In the world of fashion where male models are disposable, good looking but nothing more, Armando stands out. He is black, neither athletic nor feminine, he simply does not fit the industry standards. The brainy model, he had a stint at wall street before coming back to modelling, worked for Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Benetton, H&M… You got it? Armando is one of a kind and for his professional rebirth, he decided to mix all his passions in one big shoe company. Let’s hear what he has to say about his journey.
Your modeling career started as a fairy tale. Being a model is like running a company about yourself, yet you decided you wanted more?You are right, my modeling career began like a fairy tale. If my life was a movie it would have been a great one. It all started when I moved from Lisbon to London to study. People used to always approach me on the streets of London to ask if I was a model, and when I decided to look for an agency, none wanted me. I refused to take NO for an answer and kept on going to the same agency, until they signed me up the fourth time. Of course the rest is history, but it never been easy.
After 10 years of modeling for all major fashion houses in Milan, Paris and New York, I began learning more about the business of fashion. I have always loved shoes and my academic background is business so I wanted to combine those two to start my shoe brand. In the beginning it was just me handling everything, and slowly we started growing. We are now a team of 4 people in the office and few freelancers working continuously on the project base.
Is managing a team natural to you or are you an eternal student?Managing people isn’t an easy job. However, I would like to say I’m very good with people. I like to work as a team where everyone is inclusive. But it is something you keep on learning as you go.
I have read you have a life long passion for shoes, can you tell us more about it?
I can’t deny it, I love Shoes – In fact that’s how everything started. As you might know, I am not a trained designer. My Academic background is business. I went to London to study architecture, and ended up switching to business course but I always loved designing. Modeling opened up the opportunity for me to learn more about my passion.
I saw and wore a lot of shoes – good and bad. That helped me defining what I wanted and I went on to create my own brand.
So we are talking about Italian made shoes that are big in Japan from a guinean model. Is global the second name of your brand?
I describe myself as a global nomad. Basically a modern man that is always on-the-go. I travel a lot and mostly short trips. For someone like me who loves shoes and traveling, you have to think global, so I do create with global concepts in mind. A shoe that will serve you in Japan, Milan, New York, Paris and Africa.
What is so special about your brand besides the sock free concept?
I believe modern men deserves a shoe that conveys a timeless aesthetic without sacrificing comfort. Our Shoe’s interior possesses ultra-flexible insoles, supple lining that molds to your foot, and constructions techniques to ensure quality and performance.
Are you designing the lines?
Yes, along with my design team. I am involved in every aspect of the business, from day-to-day operations, to factory visits and design. It is something very important to me.
Any African influence in the collections?
Definitely. From the beginning, I always wanted to add my African heritage in my collections. Few seasons ago, we named all the shoes in the collection after regions in Guinea-Bissau to give it the identity of who I am and teach people about my background. I also once created a capsule collection for Guinea-Bissau Pavillion at Expo in Milan, all made out of African fabric.
What about Women ?
A women line is something we are still considering and working on. Unlike man, women shoes requires far more detailing and considerations. And it is a tough market to tap into. When time is right it will happen.