Photo credit: Roy Cox

Design Conversation: Tori Soudan’s Footwear Designs and Their Lasting Footprint

Header: Roy Cox

Meet Tori Soudan, a self-proclaimed multifaceted creative whose unique approach to design shapes distinctive and elevated fashion products and experiences for her signature brands and consulting clients.

With a foundation built on exceptional instincts in luxury, design, and business, Soudan’s career has been characterized by pushing the boundaries of creativity both visually and experientially. Moving from a successful finance career and a role as a guest lecturer at Morgan State University, she pursued her true passion by launching her own brand, Tori Soudan. Her success in this venture led to her becoming a sought-after advisor for aspiring entrepreneurs, ultimately inspiring the creation of Bronze Suite International Fashion Tours & Consulting. This initiative addresses the growing demands of her clientele, promotes diversity in the luxury space, and delves into the cultural and historical perspectives of luxury businesses worldwide.

A graduate of Spelman College with an MBA in Finance from Northeastern University, Soudan combines formal training in fashion draping and patternmaking with hands-on experience from a renowned American brand. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Baltimore, Maryland home, where she actively contributes as a board member of the College for Creative Studies, a student advisor, and senior project judge for the Fashion Institute of Technology Footwear & Design Department, as well as a board member of the Roland Park Country School. Her creation The Julee Boot was recently awarded the Independent Designer of the Year prize and was a category winner in Women’s Fashion and Artistic Footwear at the Global Footwear Awards.

In this exclusive interview, we explore Soudan’s creative ethos, her professional journey, and her influence on the world of luxury fashion.

The Julee Boot
Photo credit: Tori Soudan
The Julee Boot
Photo credit: Tori Soudan

What does this award mean to you personally? 

It is such an honour to receive this award. I am very grateful to the jury and to the Global Footwear Awards for recognizing my work on this international landscape. 

The Julee boot was named after Julee Wilson, the Beauty Director of Cosmopolitan Magazine. It was inspired by the eclipse of the sun and the idea that spheres represent motion, vitality, wholeness, completion, and perfection. The contrast between black and white illustrates that the beginning and the end of cycles are always repeating. 

This design is very significant to me, especially because the realization of the concept was very complicated given the sphere shape of the heel, however, I was determined to bring it to fruition.

What was most important for you when working on this project and what were the biggest challenges you faced?

I was determined to make the heel round, which was quite difficult to execute and required several iterations. There were many structural obstacles that I had to circumvent. However, I was committed to ensuring that my original vision remained intact.

How/when did you discover that you wanted to work in design?

Designing has always been a passion for me. I started with gowns and clothes growing up and eventually shifted my focus to shoes after studying abroad in Europe. I had the passion and business acumen but needed to create a foundation of how to navigate the industry. Before starting my business, I took two years to study the industry, build my knowledge, and make key connections before my launch. 

How do you think your own culture and environment have shaped your personal and professional creative vision?

Coming from a family of creatives, I was always given the space to develop my creative ideas. I drew inspiration from seeing the colourful quilts created by my mother and grandmother,  which led me to experiment with a broad array of colours. I also find inspiration from photography tips that my father shared with me. He showed me how contrasting textures create dimension in photographs and I apply this concept to my designs. 

The Julee Boot
Photo credit: Tori Soudan
The Julee Boot
Photo credit: Tori Soudan

How do you feel footwear design has evolved over the past years and how do you see it evolving in the future?

When I first started research for my brand 13 years ago, the luxury shoe space was not very inclusive. Since then, there has been an increase in diversity, which has brought more cultural influence to designs and styles.

What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities in your career and the industry now?

One of the biggest challenges that I find is the amount of time it takes to produce shoes. The industry is also fragmented with many suppliers that must be coordinated in order to start production. Technology has not yet advanced enough to shorten this process significantly and it would be great to see more advancements in this area.

How do you deal with feedback?

Feedback is essential for the success of my business. I appreciate the strong and interactive relationship I have with my customers, as their feedback has helped me evolve as a designer over the years. I enjoy learning about how they experience my brand and how they integrate my designs into their lifestyle.