At the latest edition of the male edition of the prestigious contest "Who's on Next?" which took place a few weeks ago at the 90th Pitti Immagine, Alexia Aubert, designer of Solovière, a Parisian brand founded in 2014, earned a special mention from the jury. An important recognition for a brand that has already gained 'best international store' status, thanks to the quality of its proposals and a style capable of redefining the male and female shoes. For the f/w 2016-17, the designer tells us: "We imagined old decorations in a French home with a retro feel, with trimmings and upholstery", so Prince of Wales printed on navy blue suede, double-face tweed, flannel coupled with fine nappa leathers, astrakhan for the evening and shearling for the day. And while Matthieu, the origami in suede model has become an icon of Solovière’ style, all shoes for the winter acquire a rubber sole to insulate the foot from the cold. But Alexia tells us a lot more about her collection, and especially about the proposals for spring/summer 2017 presented at Pitti, in this interview we did a few days after the Florentine fair.
How did the brand come about and what are its main characteristics?
Shoes for me are more than just an accessory, they are a fundamental element of style for men and women; a look is often defined by starting with the shoes and adding the garments.
The world of shoes fascinated me from an early age for its sheer simplicity, and I got the opportunity to train at the Estienne school and later to work with big names in the "souliers" world, Christian Louboutin and Pierre Hardy, who taught me how to conceive, create and construct a shoe.
I was inspired by a very strong family figure, my grandfather. Solovière is him, a highly successful cross between Russian spirit and Parisian style, a serious, elegant businessman with a highly personal vision of style and appearance.
The men’s collections play with this legendary founder, paying him tribute on the one hand and projecting him into the future on the other.
My shoes are sober, minimalist, built around the material, natural or split leather, made in Italy, home to the best artisans and most qualified supply chains.
Italy is present in my collections in their inspiration, workmanship and approach to colour, to the patina, to materials.
A distinctive feature: the fold! The fold is the product of two ideas: abundant material, which folds easily and nonchalantly, and a certain approach to life which I want to convey: being laid back, making the most of nice surprises, being always on the go. An urban yet inner journey, Kerouac-style.
Tell us about the collection for s/s 2017?
A new man, elegantly casual, who plays with wardrobe basics, taking possession of the summery spirit, to bring "the carefree holiday atmosphere" to the city yet remaining always elegant, sober and impeccable.
The espadrille can become a “formal” shoe. By paying attention to details, this holiday shoe can take on a whole new dimension, with precious materials, mineral tones, going from the beach to the office, to the cocktail evening and back again… why ever not?
Then shirt prints or futuristic “parasol” prints for the sneakers, wave upon wave, contrasting stripes, to form unusual folds in step with our dandies.
And a new concept too, net on the foot or man in the net, an allusion to letting ourselves go and letting ourselves be caught, but also to our completely digital lifestyle, I think the result is interesting, a glove for the foot, peek-a-boo style, to express couture footwear couture in an unprecedented way.
Lots of Matthieu and Sleepers, of course, as well as new car-shoes with pom-pom, again to play around with a very classic concept of the shoe and make it innovative, ironic and iconic.
Where do you draw inspiration from for an accessory such as the shoe?
In my case from art and architecture. Arte povera for its profound simplicity, African sculptures for their essential and spiritual nature, the 60s movement for its revolution in colours and motifs.
Then there are the people, of course, the Solovière men, the Solomans, elegant, masterfully detached from the everyday, yet present and aware, seductive men, gentlemen, with culture and intelligence, like my Matthieus!
How can one be innovative in this sector?
Innovation lies first in the idea and the message rather than in the product, our innovation is in making a new shoe, soft, with rounded forms that are in complete harmony with their male wearer. Then there is product innovation, the materials, the techniques, and from this viewpoint our innovation is re-launching the old crafts linked to what I call the art of the shoe, but being super modern and changing, for example, the viewpoint of the laces to make them a fundamental element of the shoe.
What, in your view, is synonymous with elegance?
The maximum would be my grandfather today, a new, authentic, free man, with a sense of humour. That is what being elegant is to me: not taking oneself too seriously, playing around with your look, positively influencing one’s environment, "chercher la rondeur" as we say in Paris.
What is the importance of a contest like WION, do you think?
A magnificent launching pad for a young brand like ours, but above all a chance to grow and approach work in an increasingly rigorous and professional way.
When we decided to take part, we did so to test ourselves not only in terms of creativity, but also in our ability to express ourselves from a business viewpoint. We are extremely pleased to have won and hope to forge ahead with an edge.
A memory or moment from this edition of Pitti?
The best moment from our presentation on 'Who is on Next?' was when I saw the judges take the Solovière shoes in their hand, making physical contact with the product.
What struck you about this fair?
Definitely the vast range of products, the variety in the brands present, in the styles, in the savoir faire. To understand 'men’s fashion, you cannot ignore Pitti; it is an essential event.
Plans for the future?
Three priorities: increase our sales distribution, without sacrificing our exclusive positioning; have a 100% operational site and trade and invest above all in digital communication to increase awareness of the brand and continue to spread our aesthetic message.