Portuguese ballerina turned shoe designer shows nothing is impossible

The external beauty of a woman is somehow closely linked to shoes that she wears. But not any type of shoe! It should be more than just one thing. This is what Filipa Julio, founder of Josefinas, a Portuguese luxury shoe brand has done with her chic footwear designs that she reckons are aimed at feminine, elegant, adventurous and practical women. The name of the label is derived from her grandmother Josefina simply as a way to honor her and the country’s ever glorious craftsmanship.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, we caught up with her to discuss her journey from a ballerina to designing shoes, what makes them unique and much more.
Julio’s passion for ballet dancing grew thanks to her grandma who often took her to ballet classes. While she enjoyed every bit of it, she wanted to do justice to it with something special once she bade adieu to it. “I had a dream of creating a shoe line that would honor my past as a ballerina and future as a modern woman. I wanted to inspire women and show them that nothing is impossible in today’s world,” she says.
An architect by profession Julio founded Josefinas in 2013. She knew nothing about shoes then and didn’t even go to any prestigious school to study the art and craft of shoemaking although her grandfather was in the shoe making business. However, she quickly learned what goes behind designing great shoes once she started working and came up with her first collection that comprised classic ballet flats.
She uses materials such as real leather, suede, faux fur and velvet in the making of shoes. When it comes to color, she thinks it’s important and therefore needs to be applied with absolute perfection. But there is one more thing that can’t be overlooked as Julio puts it, “Sometimes a certain style works in one color and doesn’t work in another. I believe though that material choice and construction is fundamental too.”
It’s mostly strong and fearless women Julio feels inspired by when it comes to making shoes. “These women love to travel and admire handmade products. The Thelma & Louise collection, for example, is inspired by the leading female characters that broke free from their anguished existence, thus finding their cherished freedom. Or the Rose Bold collection which seeks inspiration in Rosa Parks and the way she questioned the social status,” she says.
Her latest shoe collection titled “Rose Couture” which is a very special edition is more or less a genuine step toward recognizing Portugal’s embroiderers and their almost extinct savoir-faire. “By collaborating with several talented women (who learned this grand art from their grandmothers) embroiderers gathered from across the Sousa Valley, Portugal, we created Josefinas Rose Couture,” Julio says.
Lots of great women have worn her designed shoes: Eva Chen, Whitney Port, Chiara Ferragni, Sara Sampaio, Gloria Steinem and the list goes on. Asked whether celebrity endorsement matters to her, she says, “Yes, it does. I love and feel honored when celebrities wear our designed shoes. The masses are equally important to me. If they are also fond of my shoes, there is no reason to not feel flattered.”
And in terms of future plans for the label, Julio’s only effort would be to keep coming up with elegant designs and in so doing being able to enter new markets. “This is how Josefinas will prevail in years to come,” she says.