18 Sep WHO IS AMINA MUADDI
WHO IS AMINA MUADDI
From her childhood in Italy to success with her shoe brand? From her beginnings in fashion magazines to dressing Beyoncé and Rihanna, the Jordanian-Romanian designer tells her story to Vogue.
Amina Muaddi is the shoe designer who became famous for her flared heels and transparent shoes, which have become a must-have even among celebrities. Her most recent appearance is on Beyoncé’s feet, who chose various Amina Muaddi models for her Renaissance Tour. She has previously completed her dramatic looks with sandals and pumps designed by the Jordanian-Romanian creative.
Rihanna is also a big fan of the Made in Italy brand: she is among the stars who have worn creations by the shoe designer at the Met Gala in New York and related events, including after-parties and pre-event dinners. But who is Amina Muaddi, the shoe designer with a background in fashion magazines and a highly-followed Instagram profile? Here’s the interview in which Amina is featured in Vogue.
“Wearing high heels is a way to take care of oneself,” Amina Muaddi said, laughing, on the phone from Paris last year during this interview. It’s been five years since the Jordanian-Romanian designer launched her eponymous brand, which has seen her collaborate with the likes of A$AP Rocky and Rihanna, and two years since the start of the pandemic. But even during the lockdown, sales of her distinctive “flared” heel footwear continued steadily on their upward trajectory.
Named Entrepreneur of the Year by GQ Middle East in 2021, Muaddi might give the impression of having achieved success without much effort. That’s why she emphasizes how challenging the path she quietly walked to get here has actually been. “As a child, I had no access to anything related to fashion,” she recalls about her childhood in Jordan and post-communist Romania. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family, and there were no fashion magazines there, so my only style icons were my mother and grandmother, who had good taste and cared about dressing well.”
At the age of six, she began spending summers in Italy with an aunt, and that’s when, she says, “a new world opened up to me.” She adds, “I started developing a strong interest in fashion and the boutiques where you could find the creations of the best designers. It was during that time that I suddenly came into contact with a completely new aesthetic vision.” After attending high school in Italy and, for a time, the European Institute of Design, she became a fashion assistant at L’Uomo Vogue and later at GQ USA in New York.
“I always told myself that I would eventually start my own brand, but I had this preconceived idea that, since I hadn’t started designing yet and lacked technical training, I could never become a fashion designer, which, in reality, was not true. So I ended up returning to Italy.” Settling between Milan and the Riviera del Brenta, Muaddi learned the art of shoemaking by working alongside masters and artisans. “It was difficult and challenging, but I enjoyed it,” she recalls. “I made many mistakes, but I learned just as many lessons.”
Her now-decade-long presence in the industry includes her debut with Oscar Tiye, her first footwear brand, and a consultancy period, now famous, with Alexandre Vauthier, who, Muaddi recalls, “didn’t care that I was young, a woman, or Arab-Romanian. He saw me only as a talented person. It was the first time I felt judged solely based on my abilities.” Muaddi still feels that every step along her growth path represents “a fundamental milestone in my career, simply because it took me a long time to get to where I am now.”
With an expanding fashion line that now includes micro bags and jewelry, building an Amina Muaddi universe is almost a natural progression. “I trained and built my career amidst many difficulties because I was ‘different’,” she says. “Besides being Arab-Romanian, I’m a woman, and that meant having to fight tooth and nail to make my way. I never played the victim, I’m not that kind of person, but I simply told myself, ‘Okay, this is what I have to do, and I’ll do it no matter what.’ In hindsight, the challenges were a stimulus. They helped me grow and solidify my success.”
For Muaddi, inclusivity in the fashion world is a relevant issue even at the theoretical level. “It shouldn’t even be a concept but a simple fact,” she says. “Being truly inclusive also means not thinking of oneself as such. It’s not just about hiring a certain type of person; it’s not a trend. I feel like brands have made it a strategy, and that worries me. It should be a natural behavior, a way of being. I just hope that the positive signs we are seeing are the beginning of something more authentic, more real.”
After the passing of Virgil Abloh, a reference point in the industry and her close friend, Muaddi has often reflected on the role played by the American designer in the evolution of fashion, as well as their special bond. “He always said he did it ‘for the kids,'” she recalls. “Virgil loved making people happy, and he succeeded in many ways.” She adds, “Following a person’s career, seeing them succeed and excel in their field, is a very emotional experience. It gives you a sense of pride and respect for that person, and I have always had great admiration for Virgil.” But what truly united them was “our shared passion for music, especially hip-hop,” Muaddi says with increasing enthusiasm. “We could talk for hours about our musical discoveries, and when we went to a party, after a while, we’d sneak into the DJ booth, which invariably ended up giving way to Virgil. When he got behind the decks, I became like a kid in a candy store. But it wasn’t just me: everyone felt the same contagious, happy energy because he shared it with others. I hope to meet him again on the dance floor one day.”