Najeeba Hayat is the Kuwaiti creative behind Liudmila, a Milan-based brand of shoes that’s gaining worldwide traction for beautifully handmade products that are as quirky as they are magical.
You’ve been making shoes since 2013, and in that period you’ve said your creativity comes from a naïve place, when you’re disconnected from electronics and connected with nature and yourself, but the shoes also have a definitive edge, a certain dark sexiness to them. Is this how you view the world?
It depends which shoe, really but yes, I would describe my Victorian boots as dark and sexy. That inspiration comes from diverse sources but mostly from my obsessive reading of Victorian and early 20th century detective novels and mysteries. I love shoes that bring an atmosphere with them, through a tightness on the calves, theatrical lacing and sinister materials. I see the world like Dickens does; each character plays a role in the vast sea of humanity and I delight in their differences. For example, in my PS17 collection, there’s the Mademoiselle Hortensem, which is an eel-skin boot with tight lacing along the front and small round buckle at the vamp. It was named after the murderous nanny from Bleak House. The small, tight lacing and discreet details were all meant to recreate the buttoned up secrecy and the dark mood that the French nanny carried with her throughout the novel. When I disengage with electronics, my ideas come to me more clearly, uninterrupted by the constant feed of information from social media. I need silence for my ideas to come at me with force.
Your brand is suddenly growing very quickly (your collaboration with Rihanna’s stylist, Avigail Collins, your shoes being worn by Chinese actress Yang Mi, Vogue Arabia and so on). What was the catalyst?
There was a lot of random luck involved and I wouldn't say there was any one catalyst. I have been getting positive press from the start and the brand has been heading slowly upward since the first season. Brown’s in London was my first big break on my second