LONDON: OK ladies, take a deep breath and get ready for a new way of looking at shoes. Are they items to protect your feet? Fashion statements from towering heels to trending trainers? Comfy friends or crippling assassins? Or as Lulu Al-Hassan, founder and creative director of the Lu Vixen luxury shoe brand would have it ‘lingerie for the feet?'
Yes, you heard that right. That was the message the Saudi national wanted to convey at her mind-boggling show at the Hotel Café Royal’s Oscar Wilde Lounge as part of “Stories from Arabia” at London Fashion Week.
It was as though someone in Hollywood had shouted: “I want a room full of international people of glamour – people of all races, all styles from outrageous to demure – and I want them to assemble in a big crush in the Oscar Wilde Lounge right now!”
Boom! I found myself transported into that opulent room and, to be honest, at first it was all a bit overwhelming. Pouting models with impossibly long legs reclined languidly on chaise lounges dotted around the room.
In the middle of all this glitter, glamour and mayhem stood Al-Hassan looking like Goldilocks. As she moved about the room in her floaty green gown, graciously posing for pictures with well-wishers, you had to admire her chutzpah.
In fact, one of Wilde’s quotes could have been written for her. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
She has bravely forged her own path to follow her passion for shoes. Her journey has not been an easy one, particularly as her family did not support her breaking away from her corporate career.
“My family really did not like my idea because I have a masters in IT from a good university in the US and I was holding a good position in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News. “All of sudden, I decided to quit all that and go to Italy and study shoe design which is my passion. It wasn’t easy because at that time Saudi wasn’t as open as it is today. So, I had to struggle and make my own way.”
She studied shoemaking and pattern cutting at Milan’s prestigious Arsutoria School, established in 1947. She also took pattern-cutting classes in London.
“I wanted this collection to be very chic and detailed,” she said about her latest collection. “We have used a lot of chiffon and delicate fabrics not usually associated with shoes. Lu Vixen is basically lingerie for the feet so the shoe has to be soft on your skin and comfortable.”
Alongside the stilettos with gold and silver metallic aspects paired with classic black were beautifully crafted lower-heeled shoes and sandals in suede and leather. Chiffon trims complement a palette of fuchsia, orange and lime green.
“I try to focus on a big range because whatever I like you might not like. It is important for women to understand their feet and to choose shoes not just by brand but by what works for them. What is comfortable for one woman might not be comfortable for another because everyone is different in terms of height and weight.”
Al-Hassan has made a success of a dream she nurtured from a very young age through using her initiative.
“Shoes are my passion. I have loved them since childhood and over the years I have done a lot to learn about the shoemaking craft. I used to be a collector and I taught myself. I studied the anatomy of the feet. I was so thirsty for knowledge. I used to travel and pay all my own costs to attend leather fairs and the like just to educate myself.”
The numbers of guests entering the Oscar Wilde Lounge for the show were restricted for safety reasons, meaning hundreds of people had to stand outside on Regent Street waiting for admission. That they did so on a cold February night is a big tribute to the designer, who is brimming with talent, vitality and fun.