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If you don’t have a pair of Amina Muaddi’s heels in your closet, just give it some time. The 33-year-old designer’s vibrant footwear has become ubiquitous in celebrity circles, where stars like Kim Kardashian West, Bella Hadid, and Irina Shayk seek out her square-toe sandals, vampy boots, and newly launched mini bags. The kind of high-impact accessories that make a splash on social media, Muaddi’s shoes (and the designer herself) have had an outsize impact on 2020. After picking up the FN Achievement Award this week alongside Rihanna and Jahleel Weaver for her collaboration with Fenty, Muaddi’s effect on the industry as a whole is unquestionable.
Growing up, the path from editorial-obsessed teenager to designer wasn’t always straightforward. “By the time I was nine, I was determined to work in the fashion industry,” Muaddi explains. “I was constantly reading magazines and asking my mom how I could get a job in fashion. Obviously, she had no idea. We were living in Jordan and then Romania, and it wasn’t the most open environment. Still, my interests began there.”
Eventually, Muaddi would move to Italy, where she would enroll in the European Institute of Design in Milan. Before founding her eponymous line, Muaddi worked as a stylist, perfecting looks in the pages of L’Uomo Vogue and GQ. But her love of footwear—everything from sneakers to the highest of heels can be found in her expansive wardrobe—pushed her toward starting a business, one she approached with characteristic zeal. “I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like a job,” she says. “Fashion is my life, and it takes all my time.”
Muaddi spends the bulk of her days creating collections, but she’s more than a workaholic. A travel enthusiast who before the global lockdown enjoyed a nomadic existence where trips to fashion capitals like London, New York, and Milan were routine, she seeks inspiration everywhere she goes. “I love to experience new places and cultures—every experience is meaningful. I can be inspired by photography, art, or people near me. Anything that captures my eye and provokes an emotion,” says Muaddi. “It’s instinctual when you see something that makes you stop and wonder.”
Those varied influences reflect Muaddi’s eclectic sense of style and the cosmopolitan sensibility she brings to her designs. Who else would make a clear bejeweled pump worthy of Cinderella or cover a slingback in ombré lamé? Muaddi’s shoes are conversation starters and their flair has made her a fixture on Instagram, where fans follow her expertly styled outfits and regularly upload snapshots of their purchases. For Muaddi, the direct line of communication has been heartening, particularly during 2020’s quarantine. “From the beginning, I’ve had this genuine relationship with our customers,” she says. “Even if they’re complaining and they write to me, I appreciate it because the love, the feedback, and the critiques are very direct.” Still, the most exciting part has been seeing how her creations have brought joy during a challenging year. “It’s so cool to see them get excited and happy unboxing their shoes,” she says. “It’s great seeing which ones they get and sharing those moments. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Here, the designer shares her style philosophy and why she feels shoes are the most powerful piece of clothing.
Mother knows best.
When we were living in Jordan and Romania, I didn’t have a lot of fashion exposure, so my main style icon was my mom. She was always elegant and passionate about style. I would watch her do her makeup, and like all little girls, I loved dressing up in her clothes. I would try on her shoes even when I could barely walk in them. She always took care of herself and took such care in the way she dressed, so she was my introduction to this world and led to my passions.
Embrace the transformative power of footwear—and bling.
When I was in university, literally all my money would go into shoes. Clearly it was an obsession. I think my interest stemmed from [the fact] that shoes are sculptural; they’re objects. You can put them on display on a table or shelf, and they’ll look good, but they’re most special when you try them on because they can impact your attitude. No matter how beautiful a handbag is, it’s not going to give you that transformation. The right shoes can make you feel cooler, sexier, edgier, or more feminine, depending on the style that you’re wearing. They have the power to change your mood and to alter, not your personality, but your persona at that moment. I think they’re the most powerful items in fashion.
Jewelry also can impact your mood. It can enhance your glamour or make you feel more beautiful, especially if it’s close to your face, hands, or delicate parts. I’m drawn to it on instinct.
Personal style isn’t a fixed idea.
Growing up, I read fashion magazines all the time, and there were all these women that I loved and admired who would talk about their style. I always felt frustrated, because what’s my personal style? I don’t have one. I’m very eclectic and continually changing. One day I’ll want to be elegant, the next I’ll want to be casual; it depends on my mood. I’m bored very quickly, so I don’t want to be overly classic or tied to one thing. I do think there is a DNA to the way I put together outfits, but I enjoy wearing contrasting elements. If I’m going to do an elegant look, it has to be with sneakers or a sporty look with a pair of high heels. This way, I feel like myself; simple, edgy, and fresh all at the same time.
Revisit your pre-quarantine wardrobe.
I do have a uniform, but it changes. When I’m working, I keep things simple: leather pants, T-shirts, or hoodies, denim. I love a good tracksuit too; before , that was always my airport look for long flights. Now because I’m working from home, I like to wear things that I would have worn going out, the pieces that would have been a normal outfit were I going somewhere else. I want to feel like I’m not just at home chilling.
Don’t skimp on beauty products.
As a child, I was fascinated by seeing my mother do her makeup even though I would get impatient because she always took so long! I would sit and watch her getting ready and just think, Wow, she’s so beautiful. An appreciation of beauty products was instilled in me. I enjoy experimenting with makeup and hair, but as with fashion, what I enjoy most are the things that make me feel like myself, so my daily routine doesn’t change much. I like a good glow, moisturized skin, and I’ll always use two or three face serums. I’m Middle Eastern and can get dark circles beneath my eyes, so I love a good concealer. After that, I think eyeliner is my real signature; whenever I want to do something glamorous, I’ll put on some eyeliner and a nice creamy highlighter too.
Lean into your favorite silhouette.
I’m not too fond of long sleeves, and I always prefer to have bare shoulders. My friends tease me about it; they’ll take their shirts and pull them down over their shoulders to imitate me, but I love to show my shoulders, and it’s what I’m most comfortable in. I don’t wear things that make me feel weird or don’t flatter me. Period. [Fashion] is more about what works with my body and makes me feel good. It could be the most beautiful dress, but that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look good on you. I’m more interested in finding what flatters me and allows me to be my best.
Don’t get hung up on those OOTD posts.
When I launched my first brand I was 26, and that’s when I started Instagram. My generation grew up with social media, but I don’t post my personal life there. It’s fun to use, but it’s also a platform for my business. Online there are no rules, but what I share with the world is only what works for me. That’s what allows me to be comfortable on Instagram—posting outfits, interacting with our customers, watching them unbox their shoes, or getting feedback [from them]. At first, I felt quite overwhelmed, but my mom gave me great advice in the beginning. She said, “This is a tool. You have to use the tool and not let it use you.”