Luisa Dames – the female personalities behind Aeyde

April Wan

Co-founded in 2015 by Luisa Dames, Aeyde is a contemporary shoe brand that has been praised for its quality and minimal design. We met with Luisa on a sunny day in Berlin to talk about the brand’s female personality, sustainability and a shoe that takes you from work straight to a gallery opening or even Berghain in Berlin where the brand’s HQ is based.

April Wan: You were a executive at Zalando before starting Aeyde. Were you always interested in the fashion space?
Luisa Dames: I’ve always been interested in fabrics and materials, even as a kid. My grandma had a sewing machine that she gave to me; it was one of those manual ones with a paddle. Back in the day, I would experiment with garments but skipped this creative side and went into business, economics, and culture, wondering what that’ll lead me to. At some point, I started working at Zalando, grew in this company quite quickly and was heading up the private label department. I oversaw production in India, Bangladesh and China. So it was really intense to get to know the production size and the sourcing element of everything, which I was also involved in. It was incredibly commercial-driven, and at some point, I had understood this process, how it works and how to create a product.
AW: Was there a defining moment in which you knew what type of brand you wanted to create?
LD: I had so much drive back in the day and was looking into it – like actually feeling confident about starting my own thing. I started off with a personal struggle of not being able to find shoes to my liking – so the brand came from more of a customer perspective. I found myself waiting for luxury brands to go on their seasonal sale because they were expensive. I’m also a size 39 in shoes, which are super commercialised standard sizes and were mostly sold out. On the other hand, we had many cheap products from other fast fashion commercial competitors – and their products could have been better quality. There was no true offering with a well-made product that didn’t come at a crazy price. In the end, I was ready to say: “Okay, now this could be something I would try to do.”
AW: That’s so amazing, so it’s like you saw this gap in the market for Aeyde through a customer’s perspective.
LD: Yeah, exactly. I couldn’t find any shoes, so I built my own.
AW: With creating Aeyde, how did you develop the name?
LD: We were really brainstorming on what the brand should represent. Then we said it should stand for a fierce and independent modern woman – the driving force behind everything we do in the brand. My co-founder’s grandmother’s name was Edith. We thought, “Okay, Edith is fascinating, and her nickname was Eddi – we started blurbing out words, and then we thought, “Why not AD?” We decided to spell it differently. So Aeyde became the brand. Essentially, it’s a female personality that stands behind the brand – so that’s how we came to the name.
AW: So the development of the brand’s name became the customer profile you designed for your products?
LD: Yes!
AW: Aeyde’s headquarter is in Berlin – I know you take inspiration from the city. Could you share the advantages of being a Berlin-based brand and vice versa?
LD: Berlin is a vastly changing city – I’ve been here for almost 13 years. I arrived in 2011; back then, it was a fascinating place. Due to the history of Berlin, the city was undone – so post-war, it was rebuilt by different creatives that found a space here to position themselves with their interests. The city was fostering cultural elements and politics, which was lovely back then. So you had a lot of, let’s say, artists’ studios, music studios. We’re known worldwide for our vibrant techno scene through the people at Berghain. So it’s an exciting place where art and music meet. Over the past ten years, the startup industry has also grown here.
It’s a place for young people with ambition to thrive. Since the city still needs to be more commercialised in terms of living – it is still quite affordable. If you look at restaurants and nightlife, you pay less than in other places, such as London, Paris or New York. It’s tough to live in New York. So the people in these commercialised cities live in a teeny tiny box apartments and pay a fortune compared to Berlin. Also, I love the connection of all the subcultures, artists and music. The city has this incredible mixture of creativity. Of course, the vintage scene is big in Berlin. There are lots of tiny vintage boutiques or even studios that are secret for the locals. A tourist could never find them. So you have to know the city as a Berliner; otherwise, the city can be rough.
Luisa Dames_(c) Julia Sellmann 20221
Aeyde_SS23 Campaign_27
AW: So would you say tourists have a completely different experience than the locals do?
LD: Tourists with big expectations will often not be able to locate the entrances to certain clubs because they’re most likely hidden doors. These locations can only be found through word of mouth from the locals. This element of Berlin is why I still love it here. There are only a few fashion brands in Berlin. We are one of the few brands that actually work here and operate on an international level. Sometimes connecting with other people in the industry is a little trickier.
AW: That’s so nice; it sounds like there’s almost a separate community between the locals and tourists.
