Fashion: Designer Profiles

Designer Profile: Diego Vanassibara

Having grown up in south Brazil, Vanassibara moved to the UK at the age of 22. Originally an architect student, he decided to pursue a career where he could balance both the structural and engineering sides of architecture with the dynamism and free creativity of fashion. Footwear seemed to be where those two fields of design met – creating contemporary shoes by fusing handcrafted techniques with innovative design.

Vanassibara launched his label during London Collections: Men, in January 2013. Inspired by old carpentry and woodworking traditions, the collection combined centuries-old carving craftsmanship, straight from the heart of Java, with rigorous Italian craftsmanship. The range featured pioneering wooden details entirely carved by hand on hybrid brogues, winter loafers and boots.

“We received a fantastically positive response from the visitors, which has since lead to growing exposure in the media,” said the designer, in response to LC:M. “It has been a great platform to promote and reaffirm the brand’s philosophy that is to create genuinely innovative, individual, modern and amazingly well-crafted footwear.”

Vanassibara returned to London Collection: Men in June 2013 to showcase his SS14 collection. “It is a spring/summer interpretation of the launching collection, which featured superbly hand crafted wooden accents,” he added. “My inspiration was on adapting those shoes for my customers – discerning and individual men – to travel with them to a hot place; somewhere urban and cosmopolitan like Rio, Singapore or Tokyo in the summer.”

Both collections feature a hybrid concept; the construction of the upper, which is made with a double layer of leather facings, fusing two shoe styles. Vanassibara describes this signature as “a unique shoe construction that I created called hybrid construction, where I fuse both Oxford and Derby into one unit. And naturally, everything is permeated by a modern and contemporary take on artisanship.”

Coming from Brazil, how do you feel this influences your work? And do you feel that the UK has had any influence on you?
Brazilians in general are very likely to be mixed, blood wise. So I always say we are some sort of an exotic cocktail. Each region of the country has its own flavour – it is natural for me to absorb a bit of all the different cultures that are present there. Regarding the UK, it was here I learnt about Oxford and Derby styles, which has definitely been an influence in my work.

How does fashion and design compare and contrast to that in the UK?
Fashion in Brazil is very, very casual and in an unflattering way. There’s a lot of room for improvement, which is exciting. In the UK, well, avant garde sits very comfortable alongside Savile Row suits and that says everything. Now, if we talk about design – and I’m throwing architecture in – Brazil has a wonderful international reputation and the people in the know are very aware of our furniture, interiors, etc.

When did you first take an interest in design?
Some of my first memories are actually about creating and inventing things, concrete things, so it happened very early in my life. Shoe design came later, after high-school.

How did you make the transition from architecture to design? 
It was in university that I realised that I wanted to combine both the structural and engineering sides of architecture with the free creative, exciting and fast paced world of fashion. Footwear seemed to be where those two fields met. Shoes and buildings are most definitely linked somehow. I believe it’s in the complexity of their construction and because both have people, or at least feet, in them.

 How do you choose the materials you work with?
Through intensive research and experimentation. I tend to love natural materials; they offer lovely properties and amazing looks, feel good and are timeless.

What’s the most important factor for you when designing? 
The right balance is a must and I focus first on shapes, silhouettes and comfort, always.

How did you come about fusing Oxford and Derby styles of footwear?
Going back to shape and comfort, I call it a hybrid concept and it comes from the construction of the upper, which is made with a double layer of leather facings, fusing both Oxford and Derby styles. The wooden components are designed to rest on the outer facings to add strength and increase comfort. This means that even if the shoestrings pass through the holes of the timber, the tension from the laces and wood is absorbed by the extra layer of leather leaving the bottom facings free to move. That’s the little architect inside me.

What does the future hold for you as a designer and brand?
As a designer, the future holds a lot of work to ensure that the designs are always in demand, but I love it so it’s a pleasure. For the brand, by January 2014 our new collection, which is only the second, will be stocked at about 10 different stores internationally that are currently some of the best retailers in the world. I’m honoured to be working with them.

Diego Vanassibara is stocked in RA in Paris and Antwerp as well online at and

Words: Joshwa Saint James

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