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Enterprising entrepreneurs: Q&A with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau's shoe designer

Elle AyoubZadeh Photo courtesy Elle AyoubZadeh

Enterprising entrepreneurs is an ongoing series about average Canadians who had an idea and created a company or product around it.

Elle AyoubZadeh, the founder and creative director of Canadian footwear company Zvelle, talked to CityNews about designing the pink pumps Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau wore for the state visit with the Obamas.

The designer started the company in June 2015. “Shoes have been a long time passion of mine and I felt that I had a unique point of view that would appeal to a global audience,” AyoubZadeh wrote in an email.

Here is the edited Q&A with AyoubZadeh.

How did your relationship with Sophie come about?
I was contacted by Jessica Mulroney, Sophie’s stylist, and we developed this beautiful relationship from there. We were honoured to be among a very select group of designers to be chosen. As a young company it made us feel we were doing something right! I have a lot of respect for Sophie as a professional and everything she has done individually. I am sure it is not easy being in the public eye, but she’s taken it in her stride and is using her platform to support Canadian designers.

What was your inspiration for Sophie’s shoes?
I wanted to make an iconic shoe that fit such an historic occasion. A shoe that was as stylish, sophisticated and elegant as she is yet timeless because we know that these photos are going to be part of Canadian history. I wanted people looking back at the photos 20 years from now to see what Canada and the world saw on March 10. Sophie is the kind of woman I design shoes for, independent, sophisticated and globally minded.

The custom AVA shoes I designed for her were inspired by our Amelia Heels, which she wore earlier in the day at the White House. I knew Sophie liked the Amelias so I wanted to keep the style, for example the winged detail. The custom heel is a higher version at 4.2 inches and was made with the same fabric of her dress. I personally oversaw all aspects of the production for this heel and spent a week at my factory in Brazil to make sure everything was perfect.

The custom AVA shoes
The custom AVA shoes Zvelle’s Elle AyoubZadeh designed for Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, which she wore to the state dinner in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Elle AyoubZadeh

 

The custom-made Amelia Heels
The custom-made Amelia Heels that Zvelle’s Elle AyoubZadeh designed for Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau. Trudeau wore them at the White House during the state visit in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Elle AyoubZadeh

Have you had extra sales of those pumps since Sophie showed them off? What’s the “Madame Sophie” effect, exactly?

Yes, the pink Amelia shoes are a best seller. People not sure of their size are even buying multiple sizes so they can have it.

There is a a growing waitlist for the AVA high heels. It’s going to be made with custom developed leather to match the colour of Sophie’s dress.

The custom AVA shoes
The custom AVA shoes Zvelle’s Elle AyoubZadeh designed for Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, which she wore to the state dinner in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Elle AyoubZadeh

 

The custom-made Amelia Heels
The custom-made Amelia Heels that Zvelle’s Elle AyoubZadeh designed for Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau. Trudeau wore them at the White House during the state visit in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Elle AyoubZadeh

 

Tell us the nitty gritty details about the shoes! I hear the fabric came from Brazil. Tell me more.
The custom AVA heels we created for Sophie required a lot of work and we had less than a week to do it. We were creating a higher heel, which meant we had to create a new heel mould from scratch. You have to start with a wooden prototype and once you are happy you create a copper mould and from there you create a special plastic mould, which will then be wrapped. Each of these steps requires several days and is one by hand. In addition to the heel we had to create a new last to match the heel. Because we wanted to eliminate any sizing issue we made her exact size and two that were 0.25mm less than and more than her size. We didn’t want to leave it to chance. Unlike a dress fitting where you can make changes on the spot you don’t get to do that once the shoes have been made.

We wanted to give her options so we developed another custom leather heel that matched the exact colour of her dress. We followed the same process. In the end we made six shoes! Three of each style to make sure the size was a perfect match. Our shoes have custom memory foam in them and for her AVAs we took extra precautions during construction to make sure they were comfortable given that she was attending the most important event in 20 years and we didn’t want her to be uncomfortable.

Why did you stay in Toronto to run your business?
Why not? Toronto is world-class city and has much to offer. I moved here from Australia for work eight years ago and instantly fell in love with the city. Zvelle is a global company, we are headquartered in Toronto, Canada but we sell our shoes around the world. Being in Toronto gives us the best of both worlds in the sense that we can run our business operations here and we are close to the U.S., which is a big market for us. Because of the global nature of our business we work with people around the world including Brazil where we make our shoes.

Zvelle is donating $10 per shoe to Women’s College Hospital for 2016.