[7 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday all! With World Mental Health Day tomorrow, we want to use today’s interview to encourage you to seek help if you are struggling at this time.
The COVID-19 crisis has caused a tragic increase in suicide rates all over the world and it is important to look out for one another. Call a friend, reach out if someone doesn’t seem like themselves and take time for yourself too. Stay safe!
This week, we hope to uplift our readers through an inspiring interview with Meenu Graziani, the British shoe designer that founded and designed the eponymous brand. Her shoes are timeless pieces of art that are giving us major Carrie Bradshaw vibes. Just grab your morning coffee and keep reading to step into Meenu’s stunning shoes...
Good morning Meenu! Let’s begin with your childhood; do you feel it has influenced you today?
It certainly has! I always wanted to become a shoe designer; however, being born and raised in London to an Indian family meant culture was always at the forefront. I would split my time between London and India. My father was in the Indian Airforce, therefore I lived in all sorts of different parts of India. India has many amazing places and diverse cultures so my experiences influenced me deeply and are reflected in my brand, particularly through my choice of bold colours and patterns. I have always had a passion for shoes and I wanted Meenu Graziani Shoes to incorporate my Indian heritage as well as the multicultural spirit of London.
I can definitely see that interesting mix of culture in your shoes. So, how did you get started in the fashion industry?
Being from Indian heritage, it was instilled in me from a young age that I must undertake a ‘professional’ career. I worked for the Ministry of Defence and The Home Office for years. Whilst working for the Ministry of Defence, I decided to pursue a career in law and went on to complete the LLB and the Legal Practices Course. Then, after working in the legal field for over ten years, I decided that I finally wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a shoe designer. During the early stages, I did not possess much business acumen and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work for someone else or launch my own brand so decided to attend the London School of Fashion to gain an insight into the industry. This was the best decision I ever made as it made me realise that I wanted to launch my own brand and work for myself!
"With the materials I use, I ensure that not a scrap of fabric is wasted or thrown away. In fact, if there is leftover material from the footwear, I will design a matching handbag in order to use what’s left."
That sounds like a really valuable experience for you! I think education is so powerful. How do you consider sustainability throughout the process of manufacturing Meenu Graziani Shoes?
Sustainability is constantly at the forefront of my mind with every aspect of Meenu Graziani Shoes. I am extremely conscious about the impact we have on the environment, so with the materials I use, I ensure that not a scrap of fabric is wasted or thrown away. In fact, if there is leftover material from the footwear, I will design a matching handbag in order to use what’s left and grow my collection further.
That’s brilliant. What a lovely way to repurpose waste! And do you consider sensitive skin when you source the materials for Meenu Graziani Shoes?
We do because we want the customer to be able to keep and wear each pair of shoes forever. Firstly, I find colours and patterns that I’m drawn to and then, I look at the fabrics. I’m constantly focused on sourcing the most sustainable and best quality leathers possible. I also pride myself on not being a fast-fashion brand. Instead, my entire collection and my future collections have all been designed with longevity in mind.
We are all about the timeless pieces too! So what were your biggest challenges in starting up Meenu Graziani?
Launching a new brand is in itself a challenge and I have been facing challenges from the very beginning of launching Meenu Graziani Shoes. For example, the factory who manufactured my first collection went bankrupt. The second factory I was working with has also ceased to exist; hopefully, I will be “third time lucky” with the factory I am working with now.
Since launching Meenu Graziani Shoes I have also had to face social and political issues such as Brexit and of course, the COVID-19 crisis. These two issues have had a major impact on the world and the fashion industry due to the uncertainty. However, as Meenu Graziani Shoes is relevantly new and still growing, the impact has not been as profound as it might have been if we were a bigger brand. Ultimately, I believe that challenges are only obstacles that we must learn to overcome.
I love that perspective! What strategies do you think have been key to the success of your business?
For me, success means staying true to myself and my vision, and thankfully, I have managed to achieve this so far! This is paramount because without that clear direction all the aspects that make up Meenu Graziani Shoes would be lost: my designs, patterns, colours and brand identity. Having said that, I am completely open to feedback and always listening to my customers, family and friends so that I can incorporate their vision into future collections too!
Awesome! Retail is definitely a two-way street, so it’s nice to hear that you don’t shy away from customer feedback. What is your favourite thing about your job?
I love that I am my own boss! I also appreciate that every day is different; one day I might be meeting new people (either customers or people within the fashion industry) and the next, I might be meeting with my PR manager Amanda and planning for the months ahead. Another day, I might be working with a stylist and the day after, travelling to Portugal to have meetings with the factory who handcraft Meenu Graziani Shoes.
I love the nature of varied work too! And which is your favourite piece that you’ve ever created?
All my designs... But I do like the “Athena” gladiator sandals. I wanted to design a showstopper - something that really stood out from the crowd. Forget the simple black gladiator! I wanted to use materials that were fun, colourful and playful.
OMG! They are so fabulous and high fashion- I want them! What do you think makes Meenu Graziani stand out; is it the design?
I think Meenu Graziani Shoes are instantly recognisable! Our shoes are made with materials and patterns that you won’t see anywhere else. This allows the customer to create their own unique style and story through our pieces. I also think that the use of vibrant colours (inspired by my Indian heritage) are very hard to miss and look fantastic with any outfit; shoes that can take you from the boardroom to ballroom.
"I am looking to expand my brand and introduce a bridal collection in the future, which I’m very excited about."
Totally! The shoes have a real Carrie Bradshaw meets Asia aesthetic, which is ultra cool! Describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment.
To be honest, every time a magazine or publication (including yours!) decide to feature Meenu Graziani Shoes, it’s a big moment for me. It is so surreal to be able to say that I can count an array of British and International celebrities and influencers as fans of Meenu Graziani Shoes. These include the likes of Masoom Minawala from India, Mona Kattan from Dubai, Katherine Ryan from Canada, Susannah Reid, Andrea Mclean, Anna Williamson, Alex Scott and Neev Spencer from the U.K.
My designs have also been featured in the glossy pages of Grazia Pakistan, Hello!, Daily Mail, OK!, and Prima. I’m also a finalist for the Drapers Footwear ‘Designer of The Year’ Awards 2020, which I could not be more excited about!
That’s so great! It sounds like you are blazing on full steam ahead! Do you think you have a work/life balance?
I try to achieve a balance as much as possible, but some days are busier than others and I have to get things done. When you launch a new brand you have to be in constant communication with people and ensure decisions are made within tight time frames, so that work/life balance is something that I am definitely working on.
Aren’t we all? What words do you live by?
“When people tell you something is almost impossible to achieve, that means it is possible but it is your job to find out how."
Absolutely! What’s next for Meenu Graziani Shoes?
I want to get my new styles out, which have been delayed! I am also looking to expand my brand and introduce a bridal collection in the future, which I’m very excited about. I intend to work with new stockists in the U.K for this but would love to expand Meenu Graziani Shoes internationally. I cannot wait to see where this journey takes me!
Like what you read? Just head to the Meenu Graziani Shoes website to shop the collection now!
Alternatively, if you fancy checking out some of our previous interviews, you can find them here. Want more from CAROLINAGMX? Check this out: Tranexamic Acid: The New IT Acid You Need To Know!