Alejandro Ingelmo: Cuban sex appeal and New York smarts.

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Some of you heard of him and some of you haven’t, not yet at least, but you’ve probably seen his shoes somewhere, he’s responsible for some of the hippest, sexiest  and most elegant shoes ever made for men and women, accessory designer, Alejandro Ingelmo, mingles the Cuban influences of his heritage with a directional New York edge to create SOH….

(sex on heels)

Since debuting his brand in 2006, out of his Soho-based studio in Manhattan, Ingelmo has taken an innate sense of cool and his  family history and brought it into the fold of some very sexy footwear and accessories.

If you see him at his new Soho store, tattooed and street-stylish, he looks too young and too hip to be selling the pricey, racy, skyscraper-heel pumps that have cultivated a serious following among the down-town fashion set. You think, who is this guy? He seems too quiet and too spacey to be selling anything at all. Is he the designer’s younger brother?   It’s unlikely that Mr. Ingelmo himself will tip his hand. “That would ruin it,” he says “I get to see someone’s natural reaction to what I do. I love that experience, and I probably won’t always be able to have it.”

His self-effacing manner doesn’t just clash with his tough look and inked arms. It’s also at odds with the aggressively sexy- elegant  profile of his exquisitely crafted shoes, which strut a thin line between the runways of Paris and Frederick’s of Hollywood, endearing them to pop divas like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj among others.

I don’t really consider myself a designer. I think I’m just someone observing the world, and turning those observations into something functional. For me it’s about creating, inventing, and interpreting your surroundings—not that different from translating a book into another language. He added men’s shoes in 2007 (worn by the likes of Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z), was named a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist in 2008, was nominated for his first CFDA Swarovski award in 2009, and opened his Soho flagship in the fall of 2010.  His shoes have been featured in the pages of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle, InStyle, Harper’s Bazaar and I-D (among others), and are carried in high-end stores the world over, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Jeffrey, Bergdorf Goodman, Luisa via Roma, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. Cogno chico!

How did it all start you may ask: Between semesters at Parson, I did an internship at Donna Karan and never went back to school. “I had a little money saved, so I made a small collection,” he says. The results were pretty good: Bergdorf Goodman was his first customer and Vogue wrote about it…

Well break it down Alejandro….

 

Back track to a bit over a century ago and Alejandro’s great-grandfather Donato Ingelmo was the town cobbler in Berrocal de Salvatierra, a small village about 135 miles west of Madrid. In the 1920s, one of Donato’s four sons, Cristobal, moved with his wife to Cuba, then an island of opportunity. Having learned the family trade, Cristobal started making and selling high-quality wingtips and other men’s shoes, and by the 1950s had a thriving brand. But in 1959 after the revolution, he and his family fled for Miami.

Alejandro didn’t start out expecting to follow his father although he admits: … my obsession with shoes started in high school.  I collected Nike Jordans and would buy them just to collect and look at them; I never wore half of what I bought.”

During his 20s, he tried various careers, and various schools, but nothing stuck. When he turned 30, he thought about becoming an interior designer, so he moved to New York to study at Parsons. Then Came Donna Karan and after interning for a few months decided on  a class on shoe design. He had finally found hid calling…”Sometimes we go round and round to end up at the place were we started from”.. he ponders…Given Mr. Ingelmo’s cobbler background, it may have been inevitable that he would end up designing shoes in New York City. Still, he is not doing any re-treads. “The most logical thing would have been doing wingtips….” he says  “I love that history and where I’m from, but that’s not who I am. I want to do things that are different.”

 


Hs nack for creating women’s shoes may have something to do with the strong women he grew up with in Miami. To them, looking good often meant high heels.  “In my family, my mother and my grandmother, they didn’t mess around,” he said; they taught him things like: “You can have a bad dress and good accessories, and it can work. But a good dress and bad accessories, no way.”

“I have this one photograph of my grandparents in Havana in the 1940s,” he said. “That was when Cuba was really jumping and chic. He had this little moustache and he’s wearing a guayabera, and she had this black hair. And, well, it’s a black-and-white photo, but you just know the lipstick was bright red. She’s 90-something now, and she still has jet-black hair, super-red lips and no tan.”

“I want to make a woman look sexy,” he says “I want to play with a fantasy world, and when you think about heels, and what they do to a woman’s body and the shape they give it, it’s kind of sexual.” so i guess Sigmund Freud was right it is all about sex after all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

comment

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