Rene Caovilla's daring new shoe collection takes step away from glamour

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 February, 2015, 6:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 February, 2015, 6:06am

Rene Caovilla is one of the oldest luxury shoe brands in the world, and for the past 80 years has outfitted the rich and famous in crystal-studded pumps and other beautifully embellished creations. The brand's latest project, however, sees the Venice-based couturier move away from its signature red carpet glamour towards the streets of fashion capitals such as Paris and London.

Aptly titled Classic Brilliant, this global collection is the result of a collaboration with Blitz, the creative arm of Lane Crawford's shoes and accessories division, and features five styles that reference themes such as polka dots, stripes or the Oxford.

The final collection is more daring than timeless, with fashion-forward creations including a lace-up flat decorated in rose gold leather and lace, and a pointy toe slingback flat in polka dots. Kitten heels are also a recurring silhouette with funky styles covered in patchworks of contrasting materials such as patent leather and leopard print calf hair.

Each shoe still pays tribute to Caovilla's heritage and showcases its craftsmanship with decorations such as 3D gobstopper crystals (to create the aforementioned polka dots) and delicate strass detailing. The result is a cool and effortless collection that has caught the attention of street-style icons such as local celebrity Hilary Tsui Ho-ying, who was recently photographed wearing a pair.

"It was important to understand how young people want to wear luxury, so we kept the DNA but still translated it into young and cool products for the collaboration," says third-generation family member and the brand's creative director, Edoardo Caovilla.

"Our heritage is an asset, but it can also be a challenge. If you can't move it forward, heritage means nothing."

Since Edoardo took over as CEO six years ago (five years later he was overseeing the creative side) he's been on a mission to bring his grandfather's legacy to a younger audience. Although he has no formal fashion training, he grew up in Venice and was a frequent visitor to the company's ateliers, so shoe design is in his blood.

His first two years at the brand were spent nurturing and investing in its greatest legacy - its craftsmanship - which involved recruiting and training more artisans from skilled embroiders to last makers, while researching the latest innovations in shoemaking.

"In the fashion industry people place too much emphasis on designing and retailing, and not enough on craftsmanship. I wanted to take what's good from our heritage but also develop new technology to give the customers the best. I always say it's not about the hours it takes to make a pair of shoes, but how many generations of knowledge you need to make them," he says.

Once he perfected production, it was time to work on the designs. Although the brand had a loyal following among an older clientele, Edoardo saw the need to create more contemporary styles that the 21st century woman wanted to wear. Unlike his father, who designed for the lady who lunched, his muse is a modern day glamazon who leads many lives, from entrepreneur to mother.

"When I started designing the collection, I designed for a woman who is younger than me. In the past, a woman did nothing all day and in the evening she became glamorous. That doesn't exist any more. My ideal woman is tough - she is involved and active in family, business or both," he says.

Each season since then Edoardo has pushed the creative envelope a little further, releasing fresh styles to complement the brand's core designs, such as the single sole pump and embellished sandals.

Recent additions include a range of combat boots and brogues, which play on the masculine/feminine mix with their functional shapes and intricate detailing.

For spring-summer 2015 the brand released its first line of couture trainers, decorated in delicate floral embellishments, lace and jet crystals. They are proving especially popular here in Asia, where the brand has a strong following.

"Asian women face fashion without any barriers. They have a huge respect for history, heritage and culture, making our brand the perfect fit," he says.