While Michelle Obama was long lauded for wearing and supporting American designers during her time as first lady, this didn’t extend to her footwear, which was almost always her go-to Jimmy Choo pumps.
North of the border, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, has taken this notion of nationalistic dressing one step further. Not only does Canada’s equivalent of the first lady wear Canadian clothing whenever possible, but Canadian footwear, too.
And for Grégoire Trudeau’s most high-profile function to date — visiting the Obamas at the White House in 2016 — she turned to Zvelle, a Toronto-based direct-to-consumer brand.
“It put me on the international map and opened my business up to the world,” said founder Elle AyoubZadeh, who created her Ava pumps in a hot pink hue expressly for Grégoire Trudeau. “You really can’t ask for a better Canadian fashion ambassador.”
Indeed, since then, the gender-equality activist has worn Zvelle for a host of official engagements, as arranged by her fashion consigliere, Jessica Mulroney, a stylist dedicated to Canadian fashion and, as the wife of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s son, someone who understands the nuances of political fashion. As such, there is even an Instagram account, @houseofsophiegregoiretrudeau, that dutifully documents Grégoire Trudeau’s every outing and outfit.
In 2014, AyoubZadeh, a finance executive turned luxury retail entrepreneur, released her first direct-to-consumer collection of women’s shoes, inspired by her multicultural background. “I’m very much a global citizen,” said AyoubZadeh, who was born in Iran, grew up in Dubai “before it was cool,” studied in Australia, and lived in New Zealand, before ultimately settling in Toronto.
Zvelle has steadily grown to include a greater selection of heels, flats and sandals, distributed both through the designer’s site, Zvelle.com, and select pop-ups, such as a recent Canadian-designer retail activation at Yorkdale, a tony Toronto shopping center. The collection ranges from $206 for mules to $319 for stilettos, which are all made in Brazil.
“The factories and history of shoemaking in Porto Alegre are so impressive. It’s where I learned how to make shoes from the ground up,” AyoubZadeh said.
In the process, her direction has shifted, too. “At first, I was appealing to like-minded female executives who wanted classics with a twist,” she said of her signature winged pumps. “Now, I’m experimenting more and infusing the shoes with elements from my roots, such as my upside heart design inspired by the Persian number five.” In true Canadian fashion, a multicultural background gives Zvelle its unique flair.