Aljoud Lootah, graphic designer, fashion designer and founder of Niftee, an Emirati fashion line known for its intricately designed handmade limited edition apparel and accessories, recently became the latest designer to collaborate with shoe brand Repetto in the "Repetto Loves Art" project.

Founded over 60 years ago in France by Rose Repetto, the shoe line has managed to become a symbol of elegance, comfort and style today due to its simple yet beautiful design.

The brand, a cult favorite in Paris, as well as internationally, first entered the Middle East market in 2011. The brand is available in the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

Recently, the brand launched an arts initiative titled "Repetto Loves Art," in which they collaborate with regional talent by allowing them to customize iconic Repetto products.

The project, which was launched across three Middle East markets, UAE, Lebanon and Kuwait, aims at supporting the art and design community, especially independent artists and designers, and building close and meaningful connections with them.

Dubai based designer Aljood Lootah, who established Niftee in 2007, was asked by Repetto to redesign their signature ballerina flat. Her concept and final design was equal parts endearing and remarkable.

We had a Q&A chat with Aljoud to learn more about this inspiring and creative project, and what it meant to her.

When were you asked to be involved in the project?

I was approached by Repetto around mid-June where they introduced me to the "Repetto Loves Art" concept and invited me to join the project.

Tell us about what you came up with – "The Burqa'a Repetto"?

The Burqa'a Repetto is a story of generations. Just like the story behind Repetto, the Emirati burqa'a is also rich in history, where it made its way from one generation to another.

In this art piece, my grandmother's old burqa'as were delicately laser-cut with classic Arabesque patterns to represent the infinity of a classic item that has been considered as a symbol of strength and femininity.

Nowadays, the burqa'a is not commonly used among the younger generation, and thus, I chose to mirror the Emirati heritage in a cutting-edge setting, as many generations melt into one inspiring pair of shoes.

Why specifically the burqa'a?

I wanted to reflect the UAE's culture and modern generation, and old burqa'as are often thrown away after they've been used for a certain period of time, but I chose to use elements from these old burqa'as to show people that such a classic element could be considered as a sustainable one and may be used in various applications.

Your design looks really intricate. What materials did you use?

Repetto ballerina flats, which were provided, and around six pieces of my grandmother's old burqa'as!

Can you tell us about the process and how you made them?

I designed a classic Arabesque pattern which I laser-cut onto the burqa'a itself to create intricate cut-outs and shapes. On the heel, I used a full laser-cut burqa'a to somewhat resemble gladiator shoes style. I then cut parts of the burqa'as, laser cut them and attached them to the front part of the pair.

The burqa'a is usually fastened or tied to the back of a woman's head using some metallic silver laces  I used these laces to form a shape that resembles the shape found on ballet pointes when the laces cross and are tied on the ballerina's calves/ankles.

How long did the whole process take?

We were briefed mid-June and the deadline was mid-August. It took me quite some time to come up with this concept; I started out by exploring other materials and items found in the Emirati culture, but finally decided to work with burqa'as.

Have other artists or designers been a part of this project as well?

Repetto supports arts in its various forms. For the UAE Edition of "Repetto Loves Art" project, 10 artists and designers were chosen, but each were given different items to customize, including ballerina flats, ballet pointes and tutus.

In 2007, Repetto celebrated their 60th anniversary by collaborating with 60 international artists including Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Brigitte Bardot, Rei Kawakubo, and Carla Bruni where they customized similar items.

Will the shoe be available for sale?

No, they won't be for sale. They're designed to be displayed only – the exhibition location isn't confirmed yet, however, it would most likely be displayed at the Repetto boutique in Dubai Mall for about two months.

Then hopefully the exhibition will move to Paris. Let's hope they get displayed in the Paris boutique!! That would be super exciting!

– Alya Al-Othman

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