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Designer to Watch: Mashizan Masjum

Vamp: What inspires you?
Masjum: I love to be inspired by the things surrounding me. Because of my background in TV documentaries, I am a very visual person. I capture a moment or a scene that I’ve witnessed and then store it in my mind for a long time.

Vamp: Describe your design process.
Masjum: I create little films in my head, so to speak, whenever I’m moved by an inspiration. And then I go into my zone when I design. I play songs that would fit into these films in my head. I create moments and vignettes as I start sketching. Music helps to transport me into that zone. I imagine what it’s like for the Mashizan women to be strutting down the catwalk in those heels. I imagine what they’d be wearing.

The design process can be a long drawn out affair. Just like in the TV world where there are rough cuts and fine cuts, shoe designing also has to go through an evolution. Tweaks, finesses, adaptations—those are necessary. And I love it every step of the way. That for me is such a creative process and gives me such joy.

Vamp: What was the inspiration for the Spring ’16 line?
Masjum: The inspiration for the collection is my Italian experience living and studying in Florence. I was mesmerized by the Renaissance architecture, the attitude of the Florentines towards design, the nooks and crannies of the city that hide so many beautiful artistic things… The swinging chandeliers, the dazzling frescoes… that’s why curves and movement are big parts in my collection.

I also worked closely with Swarovski to incorporate their embellishments into our designs. And I do love colors. It’s just part of my sunny disposition that I include colors that you normally wouldn’t see on footwear. I’m not afraid to experiment.

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Vamp: What is your favorite style in the Spring ’16 line?
Masjum: I love the iridescent look of the Simona Simona. It was based on a story. When I was in Rome, I met two stunning Italian women who both were judges and who were both named Simona. They were about to get married to their respective husbands then and wanted me to design shoes for them. They wanted different colors, so I worked with our Italian leather tannery to come up with an iridescent patent leather that changes colors under the light. This for me, [the shoe] speaks of our essence our duality in nature—that we can be feeling blue, green or violet, sometimes all at the same time. We are complex beings with real emotions.

Vamp: Name three words you want associated with Mashizan.
Masjum: Elegant, sophisticated and quality.

Vamp: What has been the biggest surprise about the footwear industry?
Masjum: I came into this industry not knowing much about it. I was pretty doe-eyed in the beginning, but I had great guidance from people around me—people who’ve had three, four decades in the industry. What’s surprised me most is the great collegiate sense I’m experiencing and witnessing. I was half expecting a cut throat industry—for that was what I was led to believe to be true of the fashion world—but the truth is, there are lots of great, kind people in the industry. Even if their words of wisdom can sometimes be hard to accept, they say it from a good place in their hearts. That’s what I’ve been pleasantly surprised about.

Vamp: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Masjum: The best piece of advice I’ve received is to follow my gut instincts. There will always be suggestions, advice and feedback from others. However, at the end of the day, I need to follow my gut instincts as a designer and as an entrepreneur. The brand bears my name and I need to stay true to who I am. Everything else will fall into place. That doesn’t mean that I will necessarily discard the thoughts of others though. On the contrary, I’m a great listener and I have a knack for methodically processing the views of others. It must have stemmed from my training in journalism and TV production.

Vamp: Describe your muse.
Masjum: She knows she can be many things at once. She accepts that she is a complex person and that no one should put her inside a box. She can love colors as much as she loves the classic black. When I think of the ideal Mashizan woman, I think of Sophia Loren. She is as sexy and stylish now as she was in the 1960s.

Vamp: Which designers inspire you?
Masjum: I absolutely love the early work of Roger Vivier. His sense of sophistication, his play on curves. Oh, how enchanting! In terms of fashion designers, I’m a big, big fan of Prabal Gurung. His take on fashion is so refreshing and exciting. And the fact that I have a wee crush on him does not help one bit! I’d love to collaborate with him at some point.

Vamp: What is your favorite part of your job?
Masjum: For me, the best part of the job has to be talking to the women who walk in my heels. In some ways, I see each of my shoe creations as my babies and these women have chosen to own one. I hear from these women, and listen to them as they give me feedback. It’s like when a parent hears feedback about their children, how well they’ve been behaving or if they are fitting in well. It’s a strange analogy, but that’s how I truly feel. At the end of the day, our brand is all about these Mashizan women. They make or break us. And I’m humbled that they’ve chosen us to walk in every day.