Elle AyoubZadeh is Founder and Creative Director of Zvelle. Founded in 2015, Elle started the brand with the mission of inspiring women to #WalkHowYouWant. Elle was frustrated with the fashion industry’s limited portrayal of women, and she believed in the importance of telling different women’s stories. Elle has built Zvelle with her unique vision: designing exquisite, handcrafted products for the global-minded, intelligent women, and sharing inspirational stories about women who broaden definition of female beauty and achievement along the way.
Zvelle defines itself as a challenger brand, can you tell us why that is important to you?
A challenger brand is defined primarily by a mindset and by going against or defying conventions or existing norms. I consider Zvelle a challenger brand because we are doing exactly that, changing the narrative of how women are portrayed and perceived through fashion. Being a challenger brand is embedded in our DNA, it is why we name our products after specific women and why we choose to share those stories. We are walking how we want and that in itself is a challenger mindset.
Your professional background was not in the fashion industry, how has your journey been as a founder and entrepreneur going against the grain?
I get asked this question a lot and in almost always any article written about me it’s mentioned that I am not a formally trained designer. I think the fact that I have done what I have done and how I have gone about it has only been possible because I was NOT trained formally. I brought a different perspective to designing shoes and bags and that enabled me to create a different kind of fashion brand. My curiosity helped me learn from the best craftspeople, and I’ve spent my 10,000 + hours in the factory which helped my learning curve. Like all entrepreneurs, my journey has been colorful and full of ups and downs. It’s challenging going against the grain and I’ve never been shy of pursuing challenges directly.
You are Zvelle’s Founder and Creative Director, how does your vision for the brand influence how you approach design?
My vision for the brand is bigger than any one design. My vision may not change so much with time, but my approach to design is always evolving as I want to create products that bring functionality and beauty to women’s life. I want to design and create products that are relevant to the Zvelle woman, and relevant is something that changes with time. To stay relevant my approach has to evolve with time. For example, pre-Covid and post Covid, while my design philosophy remains consistent I have to be mindful of this new world we are living in and what the Zvelle woman needs. Do I really need to create ten different kinds of pumps that are not so different, or do I create one stunning pump like our Rayna pump and bring her newness with different colors and materials? What will never change is my desire to create designs that have longevity so that she can wear we craft for for years to come and even pass them on to someone she loves.
What are your design inspirations?
My favorite design inspirations are the ones that stand for something and have meaning. For example, our upside-down heart motif, a signature of mine, is the symbol for the number five in the Persian language. I can play with this inspiration in endless ways and I have done so through the shoes I have designed using the number five as an inspiration.
I tend to be inspired by things that are not showy and at the same time have some boldness and personality to them. I love architecture and furniture design and I collect chairs, so I am always inspired by artists and creators who specialize in different mediums.
To be alive is to be inspired and so my inspirations are endless.
What are the Zvelle creations you are most proud of?
This is like asking me who my favorite child is. I love all our creations and I am proud of all of them. If I ever to name some favorites of our customers it would be our Rayna styles (pumps, flats, sneakers), Editke bag, Ray bag and our V shoes.
All of your products have the “Walk How You Want” slogan, what does that mean to you, and what do you hope it means to the women who wear your shoes?
To me, Walk How You Want means to live life in a way that feeds my soul and to walk with purpose and passion. I want to live in such a way that when I take my last breath I feel like I truly lived. You can only truly live if you listen to that deep inner voice that we all have inside of us instead of listening to all the chatter around us, or trying to fit in to all the different silos around us. I hope it reminds the women who wear our shoes that they are unique and it is their uniqueness that we celebrate. I hope it connects them with themselves, and they feel the inner joy and power to go do whatever they want to do in their days and life.
Do you have advice for women (or men!) who aspire to #WalkHowYourWant?
My only advice is for them to be themselves and to love and accept themselves as they are. Walking how we want is done by taking one step after another, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. When we talk and operate in our own truth instead of trying to please others or fit in we discover our own power and that is life changing.