Q&A: One to watch - footwear designer Richard Braqo
Up and coming footwear designer Richard Braqo talks to The Industry about his brand, his inspiration, his high-profile fans, and his ambitions for the future.
You graduated from [fashion school] Parsons in New York and have lived in Ghana, Canada and Paris. Now you are basing your brand in London, why is that?
It makes the commute to Italy easier [where Richard’s shoes are made] and I’ve been coming here since I was eight years old; I went to a British school and I have family here.
You didn’t study footwear design but womenswear at Parsons, how did the footwear come about?
I was at Parsons from 2005-2009 and in 2009 I won the Cesare Paciotti Award [the Italian luxury footwear brand sponsored a prize for Parsons students]. I studied womenswear and I did shoes for my final collection for the runway show and I guess the shoes were better than the clothes! I love designing shoes; I’ve been doodling shoes since I was a kid.
Your collection is handmade in Italy with artisanal producers who manufacture for the likes of Alaïa, who did you find them?
I went to Italy with a friend of mine and we went knocking on doors and we visited factory after factory. It’s a constant thing and it’s always changing. A lot of the factories only want to work with bigger brands because of the minimums [minimum order quantities]. Sometimes we find one factory is better for a particular style and another for a different one, so we split [production].
You worked with some big brands before starting your own label, what drove you to set up your own business?
I worked with Acne, Zegna and Helmut Lang and I was never a designer [for them] per se. Acne is one of my favourite brands – it’s very forward thinking. But I always wanted my own brand and most employers see that, most said “you should do your own thing”. I have a very specific way of designing, which is not to say I wouldn’t collaborate with other brands. I would and I have [Richard produced a line for H&M’s premium sister store & Other Stories in 2014].
What is that specific approach to design, what is your signature?
I’m still trying to figure it out and I use feedback from buyers. I have the Torque [a bangle device Braqo uses to wrap the ankle], the pearl, the plexi heel and the invisible platform. There is always a level of difficulty in my designs.
The inspiration process can about be whatever I am feeling; I listen to a lot of music and [for materials inspiration] I go to trade shows, such as Linea Pelle and Micam. It’s definitely more an autumnal brand, I use darker colour palettes. It’s sophisticated, moody and luxe. My woman is probably older than she should be! This is occasion dressing, she is not wearing [these shoes] to the office.
Talking of your woman, you have already supplied shoes to the likes of Madonna and Nicole Sherzinger, how did that happen?
Madonna was through her stylist, she wanted to pull from young designers and Nicole Sherzinger, she just loved the shoes!
There seem to be more footwear and accessories designers coming through now, whereas before designers used to be all about the clothes. Why do you think that is?
I can only talk about my own plan; I think it’s important to dress a woman from the feet up. Also accessories drive big business in terms of the luxury market. Eventually I want to go into other forms of accessories.
Which other designers do you admire?
I love what Maria Grazia Chiuri has done at Valentino – I love the aesthetic – and Tamara Mellon for Jimmy Choo at its prime. Also Alessandro Michele [creative director at Gucci] is very interesting to me. I also love Haider Ackermann and Rick Owens – I wear him. Obviously he’s a big name but also Karl Lagerfeld, Fendi is one of my favourite brands. And one of the reasons I went to Parsons was Tom Ford [who studied architecture at the school in the 1980s].
What about the future, do you aspire to be acquired by a big brand or remain independent?
It’s a question I ask myself, do we want to keep small and specific or venture out and do more? It depends on the market and the consumers. To be impactful now, you do need to do more.
Which retailers would you most like to see your brand in?
Coming from New York, Bergdorf Goodman is the ultimate. I love Browns, Dover Street Market - I think the brogues I do would appeal to that market – and L’Eclaireur in Paris. Ultimately you want to be everywhere, don’t you?