Inside every woman, there is a divine earthly power embodied in the spirit of the Goddess Gaia; this inner force illuminates her beauty and empowers her life’s journey. DI GAÏA enlightens and embellishes the pathways she walks everyday with grace. Sophisticated designs handmade in Italy reflect the inner strength, maternal instinct and warrior spirit of every modern woman: that is what DI GAÏA shoes are about.
And behind this new brand, there is a genius designer. And a warrior of a woman: Elvira Pana. Born in Athens and educated in Paris, her youth was spent between the City of lights, the Birthplace of Civilization and the beautiful islands of Andros and Kefalonia. She grew up connected to the breathtaking natural and urban environments around her, and sensitive to the elements of both Greek and French culture.
“My childhood was populated with elegant, energetic women who inspired me with their strength and sophistication; along with the architects, writers, painters and designers of my family, they were my biggest and most enduring influence. Creativity perfumed the air around me as I grew up, and I was drawn to a strong, vibrant and feminine sensibility as well as a love of handcrafted things. And it was my dear grandfather who taught me all he knew about business and entrepreneurship, and inspired me to turn my hand to what I was most passionate about“, Elvira Pana says.
She followed her instinct and created her first collection of footwear in 2001, all the while continuing her Marketing and Communication studies in the American College of Athens.
“It was with an excited spirit that I left in 2007 to study Shoe Design at the school of Sergio Rossi at San Mauro Pascoli, and gain a Master’s Degree in Accessories Design at the Istituto Marangoni of Milan. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to work with and learn from some of the most respected designers, such as Bruno Frisoni, Diego Dolcini, Narciso Rodriguez, Madeleine Vionnet and Dolce & Gabbana“, she adds proudly.
But after seven years crossing between cities and working with the most prestigious luxury brands, she finally decided to take the leap and launch her own brand – DI GAÏA.
In other words, it was about time we met this extraordinary, bold young woman. To find out who she really is. For it’s only rare to meet a warrior who is a woman, these days.
ON PERSONAL STYLE
Is there a piece in your closet that you keep onto for ages now?
My grandmother’s luxury vintage bags.
Who is your favorite shoe designer in the world?
Who would you die to design shoes for?
Fendi and Givenchy.
Are you the flat-shoes kind of girl or the higher-the-better kind of woman?
The higher the better, of course!
What was your last purchased item?
A Vionnet evening dress.
What perfume do you wear? What watch do you wear? Sunglasses?
Dosson parfum from Diptyque, my grandfather’s Omega vintage watch, and Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses.
Which are your favorite colors?
Black, White, Beige.
Is there a piece of clothing or accessory that you have inherited from your mother/grandmother that you love?
My mother’s Dior vintage evening bag, which has been already confiscated a long time ago.
Is there a piece that you desperately want to get soon?
A Celine Trapeze bag.
Which fabric describes you and your personal style best?
Cotton and silk.
Who inspired you to be the woman you have become now?
My mother and grandmother – in terms of elegance.
What is the first thing you’d teach your daughter, in things style?
To be simple and elegant.
Name the most stylish woman (dead or alive).
You get to travel quite a lot for DI GAIA. What do you always pack with you?
Indeed, I am often travelling to Italy for work, I always have my favorite pair of high heels, my leather boots, a black dress and a leather black jacket. And, of course, my favorite DI GAÏA pair of shoes.
ON WORK – DI GAIA:
What inspires you the most for your shoe designs?
My designs are always inspired from any kind of art and the harmony and colors of the nature most of all.
Why “DI GAIA”?
DI GAÏA, pronounced /gà·ia/, in Italian means “from the earth”. The name was given after the primal Greek Goddess Gaea. This name evoques for me my “Earth”, my roots that in this case are Greek. DI GAÏA’s main essence lies to the fact that “inside every woman, there is a divine earthly power embodied in the spirit of the goddess Gaea”.
Designing shoes – was it a wish from your childhood days? When did you know that this is exactly what you wanted to do?
