AB: Where were you born/ raised, and where are you from?
KH: I was born in Sydney, Australia to a Lebanese father and an Australian mum. I moved to Dubai when I was 4 until moving to London for university.
AB: Where are you based today?
KH: Between Dubai and Beirut.
AB: What do you do for a living? How did you end up doing it?
KH: I’m a footwear designer. I was always creative in several fields, like painting, ceramics / sculpture and drawing. When I was at uni we had to experiment with many areas of art and design and I narrowed it down to footwear. I felt that it encompassed many different aspects of art and design. You’re creating a 3D product that can be worn—creating a feeling, elevating one’s personality. You can create your own textiles or sculpt a heel. It goes on!
AB: Earliest fashion memory/ influences?
KH: The earliest memory would be choosing my dad’s shoes, ties and cufflinks for work. He has a sea of shoes (being oxfords and brogues) in his closet, way more than I currently own or ever will!
AB: For those who don't know you, describe yourself?
KH: Hmm, this question I always find difficult! I am told I’m honest, down to earth and funny.
AB: I absolutely love your style. Share with us some of your style rules and tricks
KH: I don’t have stand out rules or tricks but perhaps I could say, wear whatever you want, what makes you feel good then throw on a pair of heels! Also when shopping, you never know where you will find an interesting item of clothing. I’ve been in antique book stores and on the bottom floor in the corner there’s a few items of clothing for sale on a rack that are very unique.
AB: Where do you shop?
KH: I usually go to thrift stores, charity shops or vintage boutiques. Some of the best items I picked up were in Cyprus and Australia.
AB: Any outfit recipes to follow?
KH: Buy what you like, what catches your eye and what makes you feel like a fairy. Later you can figure out how to put it together or find something that goes with it. I wear what’s comfortable, what makes me feel confident or what creates an excitement in me. With shoes, you get a feeling the minute you put them on; a tiny butterfly feeling in your stomach. I translate this through my design process making sure this feeling comes to life when I see the final product from my drawing.
AB: Favorite pieces in your wardrobe right now?
KH: My dad’s old Reef t-shirt and blue Oakley sunglasses, my Katrine Hanna shoes (which change everyday), and my vintage gold glomesh bag.
AB: What does fashion mean to you?
KH: Fashion for me is about authentic self expression, confidence, individuality and comfort.
AB: Do you have a preference for new or vintage?
KH: Vintage, but I'll often go for something new if it is a unique design from a talented designer.
AB: Dressed up or dressed down?
KH: Dressed down with a heel! But also dressed up when in the mood.
AB: What's your take on trends?
KH: I don’t really follow trends, but I am always interested in what they mean for my work. There is a way to be on trend without sticking to the rules strictly, or complying in a rather obvious and dictated way. I believe in personal style and taste that goes beyond trends; style that is based on individuality and self expression. This essentially is the basis of fashion for me and what I believe keeps pushing fashion to the limits.
AB: Tell us about your footwear brand? How and why did you start?
KH: I launched my brand two years ago here in Dubai. I studied shoe making in London for 4 years and decided to come back and be part of the growing industry here in the Middle East. I wanted to share my vision, and bring a new knowledge of nature and fantasy through my footwear and visual aesthetic.
AB: Design inspirations?
KH: I’m inspired by nature, particularly the plant world. I am also largely inspired by the fantasy world since I was a child. There is always an element of both inspirations in my work through the theme or the way a collection is portrayed and designed. The process of making and transformation excites me immensely, not only in footwear but in many different fields. One of my signature pieces that features in all my collections is the style with the Banksia heel. The Banksia tree is native to Australia. It grows on the tree as a yellow flower where it dries up to a pinecone like nut and is then carved into a unique heel. The transformation of this plant is amazing and is the perfect example of what inspires me.
AB: Biggest challenges you face as a designer?
KH: Weighing all the different facets and aspects of a company. Giving enough time for creativity and for the business side of things. You can't have one without the other.
AB: What excites you about running your own business?
KH: Being able to create my ideas and bring them to life through a physical product, but also the visual translation of my vision and aesthetic. However, I am most excited when I am hands on in the factory, talking with my suppliers, finding solutions to design challenges and seeing the production in process.
AB: Take us through your design process.
KH: I always start with drawing and mocking up patterns or details of a shoe. I will always take into account, what I feel like wearing for the season, and what my friends and customers want to wear. I will then take the drawings and mock ups to my factory where it is realized it into a prototype. We try on the shoe together and I adjust the fit and cut of the shoe so that it exudes maximum amount of femininity. This is the most important part of the process as the next stage you create the samples to test the market before going into production for the season with a variety of colors and styles.
AB: A style no-no?
KH: Hmm, nothing that I can think of. But I’ll tell you I am guilty of socks and flip flops! (only around the house of course)
AB: A fun fact about you no one knows?
KH: A few people know but not many; I play the flute! In many mythology stories, the fairy is a shoe cobbler and a flute player! It all makes sense :)
You can follow Katrine Hanna on Instagram here!Image credits: Prod Antzoulis