In this week's Miami New Times, we profile 30 of the most interesting characters in town, with portraits of each from photographer Stian Roenning. See the entire Miami New Times People Issue here.
Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook rock them. GQ calls them its "favorite slippers." Fashionistas from Milan to Manhattan fork over four figures for exotic models made of ostrich skin or stamped with gold designs from famed artists.
So it's hard to believe the man behind Del Toro Shoes, one of the hottest brands on Earth, is only 28 years old. Yet Matthew Chevallard has built a mini footwear empire spanning from his Wynwood showroom to his production facilities in Italy.
Chevallard was still in high school when he started Del Toro with two of his buddies. A self-proclaimed "brand whore," the Italian-born Chevallard set out to make shoes that would bewitch him as much as his beloved Nikes and Ralph Laurens.
"I remember the thrill of getting a new pair of shoes when I was younger. I still have my entire sneaker collection," he says, pointing to a series of shelves in his office/design studio.
Like Chevellard himself, the product of an American mother and an Italian father, Del Toro shoes are a blend of New World prepster and European luxury. "I wanted to create something that I would be as intrigued and enthralled by as those companies that really mastered the art of branding," he says.
Chevallard, who studied entrepreneurship at the University of Miami, began by creating customized velvet slippers at a reasonable price. Nearly ten years later, the brand has taken off, with celebrities like Wade and Pharrell Williams donning the colorful kicks.
For Chevallard, having Wade's approval was a watershed moment in his career. "It meant something to me," he says. "I was making large-sized customized and personalized shoes for these individuals, and it became kind of a fashion race. Dwyane identified with me, and he was the first guy to endorse Del Toro."
The Miami Heat star has since loaded up with more than 70 pairs, Chevallard says. "It just trickled down, and other players wanted to wear them as well."
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The young entrepreneur isn't stopping at shoes. Chevallard's goal is to shape Del Toro into a leading lifestyle brand for men, a hipper version of Polo for millennials.
"Men are accepting fashion," he says. "What was once considered European or metrosexual is now just cool."