DARMAKI: Decadence Defined

By Marriam N Mossalli

It’s a fashion editor’s dream: The discovery of the next big thing. And, there, in the depths of the Park Hyatt Vendôme at the Vendôme Luxury Trade Show in Paris, was exactly what such dreams are made of: DARMAKI.
There is no better way to describe the artistic interpretations of Emirati designer, Sultan Al-Darmaki, other than it is the imagination manifested into surreal footwear. Beautiful, sexy, and — yes, even comfortable — his designs are the most coveted label to be introduced since red soles became all the rage. No disrespect to Blahnik or Louboutin, but we haven’t seen this type of fanciful decadence since the days of the “Fragonard of the Shoe,” Roger Vivier.
And, critically acclaimed fashion experts agree. Much like Vivier’s “Fabergé of Footwear,” DARMAKI’s debut collection has been hailed as “walking works of art,” and “art installations.” Rather than objects of functionality with a signature aesthetic injected into it as an afterthought, Al-Darmaki successfully combines the world of form and function, elevating both to a delightfully hedonistic level, while never compromising on either.
“A modern twist to my Arab roots,” humbly summarized Al-Darmaki, as we sat in the café lounge of the Park Hyatt. From his idiosyncratic bowtie to his custom-made shoes from a French cobbler in La Maurie, the eccentric aura omitted from the designer is visually apparent. Echoing the philosophy of Andre Perugia, Al-Darmaki believes that a person’s personality is revealed in the shoes the person wears.
“The ones I’m wearing now show my quirky side,” revealed the designer, as he adjusted the thick-brimmed glasses that frame his exuberant eyes. “I’m seen as quite conservative because I’m quiet, but it’s really because I’m busy observing. These [shoes] show my more playful, outgoing side.”
While the shoes he wears may reveal one side of him, his collection embraces a unique range of characteristics and appeals to women of all generations. Drawing inspiration from multiple muses, the collection emulates a variety of themes that celebrate femininity, glamor and sophistication, while ultimately providing a sole mate for a diverse spectrum of personalities.  “Each shoe reflects a different emotion that is expressed through witty finishes, glamorous impact and classical lines,” he asserted.

From his Victorian Durra suede ankle boots, to the ultra modern Diva, Al-Darmaki’s designs not only transcend space, but also time. Although often attempted, the harmonious juxtaposition of classic sophistication with cutting-edge modernity is a rare feat. But, where all others fall short, DARMAKI thrives. His designs exemplify this complex aesthetic, as seen in the Arabesque,  which overtly demonstrates this marriage through cutting-edge laser-cut leather work into a traditional geometric motif synonymous with his homeland.
DARMAKI’s decadent aesthetic intricately fuses together artistic and cultural influences. Having grown up in an environment where art appreciation was nurtured, Al-Darmaki brings together his Eastern heritage with a Western understanding. The result is an exotic combination that appeals to the fashionistas of the world whose fashion creativity is as equally adventurous as DARMAKI’s inspirations.
“I recall flying overseas with my sisters to procure their wardrobes,” he said, shedding light on his fervent ambition to create the ultimate in luxury footwear. In this collection, classic stiletto heels are created out of luxe skins and embellished with exotic feathers and hand-placed stones, conveying DARMAKI’s aura of exclusivity, luxury, and haute couture-like quality.

It is for this same reason that Al Darmaki insisted that only “the best of the best” be employed in terms of manufacturing the realization of his designs. “I went to Italy’s finest craftsmen and pitched my designs,” he said. “I was prepared to be turned down, but was shocked when 10 minutes later they came back with a ‘Yes!’”
Al-Darmaki admits that he may have had the vision, but he needed help in the tecnical know-how. So, when the same factories that produce some of the biggest international luxury labels in the industry agreed to transform his dreams into reality, he knew he was doing something right.
“Since I was a child, my family instilled in me an appreciation of what was considered good art.” His pieces, which appear as art disguised as fashion, possess intricate details of handcrafted textured effects and luxury embellishments that are a testament to his artistic upbringing.
Coincidentally, Al-Darmaki confesses he attacks his designs like a sculptor would a piece of marble. “For me, it’s about studying the entire female form, not just the foot, and then sketching to make the most of that form,” revealed Al-Darmaki.  This attention to detail and unique combination of craftsmanship and luxury is what distinguishes DARMAKI from other designer and couture footwear brands currently in the market. Bringing together exciting and innovative design, DARMAKI’s Autumn/Winter 2011 collection offers a majestic palette of vivid shades of blue, red and gold python leather, as well as rich suede in bold shades of fuchsia, green and ochre yellow.

However, Al-Darmaki isn’t satisfied conquering just the footwear sector; he has his eyes set on revolutionzing the entire fashion industry! One stiletto at a time, Al-Darmaki hopes to change perceptions and the way fashionistas think of fashion.
“The shoe is an integral part of a person’s outfit,” believes Al-Darmaki. “So much so, that fashion psychology needs to be reprogrammed to where we begin dressing for our shoes and not vice-versa.”
With that same sentiment, Al-Darmaki’s main vision is to create beautiful and comfortable shoes that will last. The prominent model and muse, Barbora Dvorakova, of DARMAKI’s teaser trailer wore the sculpture-like designs for 24-hours straight.
“When I suggested she take them off between shots for a break, she insisted she was fine because they were so comfortable,” stated Al-Darmaki, or soon-to-be known as God’s gift to women’s feet. “Luxury shoes are an investment,” he continued. “You’re spending a lot of money on them and hopefully even more time wearing them. Therefore, you need to have wearable shoes.”
And, it’s with that final line that I’m irrevocably in love. DARMAKI already had me with its flirty lace, edgy studs and feminine touches of pearl and ruffle, but it’s the wearable quality and durability that has cemented my footwear-fetish for DARMAKI at an unhealthy level of obsession.  A plethora of timeless yet fashion forward footwear, DARMAKI embraces the feminine beauty while celebrating the female form. With only a few months on the scene, DARMAKI is already gaining legions of dedicated fashionistas and has impressed fashion editors vying for its luxurious creations.
Made in Italy, based in the UK and designed by an Emirati, the brand is as international as they come and as decadent as our self-indulgence will excuse. Already threatening to defuse the sense of entitlement attached to the established luxury footwear hierarchy, this newcomer is sure to become a permanent fixture in the global fashion vocabulary.

Arab News article