Shoe Designer Alejandro Ingelmo Steps Into the Spotlight

Gwen Stefani
Photo courtesy of Alejandro Ingelmo
Shoe designer Alejandro Ingelmo.

It’s not often that a shoe designer can capture the attention of the fickle fashion world with ease, enchanting editors and stars (Madonna, Kanye West, and Mary-Kate Olsen).  But Alejandro Ingelmo has done just that. Long touted in fashion circles, he’s the new star of shoes, a name that’s compared to Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. Not bad for someone who’s only been designing for about five years.

Ingelmo has an old-school pedigree that sets his shoes apart; he comes from four generations of Cuban shoe designers. His background (and Parsons training) have paid off—his sky high heels are the new definition of sexy. In 2008, he was a CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Top Ten candidate and he was nominated for the 2009 Swarovski Award for Accessory Design.

Accolades aside, his shoes are hot. Seriously, make-your-outfit-hot.

FashionEtc sat down with Ingelmo in his New York store (which opened September of last year) to talk about his inspirations, his history, and what’s up next.

When did you start the label?

I started designing when I started my label. It’s been four and half, five years. Although it looks like it’s quick, I feel like it’s been a tough ride [laughs].

But you’ve had a great response.

Yeah you know, the response has been amazing but we’re still very close to a cobbler shop. It’s still that. And yeah there’s a lot of support, there’s a lot of press, but we’re still a very tight little group.

I read somewhere that you were going to branch out into doing women’s sneakers. We always see these sky-high heels from you. Tell me about this move.

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Photo courtesy of Alejandro Ingelmo
Tall Thriller sandal in snake, $825. Available starting Feb. 1.

I started off with women’s and of course with the high heels—it’s what I love, it’s very technical. When you’re designing, it’s the most creative you can get. So for me, that’s the first thing I went to. The men’s was really an afterthought. I was using all these materials for women’s and I was like, why isn’t anyone using these for men’s? I would totally wear them. And I decided to branch out into men’s. And the women’s sneakers are kind of the same vibe. I think that a woman can wear sexy high heels but she can also bring it, she can still be cool and she can still be sexy and wear sneakers. I think it’s the way you do it.

I hear you’re going to be designing bags and other accessories.

Yeah the next step for me is accessories.

Not to limit you to a time frame, but will you be doing it this year?

I’m 90% sure I will show them for next season, Spring ’12. So a year from now. Wow, that’s crazy. I already have to start thinking about that.

How much do you follow trends?

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never followed trends, I’ve kind of just done my own thing, and that’s what I’m about. I’m always going to do what I do, that’s part of my DNA. I feel like it’s so important as a designer, as a business to have that DNA of what you’re about and not steer away from that because it sets you apart from the rest . And I think people appreciate it. It’s a longer route to take but I think it’s a little bit more solid.

How much of your family history influences your design?

A lot of it does. I think that this whole idea of craftsmanship and certain little details to me are very important. Growing up, people who knew my last name were like, “Are those the shoes from Cuba? Ingelmo’s shoes? I would buy a pair and they would last and they were the best made shoes.”  I always remember that as a kid. There are certain things in my line: all my sneakers are lined in leather. The double stitching, always using the buff leather sole on the women’s. I‘m a perfectionist.

You were taught the old-school way.

Gwen Stefani
Photo courtesy of Alejandro Ingelmo
The black Allegria, $575. Available starting Feb. 1.

Yeah. And I think accessories are the one thing you can’t compromise in. Other things you can.

You have been compared to Louboutin and Manolo. How does that make you feel?

I mean it’s exciting to be compared to those people who are really successful in their businesses. It’s amazing. I think I’m very different. I do both men’s and women’s. Louboutin is from Paris, Manolo is from London. And I feel my aesthetic is very much from here. And although I’m Latin, and I have a lot of influence from my family background, to me, my inspiration always comes from here. It’s like that same idea of [a woman who] can wear sexy heels high but yet she can wear a pair of kicks and throw it down and still look sexy. And I think that’s only something you really see here.

Alejandro Inglemo’s Spring collection hits his New York store (51 Wooster St.) Feb. 1. He will be designing the shoes for the upcoming Fall 2011 Chris Benz and Bibhu Mohapatra runway collections this Fashion Week.