CANADA’S MASTER OF ACCESSORIES SHARES HIS STORY
Story by Lauren Chan
Photos provided by Abel Muñoz
Abel Muñoz is one of Canada’s most profitable shoe designers—and that’s no easy feat. (Pun intended.) Since his launch in 2007, Muñoz’s fashion forward shoes have appeared in prestigious publications around the world including Vogue Italia, Women’s Wear Daily, Style.com, Flare Magazine, Elle Canada, the Coveteur, and Fashion Television. They’re now carried in boutiques across Canada, South Korea, and in New York City…. But how did he do it? What did it take to become a shoe designer? Why does Muñoz put his (very marketable) creative effort into shoe design? We asked; he told.
You’ve grown to become a successful shoe designer in Canada, and perhaps it has to do with your elaborate experience and education in worldwide fashion. After being the art director and beauty editor at FQ Magazine, you studied at Sarah Rotering’s shoe studio in Toronto. Then you attended the ARS Arpel Institute of Shoe and Accessory Design in Milan. How did it all fall into place for you?
Being very inspired by fashion and having worked for five years in the [magazine] industry, I started to do some research on design. I always wanted to [design] and I always loved, loved, loved shoes. My friend’s dad had a shoe repair shop so I did some experimental work there. From there, I found Sarah’s studio, but unfortunately I was one of her last students. Then I went to Milan because Sarah’s was the only place to learn in Canada. If you want to learn how to design and make shoes, Italy is the place to be!
I never had the intention to stay in Italy—I just went to study. I always had the intention to come back to Canada.
How did your experience as the art director at Jeanne Beker’s FQ and SIR magazines shape you as a designer?
It was such a great magazine; it was so fun to do. I miss the world of magazines! But basically, I started as a graphic designer, and then I moved up to be an art director. Then they gave me the beauty pages, which were very successful and I became the beauty editor as well. Once you know this, you can see there is a lot of influence from graphic design and attention to detail in my shoes. A lot of people say there are many graphic elements.
What is your design process like? How does an idea develop in your head and end up on your shelves?
We learn to make a shoe from the ground up, so we think like that too. To be a shoe designer is very expensive! You need to have a studio, a very sophisticated venting system, and a team. As far as process goes…Sometimes an idea just triggers in my head and I doodle it, sketch it, or take quick notes. From there, I decide what materials I want to use, then what colours. My team is in Italy, so I send everything over there for production. I don’t travel there as much as I should. But Skype and e-mail make communicating with them easier when ideas change.
How and when do you tweak or evolve your company’s creative approach or production plan in order to keep your business booming?
That is extremely difficult to accomplish. I don’t even know if I am! I started in late 2007, and since then I’ve been very cautious [with my company]. I tell people who want to be fashion designers, ‘You have to have a business head on your shoulders!’ There’s not really a concise answer to this question. A lot of people also cave under the pressure of their suppliers or retail industry demands. They start going crazy and doing too much and spending too much money. Fashion is a business like any other.
On a more design-based note; what do you regard as your signature in design? How can someone tell the shoe has been designed by you?
I experiment with different shapes and silhouettes, but the ones you will see returning to the shelves over and over are based on comfort. Rather than a stylist saying, ‘It looks beautiful and the quality is amazing, but it’s not that comfortable,’ I want to get feedback from someone who says, ‘I want to get this style because it is extremely, extremely comfortable.’ I always keep the balance between beauty and comfort in mind.
For Spring/Summer 13, we love the Liberty, the Pieta and the Crista styles. They are so diverse in style and design, how do you meld so many different inspirations into one collection?
I definitely, definitely love Liberty. The Pieta is amazing and Crista is one of my favourites, too. They’re not too high, they’re comfortable. I have a different story in my head for every style and I can see them being successful in many places. See, I try to do a range of design. Some people think the range is too wide and it gets confusing with all the different styles. What they don’t know it that I’m trying to fill the range. I’m trying to cater to different women—not every person has the same taste.
Why should every woman invest in good shoes? How can they change her look when she slips them on?
For me, an entire outfit happens from the ground up—just like shoe design. I see so many women in amazing outfits, but if the shoes aren’t spectacular, you can’t see them miles away. If it’s a good, well-made shoe with a high fashion design it is attention grabbing. The shoe is as important an accessory as a bag. Women can feel great about having very well-made fashion footwear. They can be adventurous and fashion-forward…and comfortable!