For the last 13 years, Armando Cabral has been traveling the world appearing in high profile campaigns and fashion runway shows for top-tier, luxury brands like Calvin Klein, Givenchy, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton - just to name a few. But for this African-born model, looking good in front of the camera and getting paid for a killer smile was just a small part of the plan. In 2009, he launched his own eponymous shoe brand, all exclusively handmade in Italy. The intricately crafted footwear is carried in finer boutiques all over the world, and there's a free-standing Armando Cabral shop soon opening in Kuwait at the end of January.
Find out more about the handsome entrepreneur below - (Be sure to check out the Style.No.Chaser X Armando Cabral loafer giveaway after the Q&A)
How did you first develop the idea to start a premier shoe brand?
I’ve always loved shoes and design. A little while back, there was a moment when I wasn’t able to find the perfect shoes that I wanted and this became an obsession of sorts. I finally thought it would be best to create my own, which is something I’ve always wanted. The brand’s aesthetic is very versatile conveying minimalism with careful attention to details. All handmade in Italy.
Did the initial investment and fashion connections required to start a luxury shoe brand daunt you in the beginning?
Absolutely, you need both to do anything these days, especially in fashion. You need financial strength to be able to operate and it’s important to know the right people in the business. I have to say that I’m lucky to have all the right people around whenever I needed advise or referrals.
Talk to us a little about your decision process that goes into each shoe collection – the ideas involved, your creative team and the creative process?
Design process is the fun part of it all. Mood boards, sketching, drawing and prototypes are the process of each collection. First we set the inspiration for each season, looking into references, books, magazines, blogs movies and so on, and then we go about creating a mood board. Then comes the design process. Approved styles are then taken on to prototyping. It’s fun to see the initial ideas coming to life.
Why did you choose to have your shoes made in Marche, Italy?
Marche is synonymous with Made In Italy when it comes to footwear. It’s known for its craft, quality and top-notch materials, leathers and so on. Most of the top footwear brands are concentrated in Marche. Like Prada, Tods, Ferragamo. I wanted to associate my brand with the tradition and quality and Marche just offers that.
What are the main physical/online spots where people can find your shoes – do you have any free-standing shops?
You can get our shoes online at MrPorter.com – that’s our main e-commerce partner. But you can find it all over the world. We are in 14 countries worldwide including US, Japan, China, France and England. We are opening our first flagship store in Kuwait at the end of January.
You were born in Guinea Bissau and then lived in Portugal, London and New York – what location influenced your style the most?
Yes, I was born in Guinea Bissau, but I consider myself a citizen of the world. Each one of these places has a lot of influence on me and that’s the beauty of it all. Three seasons ago, we actually started naming each one of our shoes after a region in Guinea Bissau. I’m sure Portugal and New York will follow soon.
Shoes are important accessories for men – in your experience what specific message do you feel shoes convey to the outside world?
Believe it or not, shoes say a lot about you. What you choose to put on your feet actually does reflect something about you. You can see taste, social status and personality traits all from a shoe. And don’t forget that women judge men by their shoes.
You’ve been a successful model for 13 years – how do you balance that career and your shoe company?
It’s been manageable – feel like the two complement each other very well as of now.
Do you see yourself ever slowing things down, starting a family and fading away from the busy, non-stop life of fashion/running a brand?
I think when you do something you love, there is never a time when you stop and think about things slowing down. It’s true, I have a busy life , I’m constantly between travels and work. But I love it. It’s gratifying when you do something you love. I hope things will slow down one day in a sense that I would do less traveling and have time to spend with friends and family. But at the same time, I am not complaining. I love what I do.
Lastly can you finish the following statement:
The difference between style and fashion is … “Style is personality and fashion is disposable.”
STYLE.NO.CHASER X ARMANDO CABRAL "Valentim for Valentine" GIVEAWAY
Style.No.Chaser is bringing you another exclusive giveaway. This time we are offering you a chance to win a pair of sleek Armando Cabral Valentim loafers (above).
Here are the rules:
1. Follow both @StyleNoChaser and @ArmandoShoes on Twitter.
2. Send your mailing and sizing info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Winner will be chosen on Valentine's Day. Don't ever say we don't love you.