Nodaleto’s first shoe collection made a big splash in the fashion world. Behind the breakout label—inspired by the aesthetics of California in the seventies and Paris in the nineties—is designer Julia Toledano and artistic director Olivier Leone. Neither is a newbie to the fashion world. Toledano is the daughter of the chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, Sidney Toledano, and Leone has years of experience working in marketing and consulting for a variety of Parisian houses.
After they met at Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) and became friends, Toledano came to Leone with an idea and some drawings. “I wanted to develop a fashion line for as far as I can remember,” she told us. She studied up and visited factories across Italy to find the very best in materials and craftsmanship, and the two brainstormed a vision that includes references to Pop art, Minimalism, midcentury modernism, and more.
Whitewall spoke with the creative duo to learn more about what it’s like to launch a brand today.
WHITEWALL: Julia, you finished law school and began working on your master’s in journalism before deciding to pursue fashion design. What caused this shift?
JULIA TOLEDANO: I have been obsessed with fashion my whole life, but really the desire to create was burning inside. I started first to draw, as a hobby and way of expressing myself, then it turned into a passion, an obsession.
But seeing so many amazing talents through my dad’s work, I couldn’t see myself as a designer. They all seemed to me like icons. So I did law school and got a master’s in journalism. It was later, while interning for some magazines, that I realized my frustration. I couldn’t only talk about creation; I had to create myself. So I began shoe design classes.
WW: Olivier, can you tell us about your background?
OLIVIER LEONE: I started with business school in France—EDHEC. Call it parental pressure, or society pressure, but I needed to secure things first with a good foundation. I barely remember any classes, but what was amazing is that I had the possibility to enter an apprenticeship program. I found myself in the marketing section at Saint Laurent, at the time of Hedi Slimane’s arrival. What a thing to see!
Eventually, I realized that while marketing was interesting, what really drove me was creating images and telling stories.
An encounter with Jean-Paul Goude, who was one of my idols, changed my world.
I wanted to make people dream, laugh, react through a product. It takes time to define what you like, what you are, and what you want to be. I was waiting for a project significant enough, and Nodaleto appeared.
WW: How did the two of you meet, and what was the starting point for the Nodaleto?
JT: When I decided to start my brand, I knew that I needed it to be framed in a certain way. First I made a big splash by finding the name, drawing the sketches and the whole silhouette, then I looked for someone who could share my vision and could develop the concept alongside me.
At this time, I was friends with Olivier and knew his work for others’ brands. He understood the identity of Nodaleto so much, so I asked him to join me on this journey.
OL: It was quite a surprise when she came to me with her drawings. I saw such a maturity, such a strong DNA. Shaping Nodaleto’s universe felt super- organic. Her roots and her designs were amazingly rich.
WW: What can you tell us about your creative process and how you work together as a team?
JT: I This first collection is a statement—an embodiment of everything, all the shoes I was dreaming about. The creative process started with dream drawings. I come to Olivier with my idea of a shoe. He comes back to me with the idea of a woman, an artistic reference. And we work together to mold something super-coherent, harmonious, referring to designs, architecture, or movies.
OL: Everything starts with Julia’s design. My job is to read into her mind, and refine it. From the place we will be showing to the strategy of distribution, we share the work. Then I attach it to some iconic reference, and we build a story day after day. Basically, we send each other 350 messages a day on WhatsApp until we are perfectly satisfied.
WW: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the Fall/Winter 2019 collection?
JT: The inspiration for the first collection dwells deep in my roots. It’s a statement, more than a trend—it defines what Nodaleto is.
This collection is like a bridge—a bridge between cities, between eras, between women.
It starts from my family legacy, an homage to Andalusia, to the warmth that is passed down generation to generation through the joy of dancing and loving.
It grows with a 1970s inspiration, especially in Los Angeles, from architecture to design and music, and how these years were prolific for the emancipation of women. Then it finds its meaning in the 1990s, the decade when I was born, how I grew up in Paris, and how our generation has such a strong mix of identities.
It’s super-pop, yet minimalistic and architectural, with a square toe or trapeze heel. It’s playful but luxury, with the best Italian materials and eye for details.
OL: To paraphrase Nike, “a classic, since right now.”
WW: How would you say art plays a role in your lives and creative processes? Do you collect art?
JT: Life gave me the chance to travel and discover amazing artists. I’m a rookie collector, but I spend hours looking for Bellini, Carlo Mason, Pierre Guariche pieces, mixing them with modern and super-affordable furniture.
If I were to choose something, I would pick the architecture of the 1950s—Palm Springs in California will never get old. I consider design an art form, and it’s one of the drivers of Nodaleto. It is in all my designs, all my inspirations.
OL: This could sound cheesy, but art is everything to me. It’s my engine, what makes me move forward. It’s everywhere, and everything can inspire me.
I think an art director is somebody who reveals the “artness” of a moment. My creative process always tends to start with books. But I’m also a collector of cameras and photography. I have originals by Ed van der Elsken, William Eggleston, and Juergen Teller. I spend at least four hours a week in galleries. I love the new scene from Los Angeles and New York.
I could say I’m a collector of designs also, but I cannot afford everything I want for now and there is no more room in my flat for all the art pieces!
WW: Where do you hope to see the brand in five years?
OL: It’s a difficult question, as the world, and even more the world of fashion, is changing so fast that it’s hard to predict while being realistic. Look at how Instagram changed the game. Of course, we dream of a success like a Jimmy Choo or a Manolo who we respect profoundly. But we don’t recognize ourselves in the classic scheme of showing product to people, making a new season every four months. We want to provide a different experience. The dream would be to have stores that gather great energy, from design to art, to be more than a brand but a medium of expression. Being respected for a design, but being loved for the good things done. A brand that is ethical, digital, and always innovative.