While developing her debut collection, Zvelle founder and creative director Elle AyoubZadeh had an unconventional muse. “I was really inspired by architecture. I had pictures of buildings all over my mood board.” Her biggest influence? Cleveland’s swish Museum of Contemporary Art by British-Iranian architect Farshid Moussavi. The building’s hexagonal base, sharp lines and mirror-finish may seem an unlikely spring-board for a line of shoes but look closely at AyoubZadeh’s #9to9 collection and you’ll spot the architectural significance in the details. “While I was developing the collection I found myself looking at a lot of buildings around the world with strong lines that really stood out,” says the designer from her office in downtown Toronto. “The Royal Ontario Museum is one example. It’s an unusual building you would never just walk by and forget. The same can be said for the new collection – love or hate the heels, people will definitely have a reaction, most importantly the women wearing them.”
“The Royal Ontario Museum is one example. It’s an unusual building you would never just walk by and forget. The same can be said for the new collection – love or hate the heels, people will definitely have a reaction, most importantly the women wearing them.” - Elle AyoubZadeh, Founder & Creative Director, Zvelle
AyoubZadeh started designing the collection with an architectural heel in mind and the #9to9 kitten is certainly unique: From the back it looks like a block heel, but from the side appears to be a stiletto elongating the leg. “There wasn’t a kitten on the market that I liked: both modern and timeless that I could wear all year round.” Shops are flooded with high heels but the designer wanted a shoe that working women would find both stylish and comfortable. “I love the kitten because it’s small enough to wear from breakfast meetings right through until evening cocktails.” It’s dressy and business casual, and style-wise it’s equally appropriate for working in the more conservative Middle East as it is in fashion-forward Italy. So why #9to9? “We all have such busy lives, no one has a 9-to-5 job anymore, it’s more like 9 a.m. to 9 p.m for women at work and then at home with their kids.” Practicality is very important to AyoubZadeh. “I prefer an effortless style. I don’t have a lot of time in the morning but I want to start the day feeling confident and good about myself”.
With this in mind, she decided to keep her inaugural collection small and carefully curated. “I thought a lot about styles that different women would need throughout the day”. #9to9 is made up of two kitten heels (the Sydney pump and Rayna slingback), and a pair of natty Nelson flats with gold-arrow hardware. The custom-developed colour palette includes classic black, nude, and two tone black-and-white as well as more poppy hues like fuchsia, gold and high risk red, “because everyone needs a gorgeous pair of red pumps,” smiles the designer. AyoubZadeh won’t admit to a favourite but she’s especially proud of the Rayna slingback. For this shoe she wanted strong lines that matched the heel and created a prototype that had a curved top-leather. But when she wore it in the factory something just didn’t look right. “I felt like we needed to take it a step further so I took out the curve and replaced it with a pointy triangle. It looked better with the heel and made a stronger statement. Sometimes a design gets better in the middle of things”. The result is an edgy detail with just the perfect amount of toe cleavage.
Another crucial part of the #9to9 collection was the factory where the shoes are made. After a lengthy search, AyoubZadeh chose a small family-run manufacturer in southern Brazil. Here the shoes are cut and sewn using high-quality leathers like kid suede, napa, and matte patent all sourced within 100 miles of the factory. “I visited the tannery and met all the people who work there. I learned about the process and it really made me think a lot about how to approach future collections”. But in the end, the most important part of the #9to9 says AyoubZadeh, is the woman wearing the shoes. “Months of work, passion and creativity went into this collection but the most rewarding thing for me is seeing a woman wearing something she loves. It’s a great way to begin the day and kick starts so many other positive things”.