A Conversation on the 2022 Independent Designer of the Year | Catia Di Carlo

May 16, 2023

Global Footwear Awards 2022 Category winner Catia Di Carlo discusses her vision for the AYUMA. Project.


Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional journey? How did the design come to have such an important role in your life?

I have always told myself I’ve been lucky to know from when I was 5 years old what I wanted: to be a Fashion Designer. Then after my study I shaped my career in Footwear.
My Mom shared her creativity with me and she made me grow flowing with that vibration. She taught me all she knows about tailoring, embroidery, crochet. My family has always supported me and I’m really thankful for it.
Design is expression, I would say is part of myself, something I need to do in several ways.
I’ve worked and lived abroad and I currently live in Italy working for a few brands as Design Director and Merchandising.


Is there a philosophy, a vision, or a special process that influences how you approach design? Would you say that you apply it to your life as well?

I could define myself eclectic. I’m attracted and inspired from whatever surrounds me… nature, travelling, art.
My process is quite full of adrenaline. Everyday is quite funny I know, but many many ideas pop out in my mind. Then some of them really gave me that fire I need and I can do it right away.
I could say I’m experienced and connected enough to Make it Happen. So for the creativity stage of the product I’m super enthusiastic and I don’t see any limits.
When it comes to Marketing and Sales it does become much harder for me and that’s the time where I kind of get demotivated and I let it go. As also in my personal life I like to do many different things and I do it with effort and enthusiasm. I know is not always the right choice.. cause after that I would start a new project again. So Yes, maybe this is the right Time to find someone that can support me on that part of the project that you need to have to call it business and get consistent.


How did you come up with the vision for the AYUMA Collection? How did you manage to join your experience in art itself while also focusing on sustainable production?

AYUMA is a brand I’ve created as a safe box for my creative projects.
During a trip to Tokyo I found out Ayuma means Dream – Desire and I thought it was the best way to call my own dream.
My vision of this latest project is a result of years of exploration through art and handcraft based on colors and images.
I wanted to mix the handwoven leather I have explored for a project of interior design presented for the first time in 2016. That project is called Woven life: pictures taken in Tibet and Patagonia of amazing people and nature and handwoven on leather to halve the percentage of colors leaving that beauty of the image when you step back from it. As in our life: sometimes we need to step back and have a bigger vision to see the actual beauty. Then I’ve mixed that project with colorful rubber eva bracelets I’ve developed.
I have worked as a Footwear Designer for 15 years and I’m still thinking of a business where there is so much waste. So I want to work thinking about sustaining the project producing with respect but mostly left over materials where possible.


What kind of feedback have you received and how do you deal with it?
I did receive nice feedback from people I know in the business, I got some interest in my profile too, so I have to say it has been definitively exciting and I thank you for it.
The project I presented is a concept that must be developed to become a capsule collection…
So I would say: stay tuned! It might be a great opportunity to start collaborations in the future.


What did you find most challenging while working on the collection and what did you enjoy the most?

I love to give shape to the construction and find the balance within colors and different materials.
I have always been attracted by colors and geometry.
Is challenging to create a product that is a mix of concepts, based on recovery materials and handcraft work.


Which designers do you admire the most? Do you take inspiration from their work when diving into a new project?

I got inspired from so many different artists and designers and I have to say it changes while travelling and discovering more thanks also to exhibitions around the world.
I could highlight Philippe Apeloig that impressed me years ago after a show where I’ve jumped in. His extraordinary evolution of graphics and color patterns has given me a great emotion since then.
Also Yves Saint Laurant and his impressive and exciting play of colors, the influence of geometry he got back in his early career was such an imprint in my mind.


What does winning the GFA Awards mean to you in terms of validation and recognition of your work in the footwear design industry?

I’m thankful to GFA for giving me the opportunity to show my vision and my name. I’m one of these professionals who has always worked “behind” creating what the market wants.
I did enjoy shaping my vision without business need or design request from the market.. not now.


Are you currently working on something new that you can tell us about?

I’m working on developing this concept for a capsule collection that can be spread across different heel heights and products.
Would be nice to find a way to showcase it later to the right stores.
Right now this slide has a strong approach to colors and volume. The target I’m referring to is quite aware of trend and not afraid to approach colors.
Surely I would like to play in a more soft way with colors in the collection development.
I’ve been travelling for a month across Papua and Bali right after the Award and I do feel the pure energy I want to work on it now.


How do you want people to feel when wearing your designs?

Ecstatic, Eclectic. Aware of art, aware of fashion but not a trend addicted through social media.
I would like AYUMA to be that woman that has been and loves traveling, she loves to be barefoot and comfy but she’re ready to pop a strong product with that personality when she wants.


Why is sustainable design so important to you personally?

Sustainability in my opinion in recent years became a word that many people in the fashion industry approach with and only Marketing focus.
I’m quite disappointed about it. Surely I would like to be as sustainable as possible but I want to do it consistently. I want to build designs that take into consideration all the supply chain.


What role do you think culture sustainability plays in the modern footwear industry?

The latest Mantra in Fashion is “make less, make better, give a longer life to products” . I would like to take these words seriously and make it happen taking in mind that some products are still quite seasonal but they must have a Story, that passion behind that makes them feel in some ways Unique.
Ayuma’s Motto is “Unique as YOU are” right because I hardly believe in it. I like those small impressions that skilled hands make.
The main concept in Ayuma is referring to CULTURE SUSTAINABILITY which means take that beauty of hand making. I want to give effort to my Italian background, the Country where I belong to and work with those ideas that can only be amazing if realized with maniacal patience, passion and care. On the big vision there is the idea to explore the same beauty across the word.
I’ve been travelling a lot in my life and I would love to build and explore that beauty across the word and the history of artisans.


How do you see your work evolving in the future, and what new sources of inspiration do you hope to explore?

Traveling is my main inspiration. I’m a travel addict, those people need to move, do things, go far and come back. I would call myself Dynamic and I would like to see my project like that too.
I love talking and getting personally woven with different cultures across the word. That was the base concept of my Art project where I do handwoven by hand.
So I do dream to make this traveling become part of it, find the economic support of someone who believes in evolution… cause I would like Ayuma to be in that way: I do change, the brand is doing it with me.


What advice would you offer to aspiring designers who dream of creating meaningful designs such as yours?

Somehow I believe that in the last years 3d art gave a great opportunity to all creative people like me. I would suggest not to stop in front of a screen but get hands on taking the advantage needed from these programs but learning how to actually do this amazing job of showing creativity.