There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic impacted luxury retail and has taken a particularly harsh toll on several fashion brands across the globe. However, the pandemic also spurred entrepreneurship and new business lines, and we believe those that have pivoted the pandemic may be more resilient in the future. Take Alfredo Piferi for example, the shoe veteran that has launched a namesake shoe brand amid COVID peak in 2020. Enter PĪFERI.
The Founder and Creative Director has had his fair share in the footwear industry creating soles for souls at some of the most prominent fashion houses including Burberry and Jimmy Choo. Now, given the creative freedom to create his own label, Piferi took a sustainable route to offer luxury, animal-free designer shoes so that we don’t have to feel guilty when fronting beautiful footwear designs.
Previously, when thinking of a vegan shoe, your mind automatically turns to a sneaker or generally less sexy styles but at PĪFERI, vegan shoes are made divine. With the feminine and surreal dream at the core of the design’s inspirations, the vast collection features 100% vegan pumps, boots, sandals, cutaway mules, and flats – each made with exceptional craftsmanship and sculptural brilliance.
Below, we caught up with the shoe veteran to learn more about his journey into footwear, the company’s social responsibility and more…
Can you tell us a little bit about your beginnings in the footwear industry?
Yes! I’m a trained menswear designer and my education was actually in menswear but then, my first job was at Valentino. When I entered the design offices at Valentino, I was so fascinated about shoes – so much so that the footwear designer back then said to me: “We don’t have any openings for you, but I think it’s something you should pursue because it looks like it’s a big passion for you.” That’s what I did. I started looking for different jobs and Versace called me and offered me my first job in shoes. I really discovered my passion and I think in life, that’s just a demonstration that we should always keep our eyes open and never get to set to one idea only.
What is it about footwear that you love so much?
I think first, it’s the architectural side of it. I wanted to be an architect when I was young, but I was terrible in mathematics. But I guess with shoes, I can really explore the 3D element that is kind of architectural and sculptural. Also, I love how shoes interact with our bodies, more than any other piece of garment. First of all, shoes take you to places – we walk with shoes and there’s a connection there. Second, is the way it modifies your posture, your walk and the way you feel. And to me, that’s quite special.
You launched your brand in 2020, primetime COVID. Tell us about what the process of launching your own brand was like?
Well, it was an interesting process because, of course, I was coming from Jimmy Choo. I was working there for the past five years and when you design for another brand, there’s a blank piece of paper and you have all these possibilities in front of you. It really comes down to who you are, what you want to express and what vision you want to put into the world. That was my first step. Understanding what my message was.
What’s the message?
I knew that I wanted my shoes to be sensual with an element of surrealism and a divined look. But, at the same time, I wanted to launch shoes with some values, and I stopped eating meat seven years ago, and so I wanted the brand to be a bit different and special.
“I want to be remembered as someone who changed the perception of a product, and in my case, I wanted to change the perception on how we imagine vegan shoes.”
Launching your own brand, didn’t you feel at all intimidated for competing in terms of luxury?
Of course! However, I do believe that there is space for everybody ultimately, and there are a lot of brands that are all successful for different reasons obviously. I don’t think there is a competition deep down. Different brands offer different options, but I have to say that the main challenge was because I was designing Jimmy Choo for five years, I was a bit hesitant to fully be myself when it came to my brand because I was scared that people would see Jimmy Choo in my shoes. So for the first few collections, I felt quite held back in terms of the sexy side of it. But eventually, you are who you are and my DNA exploded, especially after the lockdown and you can see people having fun, dancing and embracing themselves. OK, now I need to connect with my true self.
When you think of vegan shoes, many might think it’s just the leather itself. Your shoes are quite different because all elements are vegan…
Yes. Simply enough, the satin I use for my shoes is the only satin on the market that doesn’t use silk. There are all these little parts that make the products really honest to the customer.
How challenging is it to source these materials?
It’s incredibly challenging for different reasons. First of all, because the demand is increasing now but only until very recently. There wasn’t such a big demand for it on a luxury level. To find the materials that performs and are durable, they’re appealing, you have a very limited pool that you can explore.
You launched with quite a generous collection. When designing your pieces, who do you think of as that PĪFERI customer?
Well, it could be anyone that connects with the product really. I always refrain from profiling a customer because you always end up judging all of the people that don’t fit into that profile and it doesn’t stand for me. The collection is so broad because there are so many individuals that can find a piece that is for them in the collection.
You were in Dubai recently launching your collections at Level Shoes in The Dubai Mall. What are some of the styles you think resonate most with your Middle Eastern clientele and why?
I can tell they love the 70m heel with crystal accessories. In terms of colours, I think blue, pink and green. But overall, all of the crystal embellishments, the shine, and whatever attracts attention is something that works really wear for the region. I would also say the mesh works well with the region and it gives this glimpse of skin. I’m waiting to see the success of those styles hopefully in the region.
If you could have your ultimate dream celebrity wearing your designs, who would it be?
Probably Beyoncé. It’s an easy answer (laughs). But generally, I love powerful individuals with a sense of self, with a strong purpose of what they do. So, every time I see a beautiful woman in terms of spirit and energy that wears my shoes, I’m so happy.
Obviously, you must be so proud of everything you accomplished in the past two years. What are you the proudest of?
I’m most proud of creating a company in such a challenging time and in such a short time as well. That makes me so proud and also, having accomplished the aim of creating shoes that are luxurious but have no elements of animal components. It was challenging in the beginning.
Now, which style would you suggest for the following occasions:
Business Lunch: Avant Garde (a new pump launching before Christmas but for what’s in store now, Ursula in Black).
Date night: Ursula mesh – absolutely! No doubt.
A shopping spree: Perhaps the Tremaine Flat.
Day brunch: Drizella flat mules with a brouch.
Girls’ night out: Maggio