In Conversation With: Marija Vlasova
May 1, 2021
Global Footwear Awards Category winner Marija Vlasova discussed Woolings World, 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. Woolings World was awarded the best in Men’s Casual category for independent level.
Woolings Worldis a handmade 100% wool felt shoes and boots, produced in Latvia/EUROPE. We are using high quality German felt, that is comfortable for walking. Your feet don’t sweat and feel free and warm in cold conditions. Our product is Vegeterian, we use rubber or faux leather only. The production of every new pair of Woolings starts with measurements, making sure it fits perfectly! Next – client chooses his model and color combination, so each pair is unique and one of a kind. Wool is a breathable fabric and our loafer design is great for summer, so Woolings can be worn all year long.
All started back in 1986 in Riga, Latvia. Maria was born. From early childhood M was dressing herself in her own manner. Starting sewing at the age of 9, she was creating interesting peaces, while there was nothing on the market.
At that time M’s mother became makeup artist, so they started to experiment together. And From 15 years M already started to work as stylist and assistant with her MoM, who became professional photographer herself.
At the same time she decided to go to art school in Riga, and made it through a big competition and finished with diploma in Fashion design and knitwear. It was interesting and challenging times. After learning how to sew, draw, create, M was so excited, that she left country and moved to London at the age of 19. Her aim was to study in Central Saint Martins. Going through summer courses in that famous university, M was dreaming to come back.
Now she is in London and life isn’t so easy on her without contact’s or even money. Working in few places, before landing in Harrods, Escada.
Great job to learn how to sell, and she turns into the best sales assistant in 3 month. But after one year M realised, she should go home and make something she can call her own. 6 months later “Underwater Revolution” collection was born. It was presented during Riga Fashion Week. This collection made her famous among Fashion folk in Riga, M made some more projects like labourer cloth, more fashion show’s in Riga followed, Fashion show in Moscow Fashion Week, Fashion Jewellery brand and some more.
She is 22 now, working in movie “Miss Irenas children” as costume designer, finding out she is pregnant. After giving birth to Rada, she decided to start a new project, warm Vegetarian shoes.
Starting from nothing, just an idea in her mind, M made Europe/Ukrainian trip to find all required components and Woolings was born. Thousands of shoes, all custom & handmade were sold and made every customer happy, before Maria got sick and shut down everything.
After two years M managed to reopen brand, but with totally new look, models, fabrics and concept.
New Woolings became Woolings World on The 8th Of November 2019.
GFA talks with Marija’s about her winning project.
What do you see as the strengths of your winning project?
We believe that our individual approach highlights the philosophy of Woolings.
What does this award mean to you personally?
I see it as a recognition of years of hard work
What was most important for you when working on this project and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
Having to go through multiple ups and downs over the years
What is your guiding design principle?
Comfort is the king
Where do you get motivation and inspiration from for your work?
The feedback and positive energy coming from satisfied customers keeps me rolling
How/when did you discover that you wanted to work in design?
I wasn’t sure about the future calling even while I was at the design school, but made up my mind right after the graduation sensing that making comfortable footwear is my path
How do you think your own culture and environment has shaped your personal and professional creative vision?
I guess it resulted in making practical and comfortable product
What would be your dream design project?
I would love to create a sustainable bag design
What kind of culture or structure needs to exist to foster successful team collaboration?
Trust, mutual respect, creative freedom and inspiring experience
What are you working on now, what is in the pipeline for you?
Working on a new shoe design
How has the pandemic affected your work and design process?
Our footwear is created to be sold in boutiques, we need a direct contact with our audience. Selling online is a challenge for us
How do you feel about the topic of sustainability in regards to footwear design in general?
It’s a cornerstone of my philosophy. Sustainable, comfortable and …..at some point affordable shoes
What is your design mantra you live by?
Comfort and simplicity
With so many designs coming out daily, how do you keep pushing boundaries in footwear design?
By staying true to myself and the principles I have started with
What advice would you give to future aspiring footwear designers?
Be yourself, follow your own path.
What do you think will keep pushing the footwear industries forward?
Innovative, sustainable design
How do you handle pressure in design?
I have distanced myself from pressure of having to create, it comes naturally when I feel doing so.