Photograph courtesy of Zvelle.
It’s also recently released three shoe styles including two new sandals.
“The more you appreciate your craft, the more you put your sweat, blood and tears into it,” says AyoubZadeh. As we spoke, she was anxiously awaiting a shipment of Zvelle’s most recent design, a go-anywhere unisex sandal named “Firenze” (the Italian name is a tribute to the craftspeople Zvelle works with to create its products). “Even before the pandemic hit, I was thinking of diversifying the choices we offer our customers, and looking at [our] habits. Where are we going [and] what are we wearing,” she says.
These questions led AyoubZadeh towards the ideation of two other styles that were launched in recent months–a glam high-heeled satin sandal and metallic slip-on flat, both priced in consideration of the current economic climate. “It was a good time for us to go full-force into things that we believe in,” says AyoubZadeh. “[They’re] priced to be respectful to the environment we’re in.”
Added value is given to each Zvelle purchase by way of a ‘Walk How You Want’ reusable shopping bag (it’s the brand’s motto); you’ll also receive one after making a purchase at the soon-to-be-opened Zvelle boutique located in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. “It’s not just going to be your typical shoe store,” AyoubZadeh, who designed the interior herself, notes. “I see it as a place of culture for our customers and community.”
She hopes that once quarantine restrictions ease that in-store speaking events can commence, adding to the intimate and unique storytelling that Zvelle currently offers online. One of its most recent ‘In Conversation’ posts features teenage ballerinas Kennedy George & Ava Holloway; the pair’s protest moment went viral as they were photographed in front of a Confederate statue in Richmond, Virginia wearing their tutus and pointe shoes.
“They are our youngest ever subjects,” says AyoubZadeh, who came by images of the pair as they were shared across social media. “I looked up the photographer, Marcus Ingram, who had started to sell the prints. I bought a couple for my own personal collection because it’s such a historic moment…. The beauty these two young leaders [introduced] by bringing their art form to a protest. They’re only 14, but they projected such maturity.”
It’s these kinds of impactful subjects that interest AyoubZadeh when it comes to branded content. “As a company, our mission is to modernize the way women and their stories are portrayed in fashion,” she says. “We want to share stories that people perhaps don’t expect from a fashion brand.”
AyoubZadeh likely gravitates towards compelling perspectives because she possess one herself. From deriving the inspiration to make each day count from her developmentally disabled brother to Zvelle’s donation of shoes to frontline workers during COVID-19 crisis, she exemplifies a new kind of entrepreneurialism; one that unifies soul with success.
“What is it that drives me, and why am I building Zvelle,” she says of what she asks herself while continuing to evolve her brand. “To me, it’s always been about more than putting beauty into the world. I want to have some impact and relevance [and] I want that positive change to outlast me when I’m not here.”
In addition to understanding the potency of philanthropy and the amplification of unique stories, AyoubZadeh is also keenly aware of the impact her work has on those who make Zvelle’s pieces. “It’s a very personal business,” she says. “I look into the eyes of the craftspeople who are making my products, and they look into my eyes.” The close relationship she has with her factories means that she was determined to start producing product as soon as she was able to. “We decided to honour our commitments because our factories were waiting for us to pay the bills and support their families,” she explains. And she adds that now more than ever, it’s crucial for consumers to “vote with [their] dollars and [their] voice”, because makers depend on it.
Though COVID-19 continues to present challenges to every brand–and, determined as she is, AyoubZadeh notes that she’s not unaffected by the pressures the fashion world faces–the uncertainty seems to spur her on even more resolutely. “The main thing this global crisis taught me is how fortunate we are to have our health,” she says. “I’m a person that just goes twenty-four seven. I’ve always been like that all my life. I don’t think I can change that…. People are counting on me to do my job so they can live their lives. But it also made me think that we’re trying to do something–we’re here to challenge the way women are portrayed. Maybe some days we sell shoes, and maybe some days we don’t.” No matter the case, with this ethos in mind, AyoubZadeh will always be on the right path forward.