Sultan Al-Darmaki, is the Emirati shoe designer and mastermind of the luxury footwear label, Darmaki. He started out a couple of years ago, with a notion of fusing history and innovative design. Darmaki combines both masculine and feminine elements, defying the norms, and creating impeccable, timeless, handmade designs. We had a little chat with Sultan Al-Darmaki, and he told us about the development of his eponymous label, his trademark origami heel, and what's coming next.
When did your relationship with shoes start?
For as long as I can remember, very long. I have always been very obsessed with design in general, in all its forms. Art, music, fashion. However, fashion intruiged me in every way possible. It wasn’t only about whether the final clothing piece looks beautiful or not. It was about the anatomy and the construction of the pieces. The pattern cutting, the stitching of the pieces, the construction, those are small stories that build up to the finished garment, which is the bigger story. And the bigger story is you have reinvented fashion. That’s what sets you apart from other designers. You see, for a romantic like me, this was poetic, how can I not fall in love with this craft. Shoes in particular have been my passion, for many many many years. While other designers tell their story in making clothes I tell my story through making shoes. I am a very shy person, and always found it difficult to vocalise my stories. So I use my shoes to tell a story, and share with my clients my fantasies. Some will relate to it and connect to it emotionally and others won't.
When working on a new collection, where do you derive your inspiration from?
It's hard to say a person or place in particular, just being here - existing in this universe - shapes the way you think and approach things. I don't really find inspiration in a particular place, its more a circumstance, the light, a person, the architecture in particular modern architecture, I admire that with modern architecture you get a sense that there is no sense of gender identity. all equal the way it should be in life.
You recently introduced the signature Darmaki heel. What is the story behind it?
My latest collation was marked with the birth of my signature heel, so it was a special season for me. When I started working on the Darmaki Steel Origami Heel I wanted to stay as far away as possible from anything that would be labeled with a gender reference. Or a mannerism that is related to one gender or the other. I wanted my signature heel to be truly representative of the contemporary woman and man. Strong, Independent and Unorthodox. A woman and man who are confident beyond any need for a sense of belonging to any one community.
It was very important for me to capture these qualities of the Darmaki client which seemed perfectly reflected in the architectural construction of the heel. The curve at top, which embraces the foot represents independence; a woman and a man who are grounded, who are determined, ambitious and know what they want in life. The fractured facade is representative of strength in character.
The heel is the essence and the DNA of the brand. Whilst prominent from a design perspective, the quality of the upper of the shoes have not been compromised with each piece hand crafted with the finest Italian leathers.
How can you appeal to both men and women by designing unisex shoes?
Just like trousers now appeal to both genders. I don't design thinking of a man or a woman, I just design without thinking of gender. Pre-fashion week I present what I feel tells my story, and I edit out what doesn't.
Who is your muse?
A wonderful young woman named Mai who has been part of this entire journey. She truly embodies everything my brand stands for. She's truly a fascinating young women, intelligent, cultured, well traveled, and would fit in with any group of people. She is truly a woman I admire.
Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world. Do you agree?
Give a woman or a man the right shoes, and they will conquer the world.
One should never ever wear shoes that...
That doesn't fit.
Your guilty pleasure is...
What is your greatest passion in life?
How do you see Darmaki in the next few years?
I don't know. All I know, is I am currently enjoying doing what I truly love.