Heart and sole.
It’s raining on Edgardo Osorio’s first visit to Vancouver. “I think even on a rainy day, you can spice things up with a great pair of shoes,” says the founder of the glamorous women’s footwear brand Aquazzura. Osorio creates shoes that are as comfortable as they are sexy, and in only four years since establishing Aquazzura he can already claim a number of “it” designs. Aquazzura is a play on the Italian words for blue water, and the 29-year-old Osorio, with his azure-coloured eyes, winks frequently and laughs often on this Holt Renfrew encounter. The Colombian-born, Florence-based Osorio has had a meteoric rise to shoe fame. Aquazzura found its footing with the signature Sexy Thing cut-out suede bootie that, within a year, had a waiting list thanks in no small part to devoted high-profile fans Carine Roitfeld, Giovanna Battaglia, and Olivia Palermo. The silhouettes of Osorio’s collections range from ankle-strap ballerina flat to classic pump to sexy lace-up stiletto. “Every shoe is personal. I name every shoe. Every one has a different story,” he says. (Perhaps the black Wild at Heart sandal for spring 2015 is an ode to the out-till-dawn Aquazzura donna.) The designer confides that his biggest challenge has been keeping up with the company’s growth. “Right now we’re in 45 countries and 140 of the best retailers in the world. It’s a big challenge to be a global brand, as a brand that’s relatively young.”
Osorio’s passion for footwear began as a child, when he would play in his mother’s shoe closet. He was awed with Italian craftsmanship after purchasing his first pair of designer shoes, Dolce & Gabbana, at age 18. After studying accessories at the London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins, Osorio was offered a job at Salvatore Ferragamo in Tuscany. “I learned how a shoe is made in the best and most traditional way,” he says. “Ferragamo studied the foot, its inclinations, and the structure and balance of the shoes in order to make them more comfortable.”
Over the next 10 years, Osorio worked for Sigerson Morrison, René Caovilla, and Roberto Cavalli, where he became head of shoes at only 23. “I was working for Cavalli, and on one occasion when I was in New York, I went to one of those big [shoe] floors,” says Osorio, recounting the Aquazzura beginnings, “and there was nothing that I really loved.” Equipped with the best possible training, in the European tradition of high craft, and an eye for glamour, Osorio stepped onto the fashion scene with Aquazzura. The brand is based on the notion of travel and a dolce vita lifestyle. “I thought it was the right and perfect time to do something that was completely different from what everyone else was doing. And it turned out to be a good decision.” The chunky, sculptural shoes of seasons past were eclipsed by Osorio’s fresh, feminine, and sophisticated designs. His creations (in materials like cashmere suede and supple baby-calf leather) stay true to his love of Italian high craft, while the vibrant colour palettes point to his Latin flair. “I think I’m very much still Latin in the sense that I always want women to look beautiful and glamorous and sexy,” he says, as if his charming good-looks and fiery personality weren’t already a testament to his roots—“and I love that women can walk and dance in my shoes, because I love to dance.”
New York is where Osorio met and befriended Palermo, with whom he collaborated on his first capsule collection last year. “I made things that I wouldn’t have otherwise made [before working with Palermo]. Olivia loves necklaces. So we took a necklace from her vintage collection, draped it over her foot, and made the jewelled sandal.” (A sandal that sold out within the first hours of the collection’s launch on Net-A-Porter.) “When it’s something you really are passionate about, I think it carries through to the product,” says the designer. “It was so successful,” says Osorio of the capsule collection, “because it was real. It was really me and her.”
As Osorio continues with global expansion, he has plans to extend Aquazzura’s offerings to include accessories and handbags. “Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life,” he says, quoting the original street-style photographer Bill Cunningham. “I think that if we can make people happy and keep people dreaming for a very long time, [and keep] creating beauty, especially working in Tuscany with these amazing artisans and maintaining that craftsmanship over the years—I hope that becomes the legacy.” A men’s collection is in Aquazzura’s future, too. “It’s something that I’d love to do. The time will come, I don’t know when, but the Aquazzura girl has an Aquazzura man.”