After a decade of working for Christian Louboutin, Pierre Hardy and Oscar de la Renta, Parisian designer Alexia Aubert decided in 2014 to launch her own men’s footwear brand called ‘Solovière’. In only two years, Solovière became one of the most popular French shoe brands among stylish people around the world. Quintessentially Parisian, Solovière shoes feature a simple design but are sophisticated and beautifully handcrafted in Florence, Italy. Recently, Solovière received a ‘Special Jury Award’ in the ‘Who is on next?’ competition at Italian fair Pitti Uomo 90 in collaboration with Altaroma and L’Uomo Vogue. Solovière is currently available online at soloviere.com
Akim Mousterou sat down with Aubert to learn everything there is to know about Solovière. (photos by Akim)
A: Born and raised in Paris, I am passionate about art, fashion, design and style. I have been lucky since I found my way quite soon. It was since attending art school Duperré that I knew that shoes are my destiny. Initially, it came as an intuition but the idea became very clear and consistent at the end.
I have had the opportunity to work for several years with the master shoemakers such as Christian Louboutin and Pierre Hardy, and also for prominent fashion and couture houses like Oscar de La Renta and Elie Saab. I think I bring a new flavour to shoes as I consider them a pillar accessory from the very beginning.
My brand, Solovière, is dedicated to and inspired by my grandfather, the most elegant man I have ever met . He was extremely classic in his allure as he was a prominent businessman and a political figure of the ’70s in Paris. He was passionate about shoes and adapted his outfits around them and not the other way round. Solovière celebrates his evergreen modern and elegant sense of fashion and his consciousness of inner style.
Q: Your professional background is quite impressive. What did you learn from your work experience in these prestigious houses?
A: To completely dedicate myself to the mission of making beautiful things, to strive to produce the best possible products for my customers, to be always innovative and to learn how to surprise them with my every collection. Also, working in these prestigious houses, you not only need to be able to sketch and conceive but also understand how the product itself is crafted. It is a never-ending lesson of improvement, of being humble, and of staying focused on the product.
Q: What is your idea behind the label Solovière?
A: The idea is to propose a new way to address footwear, moving from an accessory to a complete category of products to be able to define a look. My customers are men and now also women who go beyond the rules of fashion. They look for style because they have an inner, personal sense of elegance. They are refined, noble in a way - exactly like my grandfather, to whom the brand is dedicated, a stylish man of the ’70s yet an iconic contemporary figure.
Q: How would you describe your design aesthetics?
A: Simple and structured. It is a bit of a paradox but I believe that the essence is expressed at its best after a long process of thinking and studying. I want to convey this idea of a new minimalism; shapes are rounded, the material is present and opulent, yet not overwhelming. My shoes are discrete but recognisable. They are elegant, modern but always comfortable. I am obsessed with quality. The use of best-quality materials and processes ensures that the final delivered products would be as comfortable as they look. When you look at Solovière shoes, you immediately know you will feel good inside.
A: Reassurance on the icons and surprise with new models plus an entire line for women. It has been a lot of work but we are so happy. The Matthieu is the pillar of Solovière - the icon and most recognisable product. We continue to innovate: new colours, new prints, more details, and we also want to communicate new messages. We want to continue to surprise and inspire.
Many traditional concepts like “Can espadrilles be elegant?”, “Can we have men’s couture footwear?”, “Is it possible to re-invent sneakers?” have been challenged in this season. So we have proposed espadrilles in suede, classic mineral colors, black finishing touches and reinforced details, enabling them to be worn from the beach to a cocktail evening and the other way around.
For me, footwear couture is about reinventing the way men approach shoes: more than accessories, [with a] real element of style. This year we play with the concept of fishnet and we propose a foot glove: elegant, mysterious, a bit fetish but playful. Same with the sneakers, essential, sporty and incredibly precious, white leather, origami fold, rounded shapes, clean, cool and new.
Q: Does your approach differ when designing menswear compared to women wear?
A: Yes, it has to. We have two ways of approaching women’s footwear. First we produce all Solovière masculine style models in women’s sizes, and then we create a new line with a clear female soul and stylish approach. We keep the structure, but we stretch the roundness to achieve sensuality. We rework the transparencies to bring more mystery. We continue to play with the “basics”: ballerinas, babouches, flat sandals but we invent new details and new ways of wearing them. Our boots evocate a woman halfway between a new geisha and an opera ballerina, communicating delicate strength and poetic allure.
Q: Why did you choose to produce in Italy, when made in France is very popular nowadays?
A: We have started in Italy, more specifically in the region around Florence. It is the harvest of shoe-making and we wanted to be part of that amazing history, learning this ancestral craft. We don’t exclude moving some of our lines to France but we are driven more by excellence and history than by geographical optimisations.
Q: What do you think has set the foundation for Solovière’s global expansion?
A: We are expanding our distribution while continuing to be exclusive. In a way, we have the same qualitative approach as in production. The point is to grow well, to keep this consistency and to ensure that we are well represented and presented by our partners. Also, we are focusing more and more on digital platforms as they are a great way to [spread] messages and engage with our customers and our followers. We like this dialogue –we learn from the comments, the pictures, the styles that people propose to us.