Aquazzura’s Edgardo Osorio on Celebrating 10 Years: “We’re Making People Feel Their Best”
As Aquazzura celebrates 10 years, its co-founders reflect on the remarkable women – including Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece and Denmark – who have contributed to its success.
Dress, Max Mara; shoes, Aquazzura. March 2022, Vogue Arabia. Photo: Nima Benati
Edgardo Osorio and Ricardo Figueiredo, co-founders of luxury footwear brand Aquazzura, are in West Hollywood, travelling around Southern California in their usual Slim Aarons-eque flair. They are scouting vintage shops in Melrose and taking in the beauty of the city’s contemporary art scene. It’s a long way from the Colombian seaside city of Cartagena, where Osorio was born. Osorio’s destiny was sealed in childhood with one of his first sketches. “My mom showed me a photo album the other day and my first drawing as a baby was a sketch in crayons or colored pencils, and it looks like a scribbled shoe or an Alexander McQueen concoction. We couldn’t believe it,” he laughs. Little did he know that the shoe brand he runs with Figueiredo, which turns 10 this year, would one day be celebrated among European and Middle Eastern royal and jet-set circles.
Dress, Atelier Eme; shoes, Aquazurra. March 2022, Vogue Arabia. Photo: Nima Benati
“This all works because Ricardo and I have a similar vision for our company,” Osorio says. “I don’t know how people do it alone. It’s been scary to start a company and keep it afloat, but it’s been wonderful to know there is someone who’s there for you and knows what you are going through,” he continues, adding that he found solace during the pandemic in Venice, restoring their 15th century Palazzo Corner Spinelli to all its splendor, with its views of the Grand Canal.
In the public eye, Osorio, 36, is often flanked by models or friends who could be models – like Silvia Paulon, Racil Chalhoub, Naty Abascal, and Sheikha Raya Al-Khalifa – off the coast of Noto, Sicily, or by a pool in Mustique, or in Venice. These women have helped Osorio architect the Aquazzura joie de vivre lifestyle. He will also be the first person to tell you that social media is one thing and real life is another. “My job is to make people smile,” he says. “We’re not saving lives, but we’re making people feel their best, whether it’s their first date, wedding day, or just their first day at work.” For this shoot, Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece and Denmark, showcases her friend’s work, saying, “Edgardo is an amazing shoe artist and designer. His shoes could turn a simple skinny denim and a white shirt into a fashion look. He adds just the right number of accents to a shoe without it being too much or too little.”
Dress, Dolce & Gabbana; shoes, Aquazzura. March 2022, Vogue Arabia. Photo: Nima Benati
The son of an interior designer and real estate developer, as a child Osorio spent his time creating Lego homes enhanced with vintage toy cars. He started working at 14 for a Barranquilla-based designer, sketching accessories out of a factory. Aware of his drive, his parents also sent him to a summer school program at Central Saint Martins in London that same year. Somewhat of a prodigy, Osorio went on to consult at Salvatore Ferragamo at 19, while studying at Polimoda Fashion School in Florence. He then went to work at Roberto Cavalli, where he was introduced to the business of VIP fashion and the supermodel set, eventually collaborating with Claudia Schiffer on a capsule collection in 2017. Meanwhile, in Portugal, Figueiredo was gaining marketing experience as he built his own PR company, representing Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier. The pair launched Aquazzura in 2011, with Osorio’s father financing their first line of 1 500 shoes. The collection was unfurled in a friend’s living room in Soho. “My parents believed in me. They’ve been my biggest champions,” states the designer. “People don’t see the sacrifice. They don’t know how hard it has been to run a company with no financial backing from anyone.”
Dress, Valentino; shoes, Aquazzura. March 2022, Vogue Arabia. Photo: Nima Benati
Building solid relationships has not only been key to their success but their friendships have also architected the persona of the Aquazzura woman – “strong, hard-working, sexy one minute and bohemian the next,” remarks Osorio. “Arab women, for example, always want to look their best and they are not afraid to take risks. They love accessories and they love color.” Osorio met Lebanese designer Racil Chalhoub on a dance floor during Paris fashion week. The two became friends and later collaborated on a “matchimalist” collection in 2019. “Edgardo will not only be remembered as one of the most talented designers of his generation,” remarks Chalhoub, “but also for being the kindest and most wonderful happy soul in the fashion industry.”
