Walter De Silva
Between History and Innovation
Walter De Silva approaches shoes and automobiles with a similar philosophy, seeking elegant proportions and ergonomic silhouettes. The legendary Italian car designer is nowhere close to retirement; with more than 40 years of experience, he dived right into a brand-new design realm just one day after leaving Volkswagen Group where he had served as chief designer for the past decade. Indeed, to everyone’s surprise, De Silva’s new venture has little to do with the futuristic concept of the cars he created as he now designs women’s stilettos. Having created iconic cars such as the Audi A5, Lamborghini Egoista and Lamborghini Miura, De Silva’s new-found passion for shoes stems from his family history. He says shoemaking is something that they talk about a lot in his family, and he wants to offer his creativity to elegant women around the world.
Walter De Silva blends the past with the future through his work, but also through his daughter, who represents the brand’s future and innovation. “It’s very important to know where you come from, the history that came before. Just like Ferragamo, after the war, he was in the US and he drastically revolutionized the shoe world. You have to know the story of Ferragamo, the story of these fashion pioneers: like Sorelle Fontana, Valentino, Georgio Armani, those are the foundations of Italian fashion. A trend is different, you can observe and look upon a trend with curiosity, but you cannot rely on it too much. The younger generation, especially need to have a strong base, to combine the new trends with history and their inheritance.”
“To be honest, everyone knows that heels are not comfortable. They are just for one night. But I believe my designs are making those nights a little more comfortable.”
Walter’s grandfather was a shoemaker between the two world wars, one can say that the passion for women’s shoes has always been in his family. “Beginning this journey was a decision I made two or three years before leaving car designing. Coming from a long history, my wife, daughter and I decided to carry on this path of designing and creating shoes here in Italy.” When asked about his inspiration and process of creation, Walter De Silva explains that he doesn’t have specific inspirations per se, “but I love forms in motion: be it cars or women’s shoes. I like women’s shoes because they have this elegant aspect and help transform a woman.” Walter’s designs are timeless and don’t follow specific trends or a specific fashion period. “I may be inspired a little by the new generation. A lot of shoe designers follow the trend: how heels should be higher, shorter, wider, etc. On the contrary, I follow my idea, the only important thing for me is that my shoes are very well done, high quality and classic.” A perfect example of that is the pumps and the proportions he uses to create a classical style. The heel is also one of the thinnest heels in the world, contributing to the overall lightness of the shoe itself. “To be honest, everyone knows that heels are not comfortable. They are just for one night. But I believe my designs are making those nights a little more comfortable.”
“The designer that most inspired me is Sergio Rossi. He even insisted on me carrying on designing shoes. Unfortunately, he died this year (2020) which is very sad. But to me, he was the best. Second, Ferragamo is another Italian designer that I really like.” Comparing cars and shoes, De Silva explains that everything is a question of proportions, motions and surfaces. “You can touch and feel the materials. To me, it’s still very different from one another. The complexity as a whole is different,but also very high in a sense, as you have to find the right proportions. It’s two different jobs. I believe that a car designer can design shoes, but a shoe designer cannot make a car [laughs].” Walter De Silva’s brand was created with only one collection per year in mind, as women only have two feet and can wear so many high heels – especially with de Silva’s timeless designs which never really go out of style. This year, the brand worked on colours, textures and different materials with the Colorando collection. When it comes to the models Walter De Silva only introduces three or four new models per year, and not only high heels. “We took our bestsellers for this new collection and changed the materials. Next February, we are going to release a capsule collection with smaller heels, to attract a younger public. I draw the concept of the models, but then my daughter Julie develops the collection. I’m the one drawing and creating the models but Julie is the one that completes my ideas, we work together and it seems to be a good combination.” From the very beginning of this family business, Walter De Silva wanted to create a sustainable brand with high-quality products. “We’re only using eco-materials, both textile and leather. We still have work to do as only our soles are not sustainable at this time. We’re moving in the right direction to find an alternative. It is possible and we work every day towards this goal. Step by step we will achieve full sustainability.” Unlike other brands, those shoes are completely hand-made in Italy; without any importation from China. The brand truly is all about a very small team creating shoes and working from a small atelier in the very heart of Italy; just like 50 years ago. “We are looking towards the future, while also being anchored in the past. It’s a combination of both. In Firenze, Roma, Milano, back then those smaller ateliers with a few creative minds were normal. A very good example of that is the tie creator Marinella in Napoli. His shop is 20 square meters, not more, and people from all around the world go there to buy Marinella ties. That’s what we’re looking for.”