Last Friday night, before the mayhem of the Notting Hill Carnival swept over The Big Smoke, I got the opportunity to pin down shoe designer and overall shoe guru, Selam Yohans of SD Yohans. Relaxing against the sleek furniture of the Champagne Bar in the chic Andaz hotel, I put pen to paper and ticked off all the questions I wanted to ask the next Brian Atwood (as termed recently by Elle in their Designer Spotlight feature online). It was clear to me, and the rest of the industry, that, as Elle suggests, 'there's a new kid in town...' and she's definitely one to watch.
Her 2010 Fall MA Collection, 'Beauty: A Rough Story Sweetly Told' was where it all started – referencing the pain we bear for and through fashion – skyscraper heels being the main culprit. The extreme, dynamics of these silhouettes have been born and reborn again throughout her collections since – tailored down to the signature body and curvaceous shapes of the shoes for her client market but making it still instantly recognisable. These are shoes that are effortlessly clean style-wise, and always perfect for wearing, regardless of the season.
Having recently been invited to become part of the crowd-funding platform by Wowcracy in association with Vogue.it, Selam immediately sung it's praises, 'the project is great, especially for those of us starting out, and with four sponsors already I'm over the moon. It's all about supporting new designers to keep on producing their collections, season after season. And, when someone gets on board with sponsorship it's great because it makes you realise how many people out there love your designs.'
When it comes to inspiration, Yohans is a minefield of creativity. 'I'm constantly scribbling down ideas in my sketchbook – it can come from anything or anywhere in an instant. I may even grasp a new concept while working on the current collection – but I always go back and explore it further.'
The designer's beauties have already been worn by R&B legend Faith Evans, who took advantage of Yohans’ bespoke service. 'She wanted my Faith shoe in red and adorned with rhinestones instead of the subtler braid that's on the original.'
And, she's not the only one. Her designs have already been spotted on the likes of Katie Melua and Jemima Rooper. The big question is though, which celebrity would she like to see working her off-the-cuff designs? 'It's got to be style-maven, Alexa Chung. I think her cool personality reflects the shoes and does them justice. Also Kerry Washington – I can definitely see her wearing my shoes.'
What I most wanted to find out was WHO it was that inspired her, ‘coming from the same industry, my father is my ultimate inspiration. He played an integral part in sparking the passion I have for shoe design from a young age; and later pursuing the profession. Also in terms of designers, Giuseppe Zanotti is a big player in the footwear industry and I'm very much inspired by his business acumen. He started with a very small group of craftsmen in his studio to what it is now – a respected, international brand.’
I then threw her a curveball – who would you want to collaborate on the high street if given the chance? ‘Dune and Topshop, because they're both about fast, affordable fashionable shoes, yet compared to other high street retailers, they’re a little more careful when it comes to the quality of their shoes’. And designer-wise, who would you want to work with on the catwalk? 'Gareth Pugh or David Koma – I think we'd work well together. I admire both designers’ fearless use of form and volume to produce beautiful and wearable sculptural pieces.’
If you want to catch SD Yohans at the next fashion week, she'll be exhibiting in March/April 2014 in either Paris or London (yet to be confirmed).
All images and quotes are sourced from SD Yohans
Stylist: Lauren Eva
MUA: Roseanna Velin & Model: Klaudia Kusmierz
Photographer: Giovanni Martins