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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Charlotte Olympia's new collection channels Spider-man 

The British footwear and accessories designer is known for quirky motifs and a style that blends pop culture with the glamour of old Hollywood movies. We meet her in Dubai 

From heels adorned with birdcages and bananas, to Barbie Doll clutches, UFO-shaped totes and printed boots inspired by film noir from the 1940s and 1950s, Charlotte Olympia Dellal has never shied from design combinations that are playful, innovative and sometimes border on the bizarre.

For her latest collection, the British footwear and accessories designer looked to this summer’s most anticipated film: Spider-Man: Homecoming, and one of the fastest growing segments in fashion: children’s wear. The five-piece Spiderweb capsule collection, which is available in-store from today, consists of a pair of Incy Work It! trainers, Incy Cool Cat slip-on sneakers and a back-to-school pack for children, as well as a pair of platform sandals and a clutch for women.

The spider’s web is a recurring motif in Dellal’s designs. “I was inspired by my namesake in [E B White’s novel] Charlotte’s Web,” says the husky-voiced designer with a laugh. Now all Charlotte Olympia shoes are stamped with a gold or black web on the heel or insole. "You can afford to be a bit more playful with shoes, I think.” A cheeky feline is another favourite motif, and for the new collection, Dellal has merged the two tropes. The children’s backpack and Cool Cat slip-ons, for instance, are made from velvet dyed in Spider-Man red and come embroidered with a web, but the face peering out is that of the signature Charlotte Olympia Kitty.

Dellal develops four seasonal shoe collections a year, as well as Encore, a permanent collection of signature styles. Often, she’ll also produce bridal and children’s collections, as well as handbags, although women’s footwear remains her focus.

In the new collection, the women’s sandals feature the brand’s signature “island” platform, with Spider-Man’s web insignia in laser-cut black suede creeping up over an ankle decorated with crystals. The fan-shaped Spinderella clutch has a sparkly Swarovski-studded web etched onto transparent Perspex, which is one of Dellal’s favourite materials.

“Perspex is a key material for the brand; the first clutch I ever designed was made from it. But I love working with all kinds of things for my bags and shoes: suede, satin, raffia, velvet, pom-poms, PVC and feathers,” says Dellal. “And I love textures. Embroidery, embellishments, appliqué; they are important to me. And then there’s what you can do with these materials and textures: braiding, fraying, layering, sandwiching between PVC – you name it, I like to try it. As I’ve always maintained, I accessorise my accessories and try on every single pair of shoes my company produces.”

While flats are now a regular part of the design mix, Dellal explains: “I started off doing six-inch heels to establish the aesthetic of my brand. But I like to ensure that my shoes are as wearable as they can be. “Of course, a stiletto cannot compete in terms of comfort with a pair of sneakers, or going barefoot, but I like to design shoes that you can walk in and dance in. After all, I am wearing them myself.”

The designer was in Dubai earlier this year to visit her store in Mall of the Emirates and to promote a collection she designed in collaboration with British luggage brand Globe-Trotter. Wearing a white and green Dolce & Gabbana dress, with a pair of green Kitty flats and the Banana Bag from her own collection, Dellal says that being a mother has influenced her style in unexpected ways.

“I started doing flats just before I became a mum, and they may have become more prominent in my collections after. I usually wear flats when I am travelling now. But in a way, having three boys makes me want to wear high heels even more, to feel a bit more feminine.”

British footwear and accessories designer Charlotte Olympia. Photo by Tristan Fewings / Getty Images
British footwear and accessories designer Charlotte Olympia. Photo by Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

Dellal says her own mother, the Brazilian model Andréa de Magalhães Vieira, and a super-stylish grandmother, instilled in her a love for old black and white Hollywood movies. “It was all so glamorous and feminine – the 1940s and 1950s. And I like updating things that are old-fashioned, perhaps even masculine, like a man’s smoking velvet slippers, and making them more graceful and yet playful,” she says.

So Carmen Miranda’s fruit-studded headwear served as the inspiration for the banana bag, pineapple shoes and Kitty’s strawberry eyes in Charlotte Olympia’s spring/summer 2017 Fruit collection. Lauren Bacall’s To Have and Have Not role brought about the Accessory to Murder autumn/winter 2017 collection of knee-high boots with cut-out graphics from film noir classics.

The new Spinderella clutch may be launching to coincide with Spider-Man, but its studded-crystal and fan detailing are reminiscent of a young Elizabeth Taylor. Like most things Dellal does, it channels pop culture, but with a nod to the splendour of a bygone era.