The Brazilian-born, Milan- and London-based designer Raquel Diniz has long been known as an insider’s secret, the vision behind some of the best red carpet and wedding dresses a woman can find. Think print heavy, floor-length bohemian gowns, floral patterned silk lame mini dresses, and rich velvet creations beloved by tastemakers like Olivia Palermo, Emily Blunt, and Alessandra Ambrosio. This winter, she linked up with her longtime friend Edgardo Osorio, the Colombian designer behind luxury shoe line Aquazzura, known for its perfectly constructed heels in exuberant jeweled shades and vibrant detailing.
The two worked together to create a capsule collection of raffia and leather-detailed flats, mules, and heeled sandals. It’s their first collaboration together, inspired by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer’s modernist manse in the south of France, Villa Nara Mondadori. The nine styles combine the best of both designer’s joyous, artful perspectives. More broadly, the minimalist, summery shoes offer a moment of brightness in an otherwise very heavy period. We spoke to Diniz and Osorio, calling in from Milan and Paris respectively, about the special capsule collection, why simpler is harder, and just what the two plan to get up to in the coming months.
How did you first meet?
E: I actually remember seeing Raquel. We have the same showroom, that’s actually how we met.
R: Exactly the same for me.
E: I saw her collection and loved it! I was talking to the person who runs the showroom and he said, "Oh my god, she’s so fabulous and beautiful. She makes these wonderful dresses. She’s Brazilian. You’re going to love her." And when we met we became friends.
R: We’ve been friends since then. It was very much the beginning of our careers. It was more of the beginning for me. I fell in love. And this was years before we put together this first collaboration.
How did the collaboration come about. Why was this the right moment?
E: Honestly, most of the time when I do collaborations it’s with friends. It’s never some marketing thing. In this case, Raquel was like, "Oh my god, I’m doing this collection, its inspired by this amazing Niemeyer house which is actually one of my dream [spaces]." I’ve always had this house in mood boards. I’m obsessed with it. I also love contemporary art and this is the only house Niemeyer made in the South of France. It has an incredible art collection inside. When she told me, "I’m designing something inspired by this, what do you think?" we both were like, let’s do something together.
R: I thought, now we can do it. We have the perfect location. The story is great. It talks about South America. It talks about Niemeyer and the villa is so inspiring.
Tell me about the shoes and where you took that.
E: Raquel’s collection: On the one side you have beautiful, feminine airy sensual dresses, and at the same time you have another part that is very graphic with beautiful cuts and silhouettes. We both thought of something that was a more minimalist silhouette that was quite graphic and very, very sexy. The heels are a little bit sculptural.
R: The sculptural heels and the raffia – those are the two elements that combined perfectly well.
E: They feel really fresh and they go with everything. Raquel thought of the raffia, which is a material we’re both obsessed with at the moment, especially for this summer. We kind of thought it was a nice way of grounding the looks.
I’d love to hear a little bit more about your interest in visual art.
E: I always look at art and design, whether it's Niemeyer or Luis Barragan.
R: [The house has] this incredible series of Lucio Fontana and Giacometti with the simplicity and the minimalism and the curves.
E: That house was done so long ago, yet it's so contemporary and so minimal. I find that with good design—whether its fashion, whether its art, whether its architecture—beautiful things are timeless. They stand the test of time and they age well. And when I’m thinking of shoes, I love for someone to be able to take a pair and in 15 or 20 years still be able to wear it and still be modern and still be cool.
When I look at design and see people like Niemeyer, I love the lines, I love the simplicity. In my case personally with shoes, I always think the most beautiful shoes are sometimes the simplest. It is all about the line and how it wraps the foot and how it plays with the proportions of the body. If the strap is five millimeters higher or lower, it wouldn’t be as beautiful. If the heel is thinner or chunkier, it wouldn’t be so cool. There is so much that goes into the thought process of something so simple.
Sometimes, the simplest things are the hardest to make if you do them well. You see the quality, you see the lines, and everything needs to be perfect. What’s nice about the mules, for example, is they have this double-padded insole that make the shoes extremely comfortable. They’re very, very soft. They’re probably the most comfortable shoes we have in our collection.
R: I love to mix two materials. It was great to have the two types of raffia. I love to do patchworks. Also, what inspires me a lot is colors and prints. I was in Paris recently and [I saw] Georgia O’Keefe. She has these color blocks that are incredible. To see a female artist – it was fantastic.
Who do you see as the woman in the shoes?
R: I think all the powerful, strong women out there that will show the values of our brand.
E: I agree totally. After everything we’ve lived through, it’s a collection [for] when you want to go out, dance all night, and have a good time in that beautiful dress, with that beautiful shoe. It’s going to be an amazing summer. It’s all about joy and happiness and good vibes.
R: It’s for a very global woman. We don’t have a specific type. Just a woman who will identify and respect the values of our vision and what we want to pass.
E: If you think of Raquel, she’s Brazilian but she lives in Italy and in London. In my case I’m Colombian, I live in Italy and in Paris as well. We’re both kind of traveling everything. I always think we’re making things for the citizens of the world. I don’t think of a specific kind of person or color or age.
R: Diversity. At the end of the day, our woman is everywhere. She’s all over the world. She’s every type. But I think she’s the woman with the appetite for life, for fun, for looking beautiful and comfortable, and I think the accessories are very wearable in terms of occasion. I think you can wear them daily through the evening. It always comes to our mind – if we’re going to pack something, it needs to be able to wear on any occasion. I have a few pairs that are always there, and those are the ones that I will wear forever. I think that’s something that we will put together – the raffia is so simple but so beautiful and also so special. I think it’s a forever space.
Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that is significant to you that you would like to speak on?
E: I think one of our strong points was what Raquel was saying. It’s about versatility. I always find throughout my career that my best shoes and the ones that sell the best and the ones that women are always looking for when they’re investing in a piece are the ones that take you from day to night, the ones that are versatile. We live such fast lives. Ask a woman how many shoes does she need…but even if you have twenty pairs, 100 pairs, 1000 pairs of shoes, you always have those five go-to pairs in summer, winter or spring.
R: They are the ones that we call "no doubt." The no-doubt pairs.
E: You have really made it when you’re dressing a woman in those shoes she wears every day.
R: I want these pieces of this collaboration to be something that is not a seasonal thing. It’s also a big friendship. I want it to be something that will stay in our customers' wardrobes for a really long time. Like an investment piece.
Do you have any special summer plans?
R: Oh yeah, we have a lot of plans. Edgardo and I are going to the south of Italy in June.
E: I’m doing an event for the 10-year anniversary of Aquazzura on the Amalfi Coast.
R: The girls will be wearing these mules.