By ‘Kunmi Odueke
After completing a Master’s degree in Pharmacy, Titi Adesanya set sights outside her terrain to create a luxury footwear brand. Immersed into a relatively unknown field, the 30-year old shoe designer enrolled herself at London College of Fashion’s Cordwainer’s and worked with the finest artisans in Italy, investing two years to learn every aspect of shoe design and manufacturing.
Delicately hand-crafted in Milan and created for the modern and youthful woman, the recently-launched brand, Titi Adesa, has a clear ethos: to celebrate women – in every sense of the word. A distinctive ‘Tilted Diamond’ logo can be seen on every sole and symbolises a philosophy Titi learnt from her mother growing up: ‘Within every woman, lies a diamond – unique, resilient and imperfectly perfect’.
SCHICK Magazine talks to Titi in an online exclusive about her journey, career multitasking as a pharmacist, launching the label while pregnant, and her mission to empower women with her signature Diamond logo and message.
S’oke mules, available exclusively on titiadesa.com
So, tell me a little about Titi Adesa
Titi Adesa is a luxury footwear brand which I launched in August last year. As an avid shoe lover, I’ve always been fascinated by the transformation that comes with wearing a good pair of heels, so I wanted to create a line for the contemporary woman with a youthful essence.
Did you consider any other names for the brand, apart from yours?
No, I didn’t actually. I only ever considered using my name because I wanted the brand to be a full representation of my vision. I want to empower women and make them feel unique, sophisticated and most importantly, comfortable when they wear Titi Adesa.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
I would say so, yeah. From as early as first grade, I remember my dad would teach me how to sketch Disney princesses, and I always used to pay close attention to their shoes to make sure they were perfect so, I guess that’s where it began really. I was also very interested in Science and of course, being raised by Nigerian parents, it was all about studying for a ‘concrete’ profession first; so, Pharmacy was my first passion, before my interest in fashion.
Agra Dusty Rose pumps, available exclusively on titiadesa.com
I wanted the brand to be a full representation of my vision. I want to empower women and make them feel unique, sophisticated and most importantly, comfortable.
Is that why you chose to make shoes, rather than clothing or jewellery maybe?
Definitely, shoes for me are quite personal. I feel they can emotionally translate power and give you an instant confidence boost.
What was the transition like moving from being a Pharmacist to becoming a shoe designer?
I worked as a Pharmacist for five years before starting the brand. Looking back now, I always had the duality of excelling in subjects like Biology, as well as Art in school, so I’m not surprised I ended up here [Laughs]. Nevertheless, the transition wasn’t easy to navigate and certainly didn’t happen overnight.
It started with a few sketches here and there back in 2016, when I enrolled in a footwear course at Cordwainer’s. After intensive research, I travelled to Venice and Milan to visit factories to start working on my designs. Little did I know then that factory sourcing would end up being a very challenging part of the journey to creating Titi Adesa.
Really? I wouldn’t have thought…
Yes, good ethical factories aren’t easy to find and when you do find one, you have to convince them that you’re credible and your brand is worth taking on because they don’t like working with new designers. Not to mention, they only want to speak to you in Italian!
[Laughs]… Why did you choose to produce in Italy?
I’m driven by perfectionism and precision myself, so I wanted to make my shoes in the best place renowned for its generations of highly skilled artisans in shoe manufacturing, that’s why I chose Italy.
Amazing. Do you remember your first pair of heels?
Yes! It was actually a pair of navy-blue satin Stuart Weisman d’orsay pumps. I can never forget, it was 85mm high and I was 15 or 16 when my parents got them for me. I remember I was so happy to finally be a ‘grown-up’ [Laughs].
What’s your brand’s aesthetic?
I would say Titi Adesa’s aesthetic is feminine, understated but distinct with an overall elegance, hence the title of our first collection, Minimal Allure.
The idea was to create designs that communicate sophistication, so it’s a blend of understated, elegant designs with an effortless twist on timeless shoe styles.
What inspired the collection?
Architecture, as well as my travels, were my main inspirations. The idea was to create designs that communicate sophistication, so it’s a blend of understated, elegant designs with an effortless twist on timeless shoe styles.
There’s a lot of buzz about the ‘Tilted Diamond’ logo on your Titi Adesa soles. Why did you decide on this unique addition?
I wanted to have a message attached to my brand that women can connect with. Growing up, my mother would always say to me, ‘Within every woman, lies a diamond – unique, resilient and imperfectly perfect’. So, those words stayed with me as I grew older, which is why I designed the rose gold logo as a tilted diamond – to embody the message that we women are indeed all diamonds and imperfectly perfect in our own way.
Very refreshing, I love that. So, what’s the story behind your signature lavender colour?
