Well Heeled: DARMAKI

31.05.2016 | Fashion | BY:

DARMAKI is the London-born shoe brand that merges the masculine with the feminine. In its fourth season now, and stocked in top tier retailers globally, we catch up with its founder, Sultan Al Darmaki to find out more about the evolution of his brand.

Tell us about your label…
Well, let’s say that DARMAKI went through two phases: the first with a business partner, and the second when I took full ownership of the brand. The latter is when I feel that I truly managed to speak about who DARMAKI is through design, so I like to say I officially launched it in 2014.

How did your background impact your choice of career?
For cultural/traditional reasons, the idea of me studying footwear design was looked down upon. I was a young boy, born and raised in the suburbs of Arabia, which was more or less what I would like to call a sophisticated desert; it was a developing transitional area. I wasn’t really “allowed” to study footwear design, so I ended up studying marketing and PR, which I don’t regret doing at all.

What was your childhood like?
My upbringing was to a certain extent very bipolar; just like the London weather (which I love). There were a lot of “do’s and don’ts” for a man; and of course likewise for a woman. A man should be acting in a certain way, should have a prestigious government job, “should, should, should”… But with all of that there was that contradiction of a small feminine aspect that was injected in my life (which I couldn’t speak about in public when I was a kid). My mother would engross me in her world of fashion, of her dreams of an Arabian woman who managed to escape reality through an issue of Vogue, that she would get hold of a year after it was published, from a Canadian nurse who used to work at the one and only hospital in Al Ain – where I come from. Growing up, I was by default brought up by mother to enjoy the very rough masculine upbringing, but with a mix of a fantastic, feminine element, through Vogue.

Did this influence your brand’s USP?
DARMAKI is not an über feminine brand. It’s one part feminine and one part masculine. It has a strong “fem-masculinity” element in it through the rough fractured chunky heel or the thick soles… it’s a mix of both genders but in a very subtle, romantic manner.

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Why did you decide to launch your label in London?
After a year or two working for a corporate company back home – this was almost ten years ago – I was done. I felt I needed to do what I love and pack my bags and do what I want and not what society/culture expects me to do. With no education and little money that I had, I moved to London and spent two years flying back and forth to Italy, where I got hands on training in the craft of shoe making. It was by far the best work experience. So, over time, London became my home, and it felt very natural to launch my brand here.

Do you think London and its style has had an impact on your designs?
For sure! I think London has defined my style. That incredible exposure to the multifaceted subculture in London as a whole – one can never not be impacted by it. It’s so beautiful yet so rough in some sort of crazy way. In all honesty, I don’t think I would be where I am or I what I am as a designer if I was living somewhere else.

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Who is your customer? Do they have any key characteristics?
Contemporary men and women who are strong, independent and unorthodox. They are confident beyond any need for a sense of belonging to any one community; in a nutshell they don’t belong to a clique.

Describe your design aesthetic…
Grace Jones, David Bowie and Grace Kelly.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
As this is four season and we are already stocked at incredible retailers worldwide – from Boon The Shop in South Korea to Level Shoe District in Dubai – I would like to see that grow more within the next five years… Grow my tribe! I’d like to have the brand in stores that I love and respect, such as Barneys, Colette etc.

Darmaki.com

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