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Lebanese Footwear Designer Andrea Wazen on Her Biggest Inspirations, and Navigating Challenges

Andrea Wazen, the chic shoe designer steps into her own with imitable style.

Andrea Wazen photographed by Lara Zankoul

Spring in her step

Lebanese footwear designer Andrea Wazen is the epitome of a life immersed in design. “Both my parents are architects, so the world of design has always been present in our family,” says the London-born, Beirut-raised Wazen. With stints at Rupert Sanderson and Christian Louboutin under her belt and honing her craft at Paris’s Istituto Marangoni and Central Saint Martins in London, she quickly realized she wanted to do something of her own.

After turning down a position at Celine, Wazen returned to Beirut to launch her footwear brand in 2014. With an eye for symmetry, Wazen’s standout silhouettes represent simplicity and sophisticated sensibilities. “You can see this in our Denver heel, which may seem like a simple shoe, but is complicated to make. You see fabric and tulle, but it takes hours of work,” she says of the pointed-toe design worn by Kylie Jenner and Hailey Bieber. The same can be said about her ultra-feminine Franca heel. “There are 110 steps in its construction. Each pair is carefully cut and sewn like a couture shoe.” Comfort is key; the priority following glamour and identity. “This is why I decided to use fabrics instead of leather. Soft and flexible textiles are so much more lightweight,” she explains. “You would be surprised by how comfortable these glamorous shoes are.” As for the starting point for her next collection? “I am inspired by furniture and product design, especially vintage ones by Eames and Verner Panton,” she says of her moodboard.

Photographed by Lara Zankoul

Bouncing back

The pandemic and current climate in Wazen’s home country have presented obstacles. “It’s been super challenging maintaining, working, and trying to keep up with international brands and pace – especially after last year’s explosion,” she shares. “We had to close our boutique in Beirut because everything was damaged.

Most of our collection that was meant to be sent out to clients was completely destroyed. Luckily, all our international retailers were so supportive, they completely understood and helped us as we sent out the collection a bit later than it was supposed to launch.” Despite the challenges, business is better than ever. “Our online store has increased sales by 200% and we’ve gained more retailers and recognition from around the world. This has given our factories and staff in Beirut so much hope and satisfaction despite how difficult life has been this past year,” she explains. A labor of love, the Heritage Collection sees Wazen pay homage to her country’s capital. Imagined in the color palette of the Lebanese flag, a square-toe satin sandal takes its name from the Gemmayze neighborhood, and embroidered motifs on mesh slides draw inspiration from the intricate windows of Sursock Palace and honors the life and work of the late Lebanese philanthropist Lady Cochrane Sursock.

Photographed by Lara Zankoul

Work, play, and beyond

Wazen’s spirited shoe silhouettes are much like her personal style: soft but strong. “I believe that we all have an Andrea Wazen woman inside us. If she’s getting ready for a fun night out, she can wear the Franca, or if she has a nine-to-five job, she can pull off a Denver Mid. The Gloria slippers are perfect for grabbing a cup of coffee,” she says. Relaxed in an oversized apple green Frankie Shop T-shirt, washed out denim shorts, and her strappy Mandaloun sandals, it’s evident that Wazen’s instinctive understanding for dressing extends to her shoe designs. This season’s Renaissance collection takes cues from the daily life of iconic women. “I was inspired by the style of Diana, Princess of Wales. Like many, I love the energy she had, and I tried to symbolize it in the collection with our Diana ballerina flats and Julia mules – shoes I can’t wait to wear.”

Photographed by Lara Zankoul

Out and about

Reemerging to normalcy, Wazen returns to her favorite pastime: dining out. “I am a foodie. My husband and I love to travel all over the world to eat well,” she says with a broad smile. “I always try to spend my days off at the beach or on a boat.” Indulging after a long afternoon in the sun, she slips into her favorite Jacquemus linen dress that she elevates with green Sursock flats from her collection and sunglasses by her sister Karen Wazen for a seafood lunch in Batroun. To end her day, she heads to Clap. “It’s my favorite sushi restaurant and they have amazing wagyu tacos,” she comments. Her outfit of choice for the night? A Christopher Esber ensemble paired with her Denver white mesh pumps. Another one of Wazen’s culinary favorites in Beirut is Brut. “It’s located in a private house near Faraya; the chef has special items on the menu inspired by the beautiful mountains that are absolutely delicious, like the tuna burger and the galician côte de boeuf,” she shares. When she returns to Paris, the city where she and her husband exchanged vows, Le Bon Georges is always a must-visit.

Photographed by Lara Zankoul

A walk to remember

“My first designer shoe purchase was back in high school after spotting a pair of Miu Miu silver pointy pumps that I fell in love with,” she reminisces. “My heart stopped when I saw them, and what I felt in that moment is what I still think about when I design a shoe – I want my customers to have that sudden a-ha moment.” Contemplating the splurge, Wazen remembers, “I told my parents that I needed to buy books for school. Luckily, I am a twin, so my sister Jessica bought her books and I photocopied them and used the money to buy these Miu Miu pumps instead,” she says with a laugh. “I still own them. They’re old and crippled, but I’ll never throw them away.”

Read Next: Lebanese Shoe Designer Andrea Wazen on Creating Kylie Jenner’s Custom Pumps

Originally published in the September 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

Style: Christelle Haber
Hair: Toni Saade
Makeup: Nicole Yaacoub
Assistants: Jonar Salameh, Youmna Barakat, Brandon Dagher, Larissa Bardawil

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