Nina Nayema designed by Naimo Awale

At what point did you figure out “I want to design shoes?”

I think it was back when I was in high school and I started working at Yorkdale mall.  It was then I imagined the perfect pair of shoes that would give me the appearance of those pretty stylish girls who wear sexy stiletto and knowing full well I could not walk in high heels. I remember wishing someone could design the perfect shoe for an awkward tall girl that could make me look classy and chic.

Are you self-taught or did you study fashion design?

I've never studied fashion in school, the closest thing to fashion design I did was make-up artistry at Seneca College part time. Business and accounting was my full time studies.

Do you ever read fashion or design magazines?

No, I don't often read fashion magazines.

What inspires you as a footwear designer?

My inspiration comes from some amazing people I've met in my life, clients, friends, family, places I've been, cultural background and it's become a way I can express my ever changing emotions. Fashion to me is an amazing way to express yourself, and when I design I do it with the essence of the person in mind or a feeling inside.

Do you have a motto when it comes to shoes?

Yes, "Capturing your style, grace, and beauty in every design". My passion is to design shoes that is someone's dream pair, weather it is a simple flat or a pair of heels they have dreamed of for their special day.

What are your criteria for well-constructed and well-designed shoes?

The quality of the shoe and embracing the diversity of women's shoe sizes so that anyone can find a pair of NINA NAYEMA shoes in any size.

What style of shoes do you like and dislike?

Can't really say I dislike a style of shoes, but I do love any eye catching pair in whatever style it is designed.

Of all the shoes that you’ve designed, which has given you the most satisfaction?

I think I would say my Mimi pointed toe full suede wedges with the gold wedge heel detail. It had an almost mirror like finish that when you had it on it looked like it doesn't have a heel at all. And the best part was it was low and comfortable enough to walk and work in them. (Photo attached )

What do you wish people would understand about working in fashion industry?

I think in any industry it's always a learning process and everything comes with experience, drive and passion.  

If i were a supervillain; what would your powers be and why?

I think I would say the power to see the future. So that I can see the outcome of everything. No surprises!

What’s next for you?

We are working on a couple of projects and always creating new designs whether it is jewellery, handbags or shoes.

Anything we should be keeping our eyes open for the future?

Of course, for NINA NAYEMA. We hope to become Canada's Number 1 shoe brand.

In Conversation with Rodrigo Sanchez

What made you decide to quit your job from big oil company and move to italy and attend Ars Sutoria?

I knew from the beginning I did not want a long term career in the oil and gas industry. It was not my calling. But, I am very thankful for the experience and opportunities it presented. I always had a passion for working with leather and using my hands. I guess it runs in the family. My grandfather and father have been working with leather since they were young. It was their way to express their creativity. I remember growing up hanging out with my dad in our basement watching him make shoes, sandals and all kinds of unique pieces. At 28 years of age I decided it was time to get serious about shoe designing. My mom planted the seed about studying abroad, so I let the idea process. During that time my mom had a good friend who's brother from Chile was visiting Edmonton and he is a shoe pattern maker. And that's how I met one of my mentors, Florencio Borquez a 70 year old man who has been pattern making since he was 14. He introduced me to the art of pattern making. This really inspired me to get educated about the craft. I asked him if he could recommend any institutes. He told me all the best pattern makers he's met all attended Ars Sutoria in Milan, Italy. This solidified my decision to attend Ars Sutoria.

Do you ever read fashion or design magazines?


What inspires you as a footwear designer?

My parents own and operate a shoe repair. So we are always around shoes. Many beautiful luxury shoes are serviced at our shop. It isn't hard to find inspiration there. My family always encouraged and inspired me to express myself with shoe making and I'm so grateful for that. They are my greatest inspiration.

Are there any materials that you would like to explore further?

I am trying to explore as many different leathers that are ethical. These days transparency is more common which helps choosing materials.  I am truly a believer in quality and that's what you will get with hand crafted leather shoes.

Do you have a motto when it comes to shoes?

My motto is quality over quantity. Well-made shoes are always a good investment.

What are your criteria for well-constructed and well-designed shoes?

You can tell the quality of a shoe usually by the materials that are used. Well-made shoes are designed to be maintained and serviced. For example; a quality shoe with a leather sole can be re soled up to 3-5 times depending on the client of course and how often they moisturize the upper leather. This will ensure years of enjoyment.


What style of shoes do you like and dislike?

I admire all shoes. I am trying to get as much experience as possible with all kinds of designs. They each have a uniqueness to them. Some are more challenging then others. But you learn more when overcoming obstacles. Sometimes I'll get stuck late in the studio and then after a good night sleep I have no problem figuring it out and moving on. It's a good idea to have a few projects going on at the same time to help stay stimulated.

Of all the shoes that you’ve designed, which has given you the most satisfaction?

The next one.

If someone is interested in ordering shoes from Zapato Sanchez, what advice can you give them about selecting style and colour?

Don't be afraid to express your creative side. Be true to your inner artisan.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

To awaken the public of the existence of locally made shoes where they can be directly involved with their creation.