IN PARTNERSHIP: Paris-based designer Daniel Essa is constantly taking inspiration from street cultures while providing his wearers with the opportunity to express their individuality with a quirky flair.
From incorporating haute couture design elements into each sneaker design, Essa has created a niche for himself in the market, while now retailing exclusively in the Middle East at Level Shoes, which is a one-stop shop for all your sole needs.
“It feels great to be part of Level Shoes,” Essa says of their new partnership. “I really feel like I am a part of the family and their universe.”
Acknowledging that Level Shoes bring the “best of the best” to the Middle East, he fully trusts the expertise at hand with the team who ensure his “brand vision is clearly communicated”.
Emirates Woman sat down with Daniel Essa to discuss the ins and outs of creating a namesake sneaker label that uses hints of sophisticated elements with a refined approach.
What led you to launch your namesake sneaker brand?
It’s been my childhood dream to launch my own brand and make a lasting impact in the fashion industry. My journey has led me to the fashion capital of the world where I was able to pursue my dream and launch my own brand during Paris Fashion Week in 2018.
What inspired you to infuse elements of your homeland, Syria into the brand’s DNA?
Syria is home to many civilizations and has a very rich history. This can be felt as you walk its streets and enter its mosques and churches. This heritage is embedded in my DNA and my work is an expression of my journey as a Syrian artist. Even though I am in France, miles away from my homeland, Syria is a part of me, and it continues to inspire me in my designs.
How have you incorporated sustainable measures into the brand?
Sustainability is very important to me and considering the planet is a priority for the brand. We are working constantly to improve our sustainability metrics – starting from responsible sourcing of raw materials to designing, sampling, manufacturing, and distributing our products.
Our ateliers in Italy combine traditional techniques with the latest state-of-the-art technology using (Artificial Intelligence) AI. This technology scans and positions the pattern in a way that minimises waste.
Our certified leathers are hand-tinted minimising their impact on health and the environment during production as well as the recycling and disposal phases. The packaging is also a thoughtful journey, designed intentionally with 100 percent biodegradable boxes and cotton dust bags to that can be repurposed as a backpack, thanks to its adaptable strap design. The brand does not follow trends that will fade. I create timeless pieces that are in style now and will be in style for years to come.
In addition, we are committed to working with suppliers that align with our core values of sustainability and fair trade. We strive to create positive change and build a sustainable legacy through care and attention to our entire supply chain.
How do you think that traditional shoemaking craftsmanship is constantly evolving?
We are constantly evolving as the world around us changes. Our needs are constantly evolving, and technology is advancing at a great speed. Technology plays a big role in the evolution of traditional shoemaking craftsmanship, but technology alone is not the driver of this evolution. Designers alongside craftsmen are the ones challenging the status quo.
Shoemaking is an art. All our products are handcrafted by the finest Italian craftsmen. Together, we have been able to innovate new approaches that haven’t been seen in the industry before. We have created new techniques that broke the rules of traditional shoemaking but kept its authenticity. As a pattern maker, I understand the process of making my designs a reality and I understand the construction of shoes and what is possible. This allowed me to challenge the traditional techniques with confidence and innovate something new.
How did the signature customizable laces become an important part of Daniel Essa?
I wanted to give customers a role in the design process and a way to really express their individuality. The patent lace design offers security, functionality, and comfort. I wanted to eliminate the process of tying shoelaces to make the shoes easier to wear. The signature laces are three times more durable than traditional laces and add a touch of color to the sneakers. They are a fun way to express your personality and easy to style with any outfit.
Are there any innovations currently in the pipeline for the brand?
Yes, we have just launched our latest sneaker concept, Nous. It’s the first of its kind customizable luxury sneaker in the world. Following almost a year of research and working closely with our atelier in Italy, we have managed to achieve a new form that is the lightest in the luxury market.
These sneakers come in two colors: Alabaster and Onyx. They feature 8 genuine handcrafted leather straps that can be customized in endless ways. The idea is to have one sneaker that gives you more than 100 ways to wear and you can do this in less than a minute. We offer a range of strap packs in a variety of colors. In addition, we are launching the sneakers with exclusive Swarovski straps and other limited-edition collections at Level Shoes.
Has minimalism always been the brand’s focus since inception?
Yes, Minimalism is part of the brand’s DNA and signature. When I started the brand, my vision was to create a product that is distinctive with its minimal details. I wanted designs that can’t go unnoticed without making them loud. Achieving minimal luxury is challenging because it requires a lot of innovation to maintain a strong brand signature while keeping the shoes durable and comfortable.
Are there any shoe trends that you’ve specifically noticed in the Middle East?
I’ve noticed a move towards more minimalist designs and nonchalant effortless looks. In addition, functionality is becoming more and more important in the region.
What are some of the challenges you faced amid the pandemic and how did you overcome them?
For a young brand like mine, to come out on the other side of this global pandemic and grow is really an achievement. It was a challenging year, but I understood the market need and the changes in consumer behavior. That has led me to create products that connect with customers on a personal level. Consumers nowadays are looking to build deeper connections with brands. They are also more careful in what brands they invest in. Getting dressed and being stylish brings many people joy, even in the darkest times. I wanted my latest designs to bring joy and give the customer a fun and personal experience and outlet to express themselves everywhere they go.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
To be more patient because everything will happen at the right time.
Are there any mentors who have helped shape your career path?
Yes, Ken Downing, Chief Creative Officer at Triple Five Group and former Senior Vice President/ Fashion Director at Neiman Marcus. He has been a great mentor in my journey to success and I’m grateful for his continued support and advice.
What led to adopting a Haute Couture approach towards the creation of each design?
All our design samples are handcrafted, which is an Haute Couture approach that has never been used in shoemaking before. I create the patterns for the sneakers myself, as would an Haute Couture designer do for costumes.
How important was it to ensure that both comfort and functionality are key elements with each output?
It’s extremely important that when a customer invests in new sneakers, these sneakers offer them both comfort and functionality and not just a pretty design. I create timeless pieces that are trend-proof and I want them to be an essential timeless piece in every wardrobe and for that to work you must always consider comfort and functionality and never compromise one for the other.
How does it feel to be at one of the largest shoe retail stores in the Middle East, Level Shoes?
It feels great to be part of Level Shoes. I really feel like I am a part of the family and their universe. I don’t see Level Shoes as another place to stock my collection as what they offer goes so much beyond. Their support, their knowledge and their expertise add so much value and I trust that my products are in good hands and my brand vision is clearly communicated. Moreover, they have extensive knowledge of the needs of their clientele and are always making sure to bring them the best of the best.
Available exclusively in the Middle East now, you can check out the latest collection on levelshoes.com and at the flagship store in The Dubai Mall.
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