He fled Syria because of the war. Landed in Spain, and then France. The choice of Italian materials for his sneakers, matured (also) thanks to Lineapelle. Four years to achieve his dream of producing in Italy. Daniel Essa founded his own brand in 2017, and is now an award-winning designer. As evidenced by the following: a few hours after attending the last Micam Milano among the Emerging Designers, he won the Footwear Designer of the Year award at the Drapers Footwear Awards 2021. Here is our interview.
The exemplary story of Daniel Essa
Why did you choose to produce in Italy?
I came to Spain from Syria. Here, I looked for a producer, but I wasn’t satisfied. Then I arrived in France (Paris and Lille) and, in 2015, I started attending Italian trade fairs, such as Micam and Lineapelle. I started production in Croatia with Italian materials, but the dream was still to get to in Italy, because made in Italy in luxury is important. A dream that came true in 2019.
What difficulties did you encounter?
There were two problems to deal with. I had too few pairs to produce for a big factory. And I was a nobody, I didn’t even have a prototype to show, just drawings, so I had to find people who would believe in me.
Are you satisfied now?
Of course I am. My concept is to bring haute couture to sneakers, and in Italy there is the ability to do even the most complicated work impeccably.
Covid and the future
What was the impact of the pandemic, and how did you react?
Because of lockdown we lost orders from wholesale, but we never stopped thanks to e-commerce. This is because from the very beginning, the brand has sought the direct customer experience.
What are the future prospects for the brand?
We try to give our customers a unique experience and we are focusing on customising timeless models. We are working on developing our exports to Japan, the United States and Asia and we want to grow in brand awareness.
How does the brand work?
Daniel Essa sneakers are distributed in 25 shops worldwide, including Printemps in France, Level Shoes in Dubai and Madison in California. France accounts for 30% of sales, while the main market is the Middle East, which accounts for half of exports.
Do you intend to go beyond sneakers?
I don’t think it’s the right time to present a formal collection, given the overwhelming power of sneakers. Having said that, we will be launching a men’s trouser and T-shirt in 2022, and we are thinking of a women’s top and little dress for the near future.
Nothing like leather
What does leather remind you of?
When I think about leather, I think of a beautiful, living, long-lasting product that gets better as it ages. I also love leather because nowadays it is difficult to get the same quality from other materials.