well as being featured on this season of AmericaΓÇÖs Next Top Model. “My shoe handwriting is feminine and sleek,” Marion shares. “It’s about knowing who you are and being confident in the choices you make.”
Marion reveals to DivaGalsDaily the inspiration behind her gorgeous designs, and what we could have on our feet this fall!
Your shoes are inspired by your childhood in Africa ΓÇô what specifically inspires you?
My influences range from wildlife and furniture to architecture and arts and craft. I was introduced to fashion at quite a young age. My mother had an exciting wardrobe and my sisters and I would rummage through her outfits, trying on everything from hats to dresses, shoes and sunglasses. The shoes were high heeled and oversized, it was hilarious.
How did you get started in the footwear industry?
I had barely completed my first collection when a Mayfair-based bridal couturier introduced me to a famous shoe designer in London who acted as mentor and shared his knowledge and experiences with regards to production and trade exhibitions, and working with agents, retailers and others in our industry. He was very generous with his time and it was a privilege to have had those one-on-one sessions. Thereafter, I would get my samples made in Italy and make appointments to show them to him. I sought his approval and he seemed quite impressed with the outcome. I also studied the works of Perugia, Clegerie and Blahnik. There were not many female shoe designers at that time, especially in Africa, so it was a bit of a task.
What was your “shoe” debut?
In 2001 I was invited to Johannesburg to exhibit at South Africa Fashion Week and thereafter, I was introduced to an agent in Paris who had my shoes at their showroom in Rivoli and then it kind of grew from there. There were opportunities to exhibit in Dubai, and my debut at GDS Dusseldorf and Tranoi, Paris, I believe set me off on the right path.
What are some of your favorite design materials?
I prefer to work with natural materials such as leather — exotic leather in particular, i.e. reptile skins, horse hair and stingray, to name a few. I also use trims and accessories.
What is your must-have shoe for this fall?
It’s so hard to choose one! “Valley Girl” (pictured above) is an almond toe ankle boot made from cowhide and pony hair. “Oui S’il Vous Plait” is a round toe court with a curved chunky heel, and “Baby IΓÇÖm Gonna Make You a Star” is a classic stiletto with hand cut leather pieces on the vamp. I think these go with everything. Oh, and the “Conqueror Wild” (pictured below) has zebra and cheetah design on pony hair.
Do you have a celebrity muse?
No, not yet. It’s a bit tricky because everyone looks amazing from Charlize Theron and Jennifer Aniston to Ashanti and Tyra Banks! IΓÇÖll stick with the faceless muse for now.