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wearing Aquazzura
One of the first to collaborate with Aquazzura was model Poppy Delevingne in 2015. “I love that every collection tells a story. There is always a little bit of a sense of humor that I think sets them apart as a brand,” Delevingne says. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Emma Watson were also early fans. After the first season was unveiled, Watson sent her credit card details along with a note explaining how she couldn’t find the shoes anywhere. The duchess wore Aquazzura for her engagement announcement and Osorio was later invited to Kensington Palace to meet her in preparation for one of the most historic weddings in modern history. “It was huge to be part of that event as a Colombian and the only non-English designer,” he shares. Recent star sightings include Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge,who wore the gold Fenix pump to the premiere of No Time to Die. Lady Gaga was also spotted wearing Aquazzura pumps in House of Gucci, much to Osorio’s shock and awe. “I was screaming out loud in a movie theater in Chelsea in New York,” he shares. “The film zooms in and you see our red suede pumps and our gold pineapple.” The pineapple emblem is not only a salute to Osorio’s Latin American roots, it’s also a symbol he associates with hospitality, beauty, and good fortune.
Sarah Jessica Parker wearing Aquazzura in And Just Like That…
Figueiredo, who has a master’s in management and economics, directs the web business, e-commerce, marketing, and communications. Together the two steer the company’s finances. “I never do interviews,” Figueiredo says. “I’m the invisible part of the company. We share the same love for beauty. We complement each other and sometimes I am the person who gives input and feedback like ‘I don’t like the proportion of that heel.’” Headquartered at Florence’s Palazzo Corsini, the Aquazzura name has also been fortified by the rich artisan heartlands and the craftsmen who work in and around the cradle of the Renaissance. Its boutiques are in key luxury hubs like Florence, London, New York, Miami, Dubai, Doha, Paris, Milan, Sāo Paolo, Capri, and soon Madrid. With all the store openings, Osorio’s love of interiors comes to the fore. His Dubai Mall location pays homage to the beauty of regional architecture with a marble facade and a modern graphic touch that’s typical of the brand. In December, Aquazzura unveiled a summery pop-up shop inside Level Shoes, filled with inviting canopied couches and striped vases to accompany the SS22 capsule collection.
Dress, Delcore; shoes, Aquazurra. March 2022, Vogue Arabia. Photo: Nima Benati
Together, the co-founders are building an empire reminiscent of famous teams like Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent. Their most recent venture, a jewelry line, was a key part of the company’s plans to become a 360-degree lifestyle brand. The aesthetic core is built on Osorio’s wistful yet constant style that can be easily translated into everything from shoes to wallpaper, kitchens, and porcelain tablescapes. Aquazzura also collaborated with de Gournay on a shoe collection in 2017 and is expected to launch Aquazzura Casa, produced with the creative directionof Fiona Leahy, in June at Milan’s Design Week. The brand already produces kitchens with Florence’s boutique kitchen atelier Officine Gullo, which originally crafted a custom-made turquoise kitchen for their Venetian home.
Osorio’s special sketch for Vogue Arabia’s 5th anniversary. March 2022, Vogue Arabia. Photo: Nima Benati
Figueiredo vows that Aquazzura – and the world they have created – is currently not for sale. “We’ve received many offers from big groups but we still have a lot of things to do, like the launch of Aquazzura Casa, and we want to dedicate ourselves to doing it in our own beautiful way,” Figueiredo shares. “We also want to do men’s, bags, and many other projects.” In a rapidly evolving fashion landscape, where stars fade just as fast as they are born, Aquazzura is a lot like the women who are emboldened by its 105mm stiletto heels: the stuff legends are made of.
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Originally published in the March 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Federica CarnevaliHair: Leon Gorman at Blend Management using Leon Gorman Hair CareMakeup: Luca Cianciolo at Blend ManagementNails: Annarel Innocente at Blend ManagementProduction: Kitten ProductionModel: Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece and Denmark