Dina Aller

In Conversation With: Dina Aller

May 1, 2021

Global Footwear Awards Category winner Dina Aller discussed WA/Harmony, GFA 2020 winning design.

Making its debut on the international design stage, Global Footwear Awards (GFA) has begun its global search to identify the most innovative design in footwear. WA/Harmony was awarded the best in Women’s Casual category for student level.


GFA talks with Dina about  her  background and her winning project.

Tell us more about your project?

My idea was to make sandals whose design would be historically associated with Japanese culture. I was inspired by Japanese hieroglyphs. Japanese historical philosophy is conveyed by the hieroglyph Wa. Wa (“Japan, Japanese”) in China, Korea, and Japan were so named in Japan until the 8th century. Wa means “harmony, peace, balance”. Japan is a world leader in life expectancy. The secret lies in a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet. For the project, I chose natural materials based on a healthy lifestyle. WA unisex sandals can be fully extended for easy storage and transport.


What is your background?

My name is Dina. I live in Tallinn, Estonia. I am studying for a master’s degree in Accessory Design at Estonian Academy of Art.
I had earned a Bachelor’s degree in Programming and Accessory Design. I work as a graphic designer.
I like painting, reading, and travel sports.


What do you see as the strengths of your winning project? 

Deep exploration of the topic and strong concept


What does this award mean to you personally? 

I wanted to try my strengths and get feedback. For me, this is personal growth and support.


What was most important for you when working on this project and what were the biggest challenges you faced? 

The most important thing was to get to the point, find and understand how to give an abstract idea a form. My mentor taught me not to wait for inspiration, but to seek, use different techniques and bring ideas to life.


What is your guiding design principle? 

Simplicity, aesthetics and functionality


Where do you get motivation and inspiration from for your work? 

From philosophy


How/when did you discover that you wanted to work in design? 

I don’t know exactly, it happened by itself. I have always been multifunctional, my first higher education was programming, then I started to do graphic design, opened my own company to design jewelry. At some point, I realized that I wanted to go further, reveal my potential, entered the art academy and discovered a new world for myself!


Is there something [shoes or any other product] that you wished you had designed? 

Bookbinding, but shoes also appeal to me, because shoe design is a complex process due to the many surfaces.


How do you think your own culture and environment has shaped your personal and professional creative vision? 

Absolutely. I grew up in a foreign culture, which remained a mystery until I knew the language of the country in which I was born. But it allowed me to see the culture of the country from the outside. An outside perspective on other cultures is very useful for me, it allows me to see the whole picture, and only then an in-depth study opens up new facets and opportunities.


Tell us about a project which has been your greatest achievement? 

Today it is undoubtedly the GFA, but also last year I was lucky enough to receive the Student Prize for book binding of the exhibition of artistic bookbindings Scripta Manent VI  http://www.scriptamanent.ee/indexE.html


Which designer in footwear industry do you most admire and why? 

The first person who comes to mind is Ferragamo, his design is innovative, aesthetic and functional.


How do you feel footwear design has evolved over the past years and how do you see it evolving in the future? 

3D is striking, I think it will develop sustainable. It will be easier to manufacture and of course less chemicals will be used, allowing for safe disposal or reuse.


What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities in your career and the industry now? 

In my country, I see that I do not have many opportunities, since we do not have many companies engaged in the production of footwear, and many of those that worked last year are already closed today.


What would be your dream design project? 

I would like to work for a large company and get more experience. I would like to work on large projects in a team, make a design for people so that it is in demand.


What’s your creative process and what creative software do you use? 

Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, AutoCAD, Fusion360


What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a shoe design?  What piece of information is of utmost value? 

Why? The answer to this question may be endless, but it allows you to see the essence of the problem or task.


What kind of culture or structure needs to exist to foster successful team collaboration? 

Trust, I think, is also openness. Listening often solves many questions.


How do you deal with feedback? 

Positively, this is experience and knowledge on the basis of which analysis and conclusions can be drawn.


What are you working on now, what is in the pipeline for you? 

Above 2 projects – one of them related to the book business, the other to fashion. I can’t say any more until I’m finished. I’m keeping them a secret.


How has the pandemic affected your work and design process? 

I began to work at home more time. I’m a freelancer, so I just changed my environment.


How do you feel about the topic of sustainability in regards to footwear design in general?

In general  it is good, I think it will give positive changes. Since the topic of resilience is a revolution of thinking in the first place.


What would you tell your younger self seeing you winning the awards? 

Be brave and more confident in yourself.


What is your design mantra you live by? 

Do for people what you would like for yourself.


With so many designs coming out daily, how do you keep pushing boundaries in footwear deign? 

I have different directions in design, in general I am engaged in graphic design and design of accessories. I don’t have many shoe design projects separately.


Where do you start when tackling innovative design solutions?

From the analysis and solution of the question why.


What advice would you give to future aspiring footwear designers? 

Don’t limit yourself.


What do you think will keep pushing the footwear industries forward? 

Technology, of course. The easier and faster, the cheaper and more profitable I think.


What do you wish to see more of in the footwear industries? 

More natural materials.


How do you handle pressure in design?

I turn my attention to other things. I like to attend painting and drawing classes, it allows me to just create without solving any problems.


How do you feel about the impact of new technology towards footwear design and the industry as a whole? 

I think this process is like a locomotive, it rushes changing our views and opinions. I am a connoisseur of traditional technologies, I would like this locomotive to carry a train that includes the knowledge and skills that people have accumulated over the years. Mastering traditional techniques allows you to take a new look at technology.