Aside from the fact that it’s my favourite colour? [Laughs]. I decided to choose a shade that I feel evokes tranquil, which to me, was a soft pastel lavender.
Who is the Titi Adesa woman?
There isn’t one particular woman in mind, to be honest. When I designed the collection, I was thinking of a group of women – refined, confident, ambitious women who appreciate excellent quality, who enjoy travelling and revel in the freedom of expressing their personality through fashion.
Carp sandals, available exclusively on titiadesa.com
How’s the reception been since the launch?
It’s actually been pretty fantastic and unexpected at the same time. We launched with a showroom presentation of ten styles first, then our campaign video release and website launch 24 hours after and had a terrific response. We had purchases straight away, which is pretty insane for a completely new brand!
It’s one thing to have a vision and another to bring it to life for people to experience and enjoy. I feel so blessed and immensely grateful to every customer that has bought a Titi Adesa pair so far!
The collection does show a range of super elegant stilettos, but your Feeling Lucky slides were the first to sell out within a week?
Yes! It is amazing to have any style sell out so quickly, but I wasn’t too surprised the slides sold out first. Stylish flats have become quite chic to wear, they’re versatile, comfortable and complement most outfits well.
The Feeling Lucky slides were actually my last addition to the collection. I didn’t expect to move into flats so soon because anyone who knows me, knows I’m a heels girl, but I designed them while I was pregnant for obvious reasons! [Laughs] When I showed the sample to my family and a few friends, they loved it, so I added it to the collection.
What stands out as the most challenging part of the journey for you since you started?
Juggling a full-time Pharmacy career and creating the brand over the last two years was definitely a big one. It took a lot of discipline to invest in myself and to execute my vision. I consistently pushed beyond limits and worked intensely with the factories on my days off to ensure that all my designs were as I envisioned. For example, Agra took nine samples to finally get it right! The design is inspired by ceiling curves of a historical building in India called Agra Fort, and the curved proportions for the design were incredibly challenging to achieve.
Wow, it’s incredible what goes on behind the scenes…
For sure. I think not coming from a footwear background as well, was a gift and a curse. I didn’t have any idea-limitations, which was a gift however, executing those ideas in terms of technicality was difficult. But now Agra is a customer-fave, so the journey is very rewarding.
I am very proud of my Nigerian heritage, so it was a no-brainer to infuse it into my designs, like with the S’oke mules.
The Fafa’s are also one of my favourites, I heard there’s a story behind the name…
Yeah, Fafa was inspired by a nickname my grandmother gave my sister and I. Everytime we’d visit her, she’d always joke and say in Yoruba, ‘O’n ṣe Fafa’ which means to ‘act sophisticated’. While sketching a classic pump, I was thinking of how to add a sophisticated, feminine touch to them and ended up drawing graduating, circular ornaments as a dainty addition. I immediately thought of her, so I knew it had to be called ‘Fafa’.
Amazing. Some other Titi Adesa shoes have Yoruba names too. Was that intentional?
Definitely, I am very proud of my heritage, so it was a no-brainer to infuse it into my designs like with the S’oke mules. S’oke was created from the shape of double, ascending curved stairs going ‘Up’, so I called them exactly that, in Yoruba.
Agra White pumps, available exclusively on titiadesa.com
What’s your current footwear style right now?
Pointy-toe mules are my go-to at the moment. They’re clean, sharp and translate effortlessly from meetings to date night. They look great with stockings too.
What’s been your greatest accomplishment so far?
Definitely launching Titi Adesa while I was pregnant with my daughter and giving birth to her one month after. When I first found out I was pregnant, I remember telling myself, ‘It’s game time Titi, you can do this’, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that there’s no force like a determined, pregnant woman! [Laughs]
So very true!
Being pregnant with her literally lit a fire within me to get through every obstacle I faced. It sounds corny, but I genuinely knew from the moment she’d arrive, I’d have no choice but to be the woman I’ve always wanted to be, someone she can hopefully look up to and emulate. I was also very fortunate to be supported immensely by my husband and amazing family, as well.
You’re right; a strong support system can make all the difference. How has motherhood been?
It’s genuinely been the most deeply fulfilling journey. Women are incredible! The way our bodies change to make way for little lives is simply amazing and is a huge honour. She’s literally come into my life and redefined unconditional love.
What can we expect next from Titi Adesa?
Well, the plan is to continue to grow organically and intelligently as a company, strategically releasing new styles. We also plan to be more size-inclusive; at the moment, we offer up to size 42 but aim to diversify to larger sizes.
Lastly, which Titi Adesa shoe should every woman have in her wardrobe?
Every Titi Adesa shoe! [Laughs] But if I had to choose, I’d say the S’oke mules. I think they offer a razor-sharp silhouette and are the perfect balance between comfort and chic.