Acclaimed Shoe Designer Alejandro Ingelmo: "My Aesthetic Is Being Latin, Being From Miami"
Photos by Nycole Sariol
It's not everyday you hear about a Miami cobbler making it big time in the luxury fashion market. Sure, you have brands and designers like Del Toro and Alexis helping etch a reputation of reverence for our city, but not too many follow behind them.
There is one, however, who has managed to branch out and bring his hometown justice to the further reaches of Manhattan. His name: Alejandro Ingelmo, and he's so good at designing and turning out shoes, he's even raked up a fair share of nominations and awards to prove just what a wizard he is when it comes to taking care of one's sad, tired soles.
In 2008, CFDA named Ingelmo one of its Vogue Fashion Fund Top Ten candidates, and in 2009 and 2011, he was up for a nomination for the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design. Ingelmo went on to later swoop up the Artistic Achievement Award at El Museo Gala in New York as the category's first accessory designer and youngest recipient to do so this year in May, according to Women's Wear Daily.
Despite his forenamed accolades, however, that's not the reason why Cultist convened with the handsome footwear designer during the chaos of New York Fashion Week; instead, his shoe craftsmanship was the cause for our Miami attendance at the Robert Miller Gallery in Chelsea -- more specifically his Spring/Summer 2015 collection.
"This season most of the materials used are very light. I played off of a lot of nudes and whites," said a soft-spoken Ingelmo. He pointed to the entrance of the gallery, where white, leather skater sneakers inlayed with muted metallic detailing on its upper sat atop the same mirrored crate as white iridescent stilettos, donning geometric cut outs with a towering gradual arch.
The layout of the presentation was simple; it mimicked that of a shoe store within the borders of the ample art gallery. Five crates lined up in the middle of the gallery to display a color gradient of Ingelmo's Spring collection for the year to come -- from white, airy tones, to a darker richness of coppers, reds, and blacks. It told a story of divinity slowly being infiltrated down to the pit of our earth's core, represented by provocative black lace-up stilettos topped off with reddish-copper Specchio metallic leather running down its sides and leopard print descending its heel and pointed-tips, and the designer's go-to sneakers, the Tron, completely entrenched in the same iron-like skin.
Although the presentation ranged from supernal bliss to a molten-y doom, it could have also been interpreted differently. Perhaps, it was Alejandro's story of saying adios to his beloved Madre patria of Miami through pieces like his peaked mules, outlined with ultramarine blue and mint, iridescent leather and nude mesh and grey, suede paneling, leading into the cutthroat lifestyle of New York, evolving into more architectural pieces and embracing the blunt reality of city-life darkness.
Or maybe we completely over-analyzed the situation and there was no story of cataclysmic downfall or courageous odyssey behind the collection. Maybe the dude just really likes making dope, futuristic looking shoes. But we might be onto one thing: Ingelmo never forgets where he came from, confessing that Miami always finds its way into his collections.
"My aesthetic is being Latin and being from Miami and the warm weather. With women's [shoes], I like to show a little bit of skin, playing with pattern to make a woman look sexy. I like a design that stands out, and of course, that's a very 'Miami' thing," Ingelmo says.
Ingelmo launched his first collection of women's shoes in 2006, and later introduced his men's line of sneakers and slip-ons in 2007. But his cobbling roots were embedded long before the Cuban-American was born. The Ingelmo name was first famed by Alejandro's great-gramps back in Salmanca, Spain -- a small city an hour and a half outside of Madrid in the province of Castilla y León -- as the town's premier cobbler. Abuelito Ingelmo thereafter set sail to Cuban soil, where Ingelmo Shoes was praised as one of the country's most prestigious manufactures, known for its handmade wingtips.
But like most Cubans during the '60s, the Ingelmo family fled to Miami, free from the communist tyranny of Fidel's grip, and where footwear ingenious was taken to next-level status with the family of cobblers' last installment, Alejandro.
And while the shoe designer's non-stop city life keeps the self-proclaimed perfectionist busy, manning his boutique off of Wooster Street in Midtown, he somehow is able to set aside time to jet-set down to his old stomping grounds in Miami.
"I go back to Miami for Thanksgiving and Christmas," like any good, lechon-lovin' Cuban boy would.
But this year, Alejandro is expected back to the 305 a little ahead of schedule. The New York-based designer is set to host a private meet-and-great at the swanky, high-end South Miami boutique, Capretto on September 18 from 4 to 7 p.m., where he'll unveil his Fall 2014 collection to Miami's experts in consumerism.
And though Alejandro has amassed renowned glory having been featured in GQ, WWD, and Elle, one thing is certain: you can take the boy out of Miami, but you definitely can't take the Miami out of the boy.
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