LD: Yes, I think the tourists mainly come, let’s say, for Berghain. Some for the many different restaurants and bars that are actually quite cool. For example, there are many pop-up shows and new things that locals try out. A Friday drink at a gallery opening is a chill place to hang out with everyone.
AW: Have you been to Berghain?
LD: Yes! I know quite a few people like the resident DJ there. They’re all quite old by now.
AW: If you could sum up the essence of Aeyde in three words, what would they be?
LD: Definitely quality, minimalism, and slow consumption. We have beautiful shoes that can be deeply worn in, brought to a shoemaker, repaired and worn to death.
AW: The story behind the Spring 2023 collection is based on the paradox between routine and play. Can you give us an idea of your daily routine and how you can balance work and personal time?
LD: This is a core element of Aeyde; the shoes are so versatile you can technically wear them from day to tonight. The concept really exposed the topic of time. That’s why we also say the paradox of routine and play. The interpretation would be our work routine – come into the office, start to work and then in the evening, either you finish and go home or maybe have a drink somewhere. This collection launched recently where we explore the weekdays of routine. Then a second part of the campaign will launch at the end of April, exploring the weekend. I work and travel a lot, so there is a balance between my private life and work life.
We are not a brand that participates in runway shows, so we focus on exploring the digital space and how we can bring campaigns to life here. So we started with the concept of time and then played with how to explore this digitally. Then came up with the weekday versus weekend concept and separated them into two parts of the campaign.
AW: Aeyde introduced three new colourways this season – aqua, lilac and ochre. Could you share with me the inspiration behind these new shades?
LD: Last year, there was a period where our products were either black, cream or beige. So when we started the colour palette this year, a super vibrant colour element needed to come through our designs. Especially pink – it feels like an essential for the high summer drop launching in April. It’s such an intense colour that integrates very nicely into every wardrobe. Even if you wear blue jeans or a creamy beige skirt – it ties in nicely. Overall we wanted to give more fun and a little bit more spice.
AW: Do you come up with every name for each product yourself?
LD: Yes, we always start with the team. With every collection developing in half-year rhythms, we usually have two or three new members on the team. So we always begin integrating their names into the new collection first. That’s my first step, or from family members. Sometimes we also explore our friendship circles or characters that I cross paths with. I also like to play with the names since our brand has masculine and feminine elements. By doing so, we can inject more masculine words to give our shoes more character. For example, we had a pair of boots called The Jack Boot, which was the boot of the season for us. We have a new Finnish colleague, and the names in Finland, for example, are very different. So it depends more on the type of people coming into Aeyde and taking a deeper dive into their heritage.
AW: I know that sustainability is an essential factor for you. How do you balance creating and distributing your products while staying sustainable in your own ways?
I always try to avoid the word sustainability. It’s more of a responsibility that every fashion brand should have towards its consumers, employees and manufacturing partners. So what we do at Aeyde is we work with a handful of family-run manufacturers in the region of Tuscany. Everything is made in Italy because Italy has a strong shoemaking industry heritage. Then all our leathers are byproducts of the food industry, so they are leftovers from that production. From there, we have a certified process for the dyeing process. So we’re also treating everything to the highest standards regarding the workforce.
All our packaging is from recyclable paper as well. We’re still working on the last bits and pieces to make it 100% plastic free. This is a challenging task in the shoe industry. I’m very open about how we take responsibility for our planet. Only some things are possible now and people are still working on finding different alternative solutions.
As for our jewellery, everything is upcycled from existing metals. We’re melting down the metals and re-crafting our jewellery pieces from them. So for us, these little actions we take all come together. We’re working on lots more ways for the future, but we’ve already started taking efficient action.
AW: If you were to own one pair of Aeyde shoes, which ones would they be?
LD: I always say the same: the answer is the Leandra boot. That’s one of my favourite vital boots of all time. We created them in 2016, so it’s been in the collection for quite some time. I still love them! Looking into the new collection, there’s one pump: the Melia in black.
AW: What’s next for Aeyde?
LD: So we’re currently working on a super exciting project! It’ll be released in May – showing how we interpret the Aeyde style for individual personalities. So really, dressing the character from head to toe and will be based around vintage. That’s all I can say for now.
Words: April Wan
SS23 Campaign Credits:
Photography: Christian Colomer
Model: Kayla Gallagher
Stylist: Almut Vogel
Hair and makeup: Pelo Luz Gonzalez