Fashion is art; it needs time to be created, like everything with value.
Alessandra Balbi is the founder and designer of her eponymous brand Alessandra Balbi - luxury footwear, designed in Italy and made by Venetian artisans.
How did you get into fashion? Please tell us a bit more about your career?
Alessandra: I graduated in Architecture in 2013 at Milan Polytechnic and I was working as an architect when I started dreaming of finally making shoes. After graduation, during the summer, I couldn’t find the pair of shoes I was looking for and encouraged by friends, I actually decided to really make it, to physically manufacture my own. It was just a pair of simple red flat sandals.
Among my friends at first, and wider relations later the result was amazing. I have decided to establish my brand, and it was finally done in 2017. Meanwhile, I was also spending several years studying the market and learning from Italian craftsmen. While I was working on my project I decided to make my competence stronger by studying footwear design at the London College of Fashion.
What is the idea behind your brand?
Alessandra: I should say that it expresses myself, completely. Behind it, there are art, design, architecture, geometry, and all layers of my background. The idea is to create precious products shaped by artistic and architectural references with intrinsic and timeless values extending far beyond the product itself.
Why did you decide to create a brand that specializes in shoes only?
Alessandra: Personally, I never thought about designing RTW. I have always been attracted by projects with a small dimension where proportions and balance between the parts are the most important players. I think that the shoe designing process has a lot in common with the architectural designing process.
In fact, one should care about comfort, stability, materials and structures.
Your primary background is in finance and architecture. Where does this passion for shoes come from?
Alessandra: My background is in Architecture and Design but, as I said, I have always had more attraction for small projects with a human dimension in them. Of course, I have always been obsessed with shoes! Buying a pair of shoes after an exam, during university, was my priceless reward. I think that, in designing shoes, the most feminine part of my creativity found its authentic expression and realization. I always stretch myself out of my comfort zone but, when I started designing shoes, I felt as I have always belonged to this world, so I stayed. It was like having come home.
Where do you look for inspiration when working on a new collection?
Alessandra: Definitely I should say, arts and geometry. The two collections of my design have the same roots; both are inspired by OPTICAL ART, with a focus on the work of the Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc, who attempts to distort the senses with his artwork. The collection references his multicolor juxtaposed bands and his curves. I thought it would be crucial to have a strong continuity and coherence in these two collections.
How can independent brands stay competitive in this overcrowded industry?
Alessandra: It is not easy, for sure, as you imply. But then, if the idea is strong, the products have strong identity signs and the communication works in coherence with them, then you could have the chance to be noticed.
What is the most difficult aspect of managing your own brand?
Alessandra: I must admit that the whole process is tough work but I think that the most difficult part is to find the right "partners" that would support you in this process and help the brand development with coherence.
What is your take on sustainable fashion?
Alessandra: I think that fashion can no longer be blind about sustainability. My way to be sustainable in the first place is making products that can, ideally, last forever because they have excellent quality, are season-less and are out of the time. I’m conscious that it is not enough, so right now, I’m putting a lot of effort into discovering and considering new, sustainable materials that can be suitable for my products.
Are there any tips you would give those who want to work in fashion?
Alessandra: Studying and getting the most from different fields, in order to build a solid, rich cultural basis.
How the COVID-19 pandemic influenced your business?
Alessandra: Regarding fashion, in general, this tough period we all were forced to face, brought back its natural speed of development. The COVID issue has rebuilt the logic of fashion in a good way, fortunately. The fast fashion industry influenced negatively the timing of Real Fashion (if I can call it in this way). Fashion is art; it needs time to be creating, like everything with value. Regarding me, this period made my beliefs stronger about designing precious, timeless accessories, with a strong focus on the value and meanings that they bring.
Considering the current worldwide emergency, what is your view on what to expect in the future?
Alessandra: I think that this period raised awareness in a lot of aspects. Probably consumers are going to buy less but most consciously, choosing quality instead of quantity.