Bridging the gap between fashion, art and inclusivity, US based Daniela Uribe is one of the most revolutionary footwear designers you could ever meet. Not only does she create and design some of the most beautiful and aesthetically breathtaking and comfortable collections you could ever discover, but at the heart of what she does is giving her customers the confidence to celebrate who they are and embrace their individuality.
With Daniela paying a special visit to London recently during London Fashion Week, we were honoured to take the opportunity to sit down with the lady herself to find out the name which has got everyone excited!
Welcome Daniela, has it been a good start to 2023?
Yes, it's been a good start lots of changes, but I'm excited to see what the year holds.
For anyone that doesn't know about you tell us how your journey into footwear began?
Well, although I don’t live here in the UK, it started in London, when I went to London College of Fashion where I studied footwear design. I always knew I wanted to start my brand in a luxury footwear design brand, but I wanted to get some experience. So after London, I moved to New York and I worked in the industry for a little bit.
Eventually I started to realise there was a gap in the terms of inclusivity for footwear, and I felt like footwear was not being as inclusive as like ready to wear clothing was. At that point I decided to tackle that gap and start my brand.
My brand is a luxury footwear brand that is inclusive, so all my shoes go from size 35, to size 45, European, and I have styles, from sneakers, to boots to really high heels. The whole purpose of it is to truly let people decide what they want to wear rather than fashion deciding what you should wear whilst also ensuring that comfort is also a key focal point.
I wanted to create insoles that were comfortable that had arch support that had padding that you could really enjoy wearing your heels. I put most of my research into making sure that they were going to be high and beautiful, but also comfortable and same even for the sneakers and the boots I later introduced to my collection too.
So having worked in the industry, and then go on to design your own brand, how did you find the transition?
I definitely think the scary part is to just take the leap in the first place because I already had a salary job in the middle of Manhattan which for many people, that's a dream, but it wasn't for me. I think it just takes courage to just be able to say no, and instead say I'll leave it and I'll start my brand.
But like I said before I had already kind of found that gap in the market. I knew I didn't want to just start it because of designing beautiful pretty shoes - I wanted my brand to have a purpose. I felt very strongly about inclusivity. I partnered with a charity in the US called Stonewall Community Foundation. With every pair of shoes that is sold, a percentage of each sale is donated to them. I knew that I was ready to start a brand where the prime mission was to make the world more inclusive and better.
How did you even begin define something as huge as inclusivity?
First I define it as a way where everybody should be celebrated for just being who they are. And with that includes nobody being dictated to what they should wear, how you should look or what the things you should like.
When you look at my campaigns and you look at all the people that wear my brand, I don't use your typical models from an agency, I use people people that feel like they can connect with the message of it and inclusivity. I want each person to be able to celebrate their own unique self.
I imagine just being able to help your customers feel empowered to celebrate their individuality must feel quite special?
Yeah, I've actually had a lot of different stories which have been quite inspiring to hear. One example I remember was from a transgender woman who helps transgender woman in the Middle East get out and find a different life in the US. I don't know how she found my brand but she had found that I had her size, which is 14 US. When she first received the pair of heels, she actually wasn't expecting them to fit. And when they did, she called me and she was like, I can't believe you've actually made this happen.
She was like, It's not about the shoe fitting, it's just that you've thought of us, like you've seen us and I and I appreciate that. I get a lot of messages like that where people are like you actually see us. They soon realise it isn't for marketing purposes but that the celebration of individuality is in the DNA of the brand.
There are other examples where some customers have been in two minds about buying my heels, so I 've just said to them, let me send you the shoes to try on. And once they try it on, they're like, “oh, I don't even feel this high and I can actually walk in them.”
So let's talk about like the current collection then. What are some of the pieces you're most proud of?
I would say, my signature logo heel and my signature shoe which is called to be yourself. I think that's my favourite shoe just because I learned that I was the happiest when I was myself. I just didn't care what people thought and I just embraced my style, and wore what I wanted.
When I designed this shoe I was hoping that it would make other people remember that they have to be themselves. I've launched it in a few different colours. It also has the signature heel. I have also launched a new sandal, the entire ensemble has a signature heel too and even that has been very successful.
I think anything which features my heel has really caught people's attention because it's very different. You've first look at it, and you're not sure how the balance is going to be. And then you try it and it really fits like a glove.
Has there ever been a case when someone's bought one of the amazing shoes, and then they've come back like almost instantaneously?
Yeah, one person bought five pairs of shoes after she first bought another pair called The Power sandal. I think she has almost every pair except for the boots haha. She even bought the sneakers and she was not even a sneakers person. I guess it is because they're not your typical street style sneaker. It's almost like a hybrid between a shoe and a sneaker so you can dress it up.
Think about when you first began to be where you are now. How do you see your growth?
It's definitely been faster than I thought. I've only been around for like a year and a half. I've designed three collections now, including two big ones. It's been crazy because I've had celebrities wear them, especially in the US like Billy Porter and . Mary Fitzgerald and Shakira. I wasn't expecting to attract so much attention from these big names for a small independent brand especially in my first year. The fact I am able to return to London, even if its just to visit is nice, because this is the city where everything started!
Do you feel you've found your voice as a designer?
Yeah, for sure. I think it wasn't so much my voice but my style and my aesthetic. I think it's very easily recognizable once you go into my website and my Instagram, everything is aligned, the message is the same and it's very clear.
So what's the next part of the journey or even where you would need to get to to feel that pinch myself kind of moment?
I like to keep innovating and trying new things, you know, Last year, at the end of the year, I launched NF T's . I also did a collaboration with some artists where I launched collectible pieces using different artists.
I have some of the big artists from Miami who would each painted one pair of shoes which would actually be sold as art. .It's like fashion and art merging into one. I want to keep innovating. I know the digital world is getting bigger as well so I will definitely keep looking into that. Growing my collections of course will always be an ongoing part of the journey. As for the pinch me moment, I don't know, maybe when I'm a big retailer haha.
What was it about NFTs that attracted your curiosity?
I think that last year, the metaverse became a very hot topic, especially for fashion. Usually, the big luxury designers tend to be a little later on cutting on these trends and staying more traditional, but seeing that most of them had jumped on it,I thought there must be something here.
So I started learning about it. I went to a Metaverse Fashion week , or should I say my avatar went haha. It was interesting being able to explore not just wearable fashion but digital fashion too. I'm still learning . It's always a learning process, because it's a crazy world. Very different from what we're used to.
So if you could go back to that student studying in London, what do you think you'd say to yourself?
I would definitely keep encouraging myself to believe in what you want. I feel like once you get into the corporate world, you start thinking it's too risky and it's not. There's a lot that you can do on your own as long as you stick to your dreams. It is about being able to just keep doing what you love not to not to not listen to the rest of the world, who tell you to keep in the safe path. Ignore that and just take the risk.
For anyone thinking about checking out your brand. Why should they just second guessing themselves and just go with it?
Well, first because my shoes are amazing haha!
Seriously though I like to think that people buy not just into my shoes but into my purpose. I like to think that they buy into what we stand for. Knowing that through my shoes, you will remember that you have to be yourself and love yourself first before you can love anybody else. It is also about being able to find the confidence in you to just be yourself and to embrace your personal style. Yes aesthetically the collections are visually beautiful but they also have a big message behind them.
To find out more about Daniela Uribe visit daniela-uribe.com
Article & Interview By Thushara S. Chandrasiri