A Conversation With: Charlotte Olympia

A Conversation With: Charlotte Olympia

There are shoes, and then there are Charlotte Olympia’s works of art. Whereas details like a red sole once stood out, designer Charlotte Olympia Dellal is chartering new territory through her creative designs that are so unique and exquisite, one can’t resist obsessively collecting them. Here the London-based maverick reveals a little about her glamorous self and her growing empire one kitty flat at a time.

Marissa Collections: What’s your background, and did anyone in your family influence your fashion career?

Charlotte Olympia: “I’m half Brazilian and half English and lived in Cape Town until the age of four. I was raised in Paris, Rio de Janeiro and mainly London. My mother was a model, and my grandmother Zehava was a very glamorous, elegant woman who inspired my 1940s’ hair waves and red lipstick. She came from an era that I love for its rich accessories, when a lady would never leave the house without a hat, gloves, stockings and matching handbag and shoes.”

MC: Why did you choose accessories design?

CO: “I always knew I wanted to design fashion, but it was in my foundation year that I discovered that I wanted to specialize in footwear and went on to do a degree at Cordwainers College in London. It was always my dream to start my own business, which I pursued upon graduation. One of my first shoe designs was a leopard-printed ankle bootie named after my sister Alice; it’s still in production as part of the Encore collection of classics.”

MC: How did your spider web logo come about?

CO: “The idea of the spider web comes from E.B. White's children's classic Charlotte’s Web. The gold spider web appears on the sole of each shoe and is referenced in a number of designs in the Encore collection.

MC: How do you create your clever, witty themes that really set apart the brand?

CO: “I’m especially nostalgic and try to create a mood and feeling for each collection that manifests itself in particular colors, textures, materials, and finally names for shoes and bags. I’m inspired by so many things, from my surroundings to imagery, movies and people. I love collecting beautiful things and transforming everyday objects into wearable items. I’m particularly inspired by Old Hollywood glamour, and the pin-up girls and movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s, Rita Hayworth being a particular favorite.”

MC: How many styles do you produce annually?

CO: “In addition to my seasonal collections, there are a number of permanent collections including Encore, Runaway Bride, Incy and the recently launched Cosmic Collections. I introduce capsule collections too, as I enjoy working on ephemeral themes such as Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day.”

MC: Where are your shoes made?

CO: “Italy.”

MC: What’s the story behind your signature kitty flats?

CO: “They were part of Fall 2011’s To Die For theme inspired by Agatha Christie. I created my own version of a men's smoking slipper, as typically worn in the era that her books take place. I turned the high cut vamp into the shape of ears and replaced the classic monogram with an embroidered cat's face. The idea was to translate a traditional and typically masculine design into something more feminine, delicate and flirty, just like a cat!”

MC: What are some of your current favorite styles that are carried at Marissa Collections?

CO: “Spring/Summer 2014’s Overboard theme was inspired by all things nautical, as well as the natural and beautiful wonders under the sea. I love the Sandrine sandals with embroidered starfish and the Cast Away clutch box. Both are a lot of fun while remaining elegant. Pre-Fall 2014’s EyeSpy theme takes its inspiration from pin-up queen Bettie Page with leopard prints, tantalizing colors and cheeky accessories entice; its Desiree Unzipped and Lacey Pandora styles are suggestive and elegant at the same time.”

MC: Are you involved in collaborations?

CO: “Yes, it’s interesting to collaborate with brands that have a similar sensibility, my most recent being with jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, where we transformed her miniature shoe charms into life-size, wearable pieces.”

MC: What’s new and exciting for 2014?

CO: “In June the 9 till 5 collection launched with classic silhouettes featuring modern details and lower heels to glide wearers through the work day. My first collection of leather handbags debuts in fall. I've always wanted to do them but prefer an organic approach when introducing new elements. The moment felt right.”

MC: Besides making beautiful looks, what are some of your other goals as a designer?

CO: “I enjoy making beautiful pieces that look good on and off the foot. However, I don't design with a form over function mentality. As a female designer, I have the advantage of being able to try on all my designs and make sure they wear well. I believe that high heels should be able to be worn throughout the day and into the night.”

MC: You’re known as being an avid shoe collector. What do you collect and how many pairs do you own?

CO: “Too many—I sample all my shoes in my size, so technically I have a pair of every shoe that I've ever made.”

MC: Where do you vacation?

CO: “Rio is my home away from home.”

MC: What’s your dream project?”

CO: “I'm living my dream project and excited to be growing my business and opening stores around the world.”

Shop Current Products At Marissa Collections: Charlotte Olympia