The Italian expression nelle vene—which loosely translates to “it’s in the blood”—rings especially true for Alevì Milano founders Valentina Micchetti and Perla Alessandri. Not only were Micchetti’s grandparents cobblers, but Alessandri’s family currently owns the factory where they produce Alevì luxury shoes. These were the steps, you could say, they were born to take.
The two women met at a dinner about 10 years ago. “I never dreamed then that we would launch this project together,” Micchetti says. At the time, she was heading up celebrity public relations for Roberto Cavalli in Los Angeles. Her now–business partner was the product manager at her family’s second-generation shoe factory with clients such as Chanel, Christian Louboutin, and Saint Laurent. Micchetti saw a demand for simple, chic shoes that don’t appear to be an addition to an outfit, but an extension of the leg. And from personal experience—globe-trotting with the likes of Alessandra Ambrosio and Bar Refaeli—both Micchetti and Alessandri wanted something that was elevated enough for evening wear but could also be worn with jeans.
Realizing they were perfectly poised to meet these needs with a collection of their own, the pair began working on Alevì less than a year ago, bringing on three other women to assist in technical design, production, and commercial distribution.
“Our shoes are perfect for traveling,” Micchetti says. “You don’t have to worry whether you brought the right shoes or not because they go with everything.” She’s put them to the test herself, having logged many thousands of miles traveling between L.A.—where she runs her own fashion PR agency—and the Alevì headquarters, which are based in Milan with a factory in San Mauro Pascoli on the Adriatic coast. The latter, Micchetti says, is the best city in Italy for a shoe factory: “[It has] a big shoe statue in the middle of a roundabout. That pretty much says it all!”
They describe themselves as “girls who design shoes for girls who know how to walk in heels and who want to be super sexy and feminine.” So don’t expect to see this duo take on the sneaker trend. Micchetti and Alessandri acknowledge that they’re a rare breed as female shoe designers, especially in Italy, and being able to test styles gives them the proverbial leg up.
That’s where Micchetti’s background in marketing and PR comes in handy. For their first collection, she says, they tested 80 shoe styles on different women before bringing a perfected selection to market. As for Alessandri, who says she “grew up breathing shoes,” she received practical training at her family’s factory—avoiding the trial-and-error stage of shoe production faced by most young designers. As she puts it: “A good factory is hard to come by, and most young brands don’t have the flexibility to produce on demand as we do.”
Since the launch of their first collection, the young label attributes much of its initial success to social media. In fact, Barneys New York’s own fashion director, Marina Larroudé, found the brand through Instagram when she noticed its star-studded feed, with models like Bianca Balti and Joan Smalls sporting the ultra-sexy stilettos.
“I looked the brand up and saw they were completely new to the market without any point of sales. I reached out immediately!” Larroudé says. When she arrived for a meeting, it was what she describes as love at first sight. “[The shoes] are incredibly well made, in classic colors that a woman would want… It’s a modern shoe for the powerful women of today.”
The logo’s dot in the letter A of Alevì—a combination of both founders’ nicknames—represents a pearl, a nod to Alessandri’s first name and a celebration of the womanhood at the core of their brand. For Micchetti and Alessandri, a lifelong love affair with sky-high shoes is the ultimate expression of this femininity. As Micchetti says passionately, “I’ve always been a freak for high heels.” And at Alevì, as the song goes, “Le freak, c’est chic.”