Alexander White is everything you want a male designer to be: he’s a devilishly handsome man whose charisma and signature sex appeal is sprinkled across his work. Alexander is very much, in my mind, the Tom Ford of shoes: sexy yet sophisticated, both in terms of his sass AF stilettoes and his personal demeanor.
Having just joined the official schedule at London Fashion Week, Alexander is certainly riding one considerable wave since leaving pattern cutting at Giles and Erdem behind and placing his shoes on the sales floor at Rachel Green’s old haunt, Barney’s. But beyond the success is a designer who just loves shoes, he isn’t chasing any level of celebrity himself and even has little knowledge of who Kylie Jenner even is (despite her wearing his shoes) - this is remarkable given the social media age we live in. Here I met the shoe designer who might just make you put down your Louboutins and Choos for good…
What sets Alexander White apart from other shoe designers?
“I was working at Kurt Geiger and looking at the market as a whole I realised there was a gap for well-made women’s shoes at a good price point. A lot of luxury brands have become very expensive recently so I wanted to bridge the gap between affordability and quality. One buyer said to me that she felt that there wasn’t anything else of this quality and aesthetic at this price point.”
Why do men make such great shoe designers?
“I think that sometimes an outsider’s perspective helps push design. I remember doing a menswear module at University and I designed for myself and therefore I didn’t push the design side and played a little safe. It was all about what I was wearing it with and less about the actual item itself. When you’re not the consumer you’re not permanently thinking, ‘would I wear this?’ There’s a little bit of fantasy that I think helps push the design.”
The First Lady of Canada can certainly shift shoes, can't she?
“It was incredible when she wore them. She had bought a pair of shoes from one of our partners in Canada and we didn’t know when or even if, she would wear them out in public. She chose to wear them on Canada Day and within a few days we started getting requests from people who were desperate to get hold of a pair. It was only after responding to the emails and then contacting our partners that we found out that they had sold out of them. Some of these requests ending up in customers placing orders with us to have pairs specially made from our factory - which isn’t exactly cheap – but they were desperate for a pair. That was the first time I realised the power of the celebrity.”
Just how important is celebrity endorsement for a business like yours today?
“Celebrity endorsement is super important today. People are so interested in the lives of celebrities and many aspire towards those lifestyles and therefore if they see someone famous wearing something they want it. One of the biggest things I hear when visiting stores from the sales teams is that people will come in holding a cutting from a magazine or an image on their phone of a celebrity and want that item. It’s great for business getting the endorsements but for me it doesn’t motivate me. I get the most pleasure, as corny as it sounds, from seeing people wearing my shoes and the pleasure it brings them.”
Whose feet have you been the most thrilled to your designs on?
“I think when Kelly Rowland wore a pair of my shoes to Solange’s Grammy After-party was my biggest pinch myself moment. I was such a fan of Destiny’s Child. Beyoncé uploaded pictures to her website of her and Kelly, with the shoes in the photo which was a bit surreal to see. Also, Carey Mulligan at the Met Gala was incredible.”
Tell us about where you find your inspiration.
“I get inspiration from many places, including things in my everyday life. I have a slight obsession with the bagels on Brick lane. One afternoon whilst holding the brown bag they’re sold in I noticed the serrated edge and how the scrunched-up end of it looked gathered. I went back and designed the Camille paper-bag boot, which has eventually evolved into one of our brand signatures: the ruffle.”
Are you about to buy your first pair of designer heels? Listen to Alexander…
“Invest in something that isn’t going to go out of date too quickly, something a little timeless but that you can wear often. Always consider the quality of the product, not just the name. If they’re painful when you’re trying them on I wouldn’t buy them as they won’t bring you joy and they’ll probably never leave your wardrobe.”
His tips for OWNING walking in heels…
“I’ve had a lot of women say to me that they struggle to walk in high-heels. My two-part response is: 1. Practise - you can’t just expect to be able to walk perfectly in heels if you never have before. 2. I normally ask, ‘were they from the high-street?’ When we started developing the brand we spent a lot of time ensuring that our heels are as comfortable as possible. My best-friend’s sister wore a pair for her wedding and was still dancing in them at 2am. She came back and bought some more pairs as she had always struggled to walk in heels, let alone dance.”