A self-proclaimed Lifestyle Architect, Etu Evans’ love of shoes runs deep. As Creative Director of Harlem World Magazine, Founder of Solesville Foundation, and a celebrity shoe and accessory designer whose designs have been worn by Beyoncé, Halle Berry, Solange Knowles, Michael B. Jordan and Queen Latifah, he’s a busy man. We recently sat down with the New York-based designer (best known for his purple bottom stilettos) to talk about where his passion originated, how he’s using it to empower others and make a difference in the lives of youth, and what accomplishments he’s most proud of in his career.
Thanks for sitting down with us today, Etu! Of course, we all want to know: where did your love of shoes come from?
I was always aware of the power of shoes at a very early age. When I was five my grandmother Queen Esther began sitting me on bed, and would solicit my opinion on what pair of shoes she should wear to church? I was always fascinated with her room. It was a designer’s treasure trove. The Queen had shoe and hat boxes lined up like city trains running around the ceiling on a shelf she had installed. Additionally, she had beads cascading off the dresser and packed inside to the gills. Later, her bedroom become my canvas to express myself as an artist and gave me the inspiration to become a footwear and accessory designer. My creative curiosity also led me to take my grandfather’s shoes apart to examine how they were made. I see shoes as mobile homes that provide me with the opportunity to engage in my love of interior design and external sensibility. My grandparents would also tell me that when they began dating, they would have to walk long distances and have to put card board and plastic in their holey shoes to protect their feet. Their love story became the seed for me to create my Solesville Foundation.
Tell us a little bit about the Solesville Foundation and how it empowers youth to face challenges in their own lives.
Solesville specializes in global shoe drives, art therapy and exhibitions, mentorship of inner-city boys, and providing advocacy for victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Creativity saved my life, because I was able to capture my pain and pleasures through artistic mediums. Through creative exercises, we increase communication, build trust and grant courage to confront our trauma and secrets, and as a result have seen some tremendous breakthroughs.
You recently did an excellent TEDx talk—what was your inspiration for that discussion?
I believe everyone wears a sole that is the manifestation of some designer’s dream. I believe that shoes are the diaries of our lives and we write stories with our feet, and not our hands. For my TEDx, my vision was to take an everyday object like a shoe, and show the audience it’s social and sexual implications of stature and style. I entitled my talk “Leaving a Footprint”, because it challenges us to be mindful of where we go, because our footprints create a map for others to follow. Our shoes teach us an exhilarating history lesson, as well as the magic of shoes.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge of your career?
I would say that one of my biggest challenges has been mustering up the courage to be myself, trust my creative voice, and not be swayed by public opinions.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
The most rewarding part of my career is the realization that my ideas are self-sustaining. Also, having major celebrities wear my shoes and to see people covet pairs of the dreams and fantasies I have created and attached heels to. It is an indescribable feeling to feel appreciated by my patrons!
You certainly have a long list, but what accomplish are you most proud of, so far?
There are four accomplishments that I am most proud of: being selected as Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers, Entrepreneur of the Year by Project Enterprise, being selected by Crain’s New York as a Small Business of the Year, and being selected as the face of a French premium spirits brand.
What exciting things are you working on currently?
2020-Won has kicked off in a very explosive way! My company, The Evans Guild, which is a manufacturing, design, and media consultancy, has had to shift trajectory due to COVID, since it’s lead to a more casualized America. I am also designing luxury sneakers and searching for a location to open a sneaker manufacturing factory in Ghana, and my Solesville Foundation is still committed to saving soles/souls one step at a time—connecting footprints around the world through our initiatives!