Shoesday Tuesday Designer Spotlight: Llani
Jessie Ajluni | Tuesday April 25th 2017
Growing up my grandmother had a pair of silver house slippers collected from her many world travels. The tips of the shoes curled up into a delicate point and whenever I would wear them around her house I imagined I was Princess Jasmine.
I believe this was the origin of my love for beautiful house wear. From Moroccan inspired slippers, gorgeously printed robes, and the most delicate cashmere and silk pajamas, it is one of my greatest fashion indulgences. So when I stumbled across the brand Llani via instagram I was instantly smitten. Created by designer Alana Oates the brands philosophy is to make footwear for ambitious creative women that wish to live as stylishly in her home as she does outside. Without further ado, check out Alana’s thoughts on social media, creating a successful business and living a more stylish life.
When did you first decide to start Llani?
I was in my second year of working for Old Navy in San Francisco re-launching their women’s shoe collection. In January 2016, I was growing restless, daydreaming about starting my own line. Pulling images that inspired me and I realized they were mostly images of women in their homes, studios, or workspaces. That’s when the light bulb went off -I wanted to create a brand for the woman whose home is the center of her world.
Where did the name Llani come from?
Llani is a play on my childhood nickname ‘Lani’. It was a temporary brand name at first but it stuck.
Did you always want to do shoe design?
I studied fashion design at a small fine arts college and the curriculum was very sewing intensive. It really wasn’t my strongest suit (literally). I was always extremely interested in accessory design, and 3D sculpture, but I thought since my school didn’t offer an accessory program that I had missed the boat. Senior year I interned for a shoe designer at a brand and got to help with a few projects. Once I touched the stingray, python, and tejus leather we were using that season for the shoe collection- I never looked back! I love the architectural aspect of designing a construction and then getting to cover it in an exotic leather.
What are some of the difficulties you faced early in your career?
It was a hard adjustment to transition into accessories after school because it meant throwing away a lot of what I learned over those 4 years. I was lucky enough to have an incredible mentor that ended up hiring me as his assistant and taught me everything he could about shoes. If it weren’t for his time and patience, I think I would have ended up being in a hard spot, stuck between not feeling completely passionate about apparel design, but not being educated enough in shoe construction.
If you could describe the aesthetic of the brand in three words what would they be?
Inspired, eclectic, feminine
Take us through your design process. Where do you find your inspiration, source materials, etc…
I love looking at interiors. My go to for visual inspiration is Cabana Magazine. It’s hard to get your hands on, but their instagram often does the trick. I’m also inspired by the women around me and their wants and needs. My friend will be going on a trip and that will inspire a specific design. My sourcing is mostly done by my team in India unless I can get there myself and shop the markets. They are so incredibly creative! I put together mood boards with colors, embellishment direction, materials- and they will send me the most amazing ‘panels’ back which will then go on the shoes. It’s a total collaboration and they are a huge part of the brand.
Now in the age of social media, how important do you feel it is to create strong brand identity when starting up a new line?
I think it’s extremely important for young brands to create a place on social media where the story of the brand can be told visually. I think as designers, or at least for me, it can be tough to identify and say okay, this is it, this is the identity, and I’m going to stick to it. The beauty of social media now, is it can be constantly refreshed. If you post a photo that doesn’t quite fit in you can always go back and delete it or find something better. We just recently changed our Instagram format and it sounds like a small thing, but it was a conscious change! I think it’s extremely important for young brands to create a place on social media where the story of the brand can be told visually.
What do you think women should look for when investing in a quality shoes?
I’m a believer in MORE options! My investment pieces have all be decisions of the heart rather than the mind. They are crazy statement shoes that make me happy, although I might only wear them a few times in my life. I’m not the girl to buy a ‘quality’ boot that I will wear all season long, because I really wear a different shoe everyday. Buy what your heart loves and you won’t regret it.
What trends do you see coming up in footwear?
More is more, crazy colors and fabrications, color mixing all of it. Like the Celine move where a pair is two different colors. I’m always a fan of an unexpected heel. The shoes of the coming season will look more and more like art pieces.
What is your favorite shoe from your current collection?
Our SOLD OUT Embellished Room Slide makes me happy every time I see it, and we are restocking it in June! I wear our Moc with Baubles constantly around the house and to run errands and they are SO cozy, we are working on new colors for Fall.
Do you have any tips or tricks to keep your shoes in good condition?
When the toplifts (the plastic peice of the tip of the heel) starts to wear down, go to the cobbler and get it replaced asap! Don’t wait because once that wears out- you will start to damage the actual heel. Don’t wear them into the ground. If you have a true favorite, you will have to replace them more quickly if you wear them everyday.
If you had one tip on how to live a more stylish life what would it be?
Don’t be so practical- buy more shoes!
Photo Credit: Cheyenne Gil