Iva Minkova belongs to the future of footwear, experimenting with new and innovative techniques to deliver heavenly heels with a tough-chic aesthetic. At the beginning of an exciting career, we caught up with the European up-and-comer to talk style, inspiration and design.  

How did you become involved in footwear design? When I was still studying womenswear in Antwerp, I designed shoes for my collections and had them made for the runway by a master craftsman, but the whole process of “making” shoes was still very mystifying to me. I didn’t really see a career in footwear design as something feasible, I didn’t know where to begin... After I’d graduated, I wanted to come to London to do an MA and I’d heard from friends of mine that the Royal College of Art was an amazing school with a particular specialty in footwear design but I still wasn’t sure exactly what was involved. I started out in womenswear but switched mid-way. And that was that! Footwear had won me over.
How would you describe your designs? They are always very feminine. I don’t really like the idea of minimal; I prefer to call them clean. In my graduate collection, I tried to tackle issues of balance, to translate the idea of simultaneous fragility and strength, which perhaps doesn’t sound particularly eloquent or original. That’s why I liked the way my tutor, the designer Flora McLean, described them as severe, yet serene.

What inspires you? I guess it all boils down to capturing a feeling, an atmosphere. Anything that brings out an emotion can be inspiring—a song, a paragraph in a book, a color, an image, an experience even… I gave up public transport completely last year and started cycling everywhere, so for my graduate collection I found inspiration in the texture of the concrete, the glittering broken glass, the green of the traffic lights in London at night. It sounds simpler than it is, because that was an experience I found truly moving and it is still only one layer of the story  I have in my head.

Still, in the back of my mind I always have this reflection on the essence of femininity somewhere in between the clichés of strong-minded vampish femme fatales, or light-headed, flighty dreamers… The muse behind my work would be someone who doesn’t fit a category and instead, checks “all of the above,” it’s a difficult state to explain, for me it’s always easier to talk about the material side of inspiration.

What do you love about designing footwear? I like the frame that footwear gives me as a designer. There are a certain number of elements to work with—the heel, sole, upper, etc. but within those there is complete freedom. With clothes, it’s exactly the opposite; you have unlimited options and all the choices in the world that need to be narrowed down. I feel like people are much more daring with their accessories, they like to have fun and take risks, so I find footwear more liberating in that sense.
When a woman wears your shoes, how would you like them to feel? I like to work on the inside and the soles of my shoes, to use the most exotic and expensive materials in the places that remain invisible to anyone but the wearer, because to me, that translates into a sense of true luxury and creates a very personal bond with an object that is already in such close contact with the body. This influences the way the body moves; how a person holds themselves… Comfort is imperative, but the idea that shoes make you feel a certain way when you wear them, is really about the fantasy you want to project. I have a very clear vision of what femininity looks and feels like for me, and I would want my wearer to feel like she is bringing her personal ideal to life.

What’s the biggest misconception when it comes to footwear design? I’m not really sure how people imagine footwear design to be. Before I actually started doing it, I had no concept of what it entailed beyond the fact that you sketch something and you give it to someone to make. There are so many things to consider that there are probably so many misconceptions...

We used to laugh about the idea people have of the fashion world, that it’s all glamorous parties, drugs and flamboyance... When in fact, it’s a tough business, with a very demanding work load, insane competition, excruciating hours and, more often than not, pretty bad pay. Devil Wears Prada (the movie, not the book) is really not that far off. It’s not as abstract as one might think, there are very practical issues to be solved at every stage, so creativity doesn’t often get free reign. But I think what’s most shocking about footwear in particular, is how small the footwear design teams are in most companies. In many cases it’s one or two people and you really need to be able to tackle every aspect of the design and production process.
What does the future hold? I suppose the hope is that it becomes a brand one day. I’ve had great response and I have a lot of hope and confidence in my work, but unfortunately, there are a lot of elements about launching a label that bring me back to earth and have kept me from taking the plunge for now. — ANASTASIA RUBIN