If the name Edgardo Osorio doesn’t ring a bell yet, you are forgiven but we can assure that if you’ve flipped through a glossy fashion magazine, scan dailymail, scrolled through Instagram or Us Weekly, you most certainly have seen his sexy Aquazzura creations on society/PYTs like Kendall Jenner, Olivia Palermo, Eugenie Niarchos, Poppy Delevingne, actresses Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Tika Sumpter, Julianne Moore, insta bloggers and street style stars, collectively known as #aquazzuragirls.
Osorio, Columbian born but raised in Miami and London attended Central Saint Martins (basically the HBS of fashion schools) and went on to work for some of the best fashion houses including Salvatore Ferragamo, Sigerson Morrison, Roberto Cavalli before striking out on his own in 2011 with business partner Ricardo Figueiredo. The brand, headquartered in a 17th century palace in Florence, Italy is still relatively young but has amassed accolades and respect within the industry. In what Oprah would call a “full circle moment” Osorio debut late last year a capsule collection for Salvatore Ferragamo. During his first ever visit to Chicago at Barney’s, we had a chance to chat with Osorio on everything from his travel essentials, advice to future fashion designers and why it’s important to get your hands dirty.
SociaLifeChicago: You’ve been designing shoes professionally since you were 19, what has the journey been like from when you started to now having your own brand?
Edgardo Osorio: It is so interesting when you work with big brands like I did because you really have the chance to work with such incredible professionals. Starting at a young age, to have the access to work with the best in the business makes you grow so much and and so much faster. I really think that it’s very important for a young designer to learn from other people. Its so important to learn from other people’s mistakes that you are not paying for (laughs). To get your hands dirty and really have a chance to work with teams. Its very different when you work for a company because you are giving yourself and putting it into someone else’s DNA and have interpret what they like and really be a team player; learning how to work with other people, it really makes you grow. Building relationships with the suppliers and everything was also helpful, so when you actually do launch on your own you have so much experience behind you. It’s not that you are not going to make mistakes, you are still going to make many mistakes thats part of it, but you have a background and have an experience and it really changes everything.
SLC: By you starting off working for these brands you were able to establish those relationships?
EO: At the end of the day most businesses, still to a certain extent, are about introductions, connections and personal relationships, especially in Italy. When you are trying to start something new you are convincing a manufacturer or supplier to believe in you, ’cause when you are small, you are small. When you know them and have a good working relationship, it is much easier to also get people to do things for you and provide you with the knowledge of what exists. I had the opportunity to work with the best people who did everything from fur, laser cutting, leathers, you name it. If I didn’t work with them I wouldn’t have known they existed. Its important!
SLC: So having a foot in the door helped when you began?
EO: Of course its important and its helpful.
SLC: Your shoes, IT girls, actresses, fashion and insta bloggers all love them, was it easy to get your products in their hands?
EO: We were very lucky because we didn’t gift them anything. We were not then and still til this day, gift very very little. When you see a celebrity or a blogger wearing an Aquazzura shoe, they bought it. We make shoes that are not only nice but very comfortable shoes and a lot of the people who work in the industry need to walk during fashion week (for example). They are running around and as glamorous as they want to be, after 12 or so hours they still want to walk so they started wearing my shoes and it became a word of mouth thing. When we started, social media was starting to boom and street style was growing so we got visibility and the wonderful thing is that all these girls, its real. Bloggers they buy our shoes. We don’t have huge gifting budget.
SLC: Who is the numbers and who is the creative between you and Ricardo?
EO: We both are! I actually think that nowadays as a designer you can’t be on a (creative) cloud, you need to be a businessman as well if you really want to have a business because its such a complex and difficult environment. Its not the same as it used to be like 20 years ago. You need to be business savvy.
SLC: What are some of your must have travel essentials?
EO: I always travel with a cashmere blanket, that’s something I always need on the plane. I like having my own cashmere pajama because I get cold. I try to have vitamins and lots of green juice and my skin creams. You need to hydrate a lot when traveling not only with water but also your skin; you need to look fresh when you arrive to do an event. You always need a good book, I am reading so many, I have 6 in rotation right now. I’m reading “Gods and Kings” the story of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, the biography of Rudolf Nureyev, biography on Nijinsky and The” Lord of The Isle.” I love biographies and sometimes I like a good thriller like the Dan Brown novel “Angels & Demon” which was set in Rome and Inferno which was in Florence. I loved it because i knew all those places (mentioned in the book) and the ones I didn’t know I was going around to see them.I always like when there’s a link to reality. As popular as those books were, I thought they were fun to read.
SLC: What advice can you give an up and comer looking to break into the fashion industry?
EO: The biggest advice I can give someone, in any field, is to visualize what you want. If you know what you want in life, know what you want to do and you visualize it, work very hard to get it.
You need to visualize but you also need to make it happen. You should think the sky is the limit, nothing is impossible in life.
“You need to have VISION. If you have vision and work for it, anything is possible”
SLC: How do you go about naming your shoes?
EO: The shoes name themselves! It’s during the process and when the shoe comes alive and I see it, not when I sketch it. It could be that it reminds me of somebody or something funny, like “follow me home.” I have the French Lover and the Latin Lover, there are so many. I love to name a shoe, and the shoe has to have a personality. Especially when you’re in the department store and someone’s yelling in the back “can you get me a french lover” (laughs).
SLC: Do you foresee a collaboration line with Barney’s?
EO: We already do a lot of exclusive pieces for Barney’s. A good selection of our shoes at Barney’s are not available eslewhere especially in color and we develop it to look different. There’s a lot of exclusive colors and styles.
SLC: Who is the Aquazzura woman
EO: I don’t have a muse or a specific woman in mind. I think the one thing my customer has in general is they are very active, they travel, they move around and enjoy life, beautiful things and fashion. If you want to see my client, look at the #AquazzuraGirls. The ones active in social media for sure but also mothers.
pronounced: Boh-la-jee, like the Bellagio but w/o the O. SLC Founder and Editor, loves to write about topics at the intersection of career and lifestyle for today's young professional and future leaders.