Inspired by the world around her, Vanessa Mooney tries her hand at footwear designing. The designer creates handmade footwear inspired by the vintage shoes you wish you could fit into, as well as by the arts and crafts she finds in her travels—but there is nothing crafty about them. These shoes are carefully hand stitched with the finest materials and as easy breezy as the California native’s style. I recently asked her about her experience with expanding her popular jewelry line to every girl’s other love, shoes…
LIZ: What inspired you to branch off from your popular jewelry line and design shoes, particularly moccasins?
VANESSA: One day last year I came across these amazing shoes on a trip to Arizona for inspiration for my jewelry line. I was in this little vintage store in Tucson and found these moccasins I just died over! Of course they were like a size 6 and couldn’t fit in them! So, I decided why don’t we make moccasins! It’s so hard for us gals to find cool moccasins these days—what if we made some bad-ass styles ourselves?
L: Your designs always seem to draw from many interesting ethnic styles from African, Native American and Mexican cultures. Where does this influence come from?
V: I have always been drawn to different cultures and travel! I think my mind, naturally gravitates towards the art and the crafts from various parts of the world. I feel connected to the history of people, accessories and fashion and love incorporating it into my line!
L: How would you describe the typical Vanessa Mooney customer?
V: Creative, inspired and willing to step outside the box with fashion and accessories. They are their own person and can admire beauty in many things!
L: It’s so rare to see the craft of handmade shoes these days; is there a reason that you prefer to make them that way?
V: It’s special knowing that someone spent the time and craftsmanship to hand stitch a shoe together, create it with their minds and hands, in a world so focused on speed and profitability it is nice to feel the quality and skill that goes into something handmade!
L: How did you start your career as a designer?
V: It wasn’t something I was expecting I would spend my life doing but it was always in the back of my mind as a desire and need to be creating! It ultimately came about naturally for me and I just went for it! My ideas for jewelry and accessories are non-stop, there is never a moment when I run out of ideas or don’t know what I am going to design next. I grew up in a family of artists and was surrounded by art my whole life whether it was my mom’s writing, my grandmothers paintings, my brothers films or my family and friends incredible abilities… and everything beautiful that they were involved in! My mom traveled to Paris with me when I was very young and she told me that when I got back she gave me a set of watercolors and papers and I filled the entire house with paintings!
L: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
V: For shoes I think it would be really fun to do something with Jeffrey Campbell! I think his take on shoes are interesting and different in an incredible, .out of the ordinary way! Shoes to me should never be boring, expected or just a side note—just like jewelry!
L: If you were not an accessories designer what would you be doing?
V: I would be working with non-profit organizations helping people, educating them with the knowledge and the tools to face the adversities of life. I believe one must help others to survive well if you yourself are going to lead a happy life. To me art and the betterment of mankind; to seek out a more enlightened existence go hand in hand!
L: Can you tell us about your next collection, and what your influences are?
V: For shoes I am looking forward to expanding the collection this year with some really cool, colorful, and modern takes on old school moccasins! We are also working on some fun and unique leather sandals for summer/fall!
L: I know a lot of celebrities wear your designs, so who else would you love to see wearing Vanessa Mooney?
V: I am always excited to see beautiful talented girls wearing my stuff! When they could have anything they want and they decide to wear something of mine, it makes my day!
L: What accessory do you think no girl should be without?
V: A sweet pair of moccasins! And a good collection of casual jewelry!
By Liz Teich