Heels are (at least meant to be) a staple in every women’s wardrobe, but they have also long been designed without wearability in mind — this is where Ottange comes in. Helmed by Evie Reddy, the former head of womenswear at Fiorucci, and Arthur Beerens, Ottange crafts shoes that embrace femininity and dynamic design without that coming at the expense of wearability and versatility. Based in Antwerp, Ottange is all about creating shoes can transcend the world of catwalks and editorials: shoes for the metropolitan woman that you want to (and can) wear.
Here, we sit down with Evie to talk about her creative process, sustainability, and ushering in a new era of ‘authentic’ campaigns.
Where did the idea for Ottange come from? And what gap in the accessories market did you set out to fill?
I had been manifesting the idea of starting an accessories label for years, but I didn’t begin testing concepts until after my maternity leave. It was a turning point in my career. It was pretty paradoxical too: on the one hand, feeling like being a mother was so instinctive, and on the other, I felt creatively challenged. I knew the market would create itself, but I would say that Ottange hopes to appeal to women who may feel pushed out of the heels world by the frilliness or the overtly glamorous image that’s often associated with them.
Why do you think it’s the right time to cater to an audience of women who embrace a more free-spirited nature? What do you think your brand is a reaction to?
Women are getting closer to a more self-assured place. They might still need a little push to wear a platform, but Ottange is reacting to the constant evolution of women, and them asserting themselves in both life and fashion.
Heels have always had a place in fashion, especially for the metropolitan woman. How did you begin to reimagine this staple design in a fresh and exciting way?
While heels are prominent in the fashion world, I questioned their actual wearability outside of the runway, social media and editorials. I own a lot of shoes myself, but I always need more convincing when it comes to buying heels. They’re often very predictable and designed for more formal occasions. With our heels, I wanted them to be versatile and feminine, but I didn’t want them to be a ‘safe choice’.
Could you tell us about your inspirations and your creative process?
Whether it’s in art, photography, or the appearance of an object, I appreciate moments that make me feel unsettled or curious. I’d like women in Ottange shoes to make people a little nervous. And ignite people to ask questions. For the first collection, I wanted there to be the illusion of movement when walking. We wanted a heel that’s playful, but has a classic fit so it’s still sophisticated. The research for this came from glass blowing.
What is your own relationship with accessories and footwear? What made you want to venture into this sector in particular?
I always felt a more natural ability to design accessories because they’re more dynamic. There’s also something more forgiving about shoes and bags. They’re so versatile and you can use almost any material to create them. And there’s always room for more ‘rough’ experimentation: they are much less delicate than clothes!
What drove the shift from your previous work, which was lot more colourful, to a subtler design process driven by sophistication?
Without the history behind the brand, I was allowed me to be more genuine in my own direction. I just followed ideas that I liked without any commercial pressure.
How did you go about designing your first campaign? Why do you think this signifies a new era for responsible campaigns in the luxury market?
I’m finding all the AI advertisements quite overwhelming. It’s all about there being more of everything, and that level of extravagance just isn’t achievable for young brands. I wanted to create something authentic in still photography, and I was lucky enough to have Italian photographer Teresa Ciocia on board. She effortlessly captures women; I’m a massive fan of her work and its rawness.
How do ideas around timelessness and longevity fit within your work?
It’s the early days of Ottange and our aesthetic will evolve as we create more collections. I always keep the Antwerp lifestyle and the approach of Belgian designers in mind: being slow and stoic is key. Shaping our identity is my first objective, as is good craftsmanship.
How do you prioritise sustainability practices at Ottange? And why do you feel it’s necessary to be transparent about your manufacturing process?
Being a young brand, environmental responsibility is crucial. We work with European manufacturers who adhere to standards we believe in. We’re also all about minimal packaging and resourcefulness: using materials that are already available.
What have been some of your favourite designs to work on and why?
I loved developing Venetia: determining the heel and weight balance, and making it a dream to wear.
What’s the next step for Ottange? And what will you be doing to celebrate?
We will launch into the wholesale market during PFW in January, where we’ll present our AW24 collection. And we’ve planned a party around this time to combat some January blues! We’ll also be introducing new styles in the coming months.
What do you envision the future of positive luxury to look like?
Ignoring the importance of responsible production is becoming less acceptable, and hopefully this will only intensify.