Catching a wave with Charlotte Olympia Dellal, designer of the world’s most whimsical footwear.
Meet the creative mind behind Charlotte Olympia.
By Ava Baccari
girls just wanna have fun: That’s the maxim suggested by the wildly creative shoes designed by Charlotte Olympia Dellal, who has created collections inspired by Carmen Miranda, Archie Comics and Little Red Riding Hood. “Overboard,” Dellal’s riotous spring/summer 2014 offering, includes instantly recognizable pieces like the Goodness Gracious Reef! booties and some strappy sandals complete with suede lobsters subbing as T-straps. “I love glamour and I love humour; I can’t see why you can’t have them together,” says Dellal over the phone from her London home, summing up her brand’s DNA in a cut-glass English accent shot through
with Cape Town vowels. (Dellal lived in the South African city until she was four.) The designer’s spiritual sartorial home, however, is the high-drama Hollywood of the ’40s and ’50s. “It was an era that was rich in accessories,” she explains. “Women weren’t shy to wear an elaborate hat or walk around with a poodle-shaped handbag.”
Dellal is committed to bringing that playfulness back to fashion in a way that makes sense for modern women. “I’m inspired by beautiful things—be it animals, be it fruit— and the thrill of making them wearable,” she says. “I’m a collector, so I try to make things that I can collect and wear at the same time.” To that end, the brand has evolved since its 2008 launch. “I set off making extremely high heels and whimsical shoes on purpose,” explains Dellal. “As a new designer, I thought it was important to show off what the heart and soul of the brand was about.” Now, Dellal’s footwear stable features “more sober shoes” in the form of midi-heels and flats (including the already iconic kitten loafers), while her accessories include everything from this season’s covetable Gummi Bear Clutch to ladylike top-handle bags. As the designer explains, “It’s easier to turn things down than to hype things up.”
Dellal has loved shoes since she was a child tottering around in high heels belonging to her mother, Rio, a Brazilian model. (Dellal’s sister, model Alice Dellal, followed—more literally—in her mother’s footsteps.) Rio’s shoe designer of choice was Manolo Blahnik—inspiring little Charlotte to name her dog “Manolo”—but Dellal herself remembers Salvatore Ferragamo as her first favourite: “He made all of these amazing shoes for Hollywood stars.”
Dellal’s path to footwear greatness started at the prestigious Cordwainers footwear academy at London’s College of Fashion— which counts Jimmy Choo among its alumni—and was shaped by stints at Emanuel Ungaro and Giambattista Valli. Today, Dellal occupies a beloved space in the world of playful high-end footwear, along with fellow Brits Nicholas Kirkwood and Sophia Webster. Gwyneth Paltrow wears her kicks; so do Alexa Chung and Natalie Portman. But before the shoes reach the hallowed heels of Hollywood, there is the final stage of Dellal’s design process: giving each shoe a name. “It completes the whole thing for me,” she explains. “It’s like having a baby—you can’t name it until you’ve met it.” ■
CharlotteOlympia’s spring style feast (from top): “Elsa” suede sandals ($1,495); “Harlow” platform sandals ($965); “StarfishCaviarSandy” suede sandals ($695); “Nautical Pandora” perspex clutch ($1,295); “Ava” canvas slingbacks ($895). All atHudson’sBay, thebay.com.