INTERVIEW: CINZIA ARAIA

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OAK: Being from Italy – a country with a longstanding history in art and design – what influence have you found in your home    environment? Who are some of your favorite fellow designers, both Italian, and not?
CINZIA ARAIA: My family has certainly been the basis of my love for shoes, they’ve been shoe manufacturers in a prestigious area, the Riviera del Brenta. They taught me the practical sense, the technique that I can now use to my advantage to create my own line, but they have influenced my technique more than my style. My design research began much earlier, fascinated by the creations of Carpe Diem 80s. In the 90s I looked up to the “School of Antwerp”: Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten.  [Later I looked up to] Rick Owens and Carol Christian Poell, but it is not just the world of fashion that has influenced my feelings. I love design and creativity in all their forms: furniture, sculpture, and painting. I try to steal from each of these areas. The most unusual and hidden [aspects inspire me] in particular, an irregular volume, an inaccurate shape, a quick stroke, those are the nuances and details that hit my eyes and capture my creativity. My world is not “retro” or vintage. I look to a hectic life projected into the future, and the future is not just my starting point but it’s also my point of arrival. I think about the future and I create for the future.

OAK: You have worked for your family’s shoe business. Did you always know you wanted to be a shoe designer? What other career paths, if any, did you consider embarking on before you began your own line?
CA: To tell the truth, I studied fashion design to become not only a shoe designer but also a clothing designer. Later, I specialized in the manufacture of footwear, perhaps because this vocation has always been in my DNA. In any case, even if I had not become a fashion designer, my life would always be creative, unique and unrepeatable. I would have [most likely] tried to pursue a career in theater, maybe as an actress.

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Cinzia Araia printed leather heel.

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CA by Cinzia Araia men’s zip up sneaker boot.

OAK: How did a family working environment inform the way you run your own line? What other training, or experience did you have outside of working with your family, and how do they differ from one another?
CA: As I’ve already said, from my family I learned the method of work, to love the tradition, the practical sense [of shoe-making], but everything [I was creating] linked to a classic product. This was the limit I had to overcome. I’ve always had an artistic background, I first attended the Art Institute, then I decided to study fashion design in Bologna, and later I specialized in footwear design at the Venice Politecnico. I have always been an hard worker and an open minded person with every work experience. At 19 I got my first job offer from a company of children’s shoes, and I immediately tried to put all of myself into what I was doing, always respecting the mood of the brand. Even before creating Cinzia ARAIA, I designed for different brands and I have to thank  my style office that coordinates and better manages every aspect of this so challenging job,  because often people do not realize how much work, research, and effort is behind a single pair of shoes. Anyway, thanks to my collaborations [with] different brands, I have acquired a 360 degree experience year after year, season after season. [Those experiences] made me come to understand my identity, which was the product that I wanted to represent me.

OAK: Your shoes are all about deconstructing and combining different materials. What inspired this method of creating?
CA: [After I] achieved a complete [understanding] of the process of building a shoe, I wanted to go further [and] cross the “limit” of building to try to find something that was out of the ordinary. [I wanted to create] new forms and structures, in a game of composition and decomposition that makes me live each new season as a challenge, and [with] more experimentation.

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Cinzia Araia platform sandal in black.

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CA by Cinzia Araia men’s cut out hi-top sneaker.

OAK: Your shoes have appeared in runway shows, and seasonal collections for clothing designers such as Roque, Ilaria Nistri, and Barbara I Congini. Is expanding your collection beyond shoes something you’d like to explore? If so, how would you like to see your collection grow? What would a Cinzia Araia clothing line look like?
CA: YES! having studied fashion design I’d like to one day make my own line of clothing and accessories, [to create] a total Cinzia ARAIA look. In past seasons I ventured into the production of small capsule collection of bags and bracelets, and [perhaps] this embryonic attempt [will allow me to further] develop my brand. All the brands that chose my creations for their shows and campaigns are very much in line with my way of living and interpreting fashion. They speak of a strong and stubborn woman, [who is the] author of her destiny, with a solid identity, [and] who knows what to choose and why she made these choices. [She is a woman] who wants to express herself every day with her clothes. That’s how I would like my own clothing line be: gritty and compelling, highly recognizable but something that represents me and that I would wear myself.

OAK: Your shoes fit in seamlessly with the OAK lifestyle. They’re a little dark, beautiful to look at, but still wearable and versatile. Who, in your opinion, is the Cinzia Araia customer?
CA: I’m my best customer. I’ve never been inspired by an icon, a star, or a muse. We should all be the star of our every day lives. The way we present ourselves to others and to the world, is what should make us feel good about ourselves.

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Cinzia Araia cut away boot in black.

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Cinzia Araia men’s sneaker sandal.

OAK: For your F/W 2011 collection you showed your shoes in a mock forest and called it “Discovering Cinzia Araia”, for S/S 2011 it was “flying with Cinzia Araia” with your shoes displayed amongst a flock of birds. There’s also a page on your website called “theZOO.” Are nature and animals still an inspiration in your collections? What is the theme of your SS13 collection?
CA: More than nature, what fascinates me and from which I draw inspiration from is the world of dreams and the unconscious; after this dreamlike and dark time, the natural progression for me was to look for a light in this dark, so I started to use lighter colors in my collections. [These] subtler, brighter geometries – such as the heel in opaque plexiglass – are still part of a path. We are not yet at the completion of metamorphosis. After crossing the forest and taking flight, now I begin to see a light: a dawning sky. In the F/W collection I used a lot of shades of purple for example. Even though it is not a bright, clear light, it’s still a transformation always in progress.

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