Designing shoes was not a wish from childhood, however I knew I would like to work in the fashion industry. My passion for shoes exactly came at the age of 20 when I decorated for me a pair of sandal and people suddenly were stopping me in the streets asking me where did I buy it! After that I decided to make a small handcraft business for 6 years in Athens where I was successfully selling sandals in greek stores until I left in Italy, Milan, to pursue a Master’s degree in shoe design.
You studied shoe design both at the Sergio Rossi school at San Mauro Mascoli, as well as at the Instituto Marangoni of Milan. What was the most important lesson you’ve learned there?
I learned how to interpret my creativity into something that could be in the same time beautiful and practical. Shoes are made for walking after all! Those institutions provided me an important knowledge of shoe design which consists from conception until realization. It is important to know to make your drawing being also wearable.
Will the Greek-heritage-influence be visible in your next collections too? As part of who you are? If yes, what does it translate to, when it comes to wintery shoes?
The greek identity will not always be visible as I do not have the intention to make a folklore brand.My inspirations can vary every time.My greek heritage will always be visible in a more implicit form and sometimes even not.
We hear every day of the importance of the right leather or orthopedically correct heel. Just how important are exactly the components/materials used? What constitutes luxury, when it comes to shoes?
First of all the most important thing for a shoe to be perfect is to have a great last and heel adapted well to the last which makes the shoe comfortable in each height.When designing a collection the first thing to decide are the structures.Materials of course play a great importance as well in terms of quality and application.A shoe can be a luxury product when it combines strong design with refined materials and a great craftsmanship.Luxury into shoes can be found in the details, from the packaging,the personalization of buckles, soles etc..to the finitions among other small details that make the difference to the customer.
Can flat sandals, very warrior like, be sexier than high heeled ones?
Yes, they absolutely can!
Which shoe are you particularly proud of creating? Is there one pair you consider to be archetypal for the very essence of your own brand’s DNA?
The shoe with the gold laurel leaf.
Is there one specific pair of shoes that you perhaps were even a little jealous of the designer who created it first?
I always admired others’ designers work but I have never been jealous. Each designer has its uniqueness in terms of design.
You have designed shoes for Madeleine Vionnet, Dolce & Gabbana, Narciso Rodriguez, among others. What was the most important lesson you have learned from working with such giants?
I became a professional, I learned to design with very short deadlines and to adapt my style into each brand’s needs.It was a great experience working with these companies,where I met wonderful and talented people which helped me to discover the luxury fashion industry and enhanced my creativity to discover my own style.
Did they influence your own creativity in any ways? Did they help shape who you are now – creatively speaking?
Yes indeed they shaped a lot my creativity therefore through the work I did for each different brand I ended up by discovering my own personal style.
Paris or Milan. Which is the capital of the most exquisite shoes nowadays?
In terms of style I prefer Italian shoes, there are always more refined, feminine and elegant.
What was the trigger for you taking that bold leap and launching your very own brand?
I had the desire to return back into my country despite the crisis period and the challenge to have my own brand is always giving me more satisfaction.
Who is really the DI GAIA woman in your imagination/creation process? What does she look like? How does she think?
DI GAÏA woman is a contemporary, stylish, modern, strong and dymanic woman.The woman of today that fights to pursue her dreams and has important hierarchic positions but in the same time remain feminine and tender.That is how I always imagine her.
Tell us more about your collaboration with ZEUS & DIONE (another heroic, luxurious Greek brand, that captures the very essence of the Mediterranean way of life).
Our collaboration started when they asked me to design for them the FW 15-16 shoes collection.I am so happy that by returning in Greece I found this great luxurious greek brand where I can express myself creatively and has the potential to be sold into the biggest international stores.I am really proud of what they have succeeded and I am really excited to be part of their team.
Will this collaboration go beyond one season?
I just started designing SS16 for them,therefore it will:)
What can we expect from you for FW15-16? What will be different?
I have not done a winter collection yet though I will have the SS16 coming soon.I wanted to focus more on summer shoes.
What can we expect from you for SS16? What will be different?
Colorful shoes over high heels!
Where do you imagine yourself to be ideally in –say- ten years from now, professionally speaking?
I answer by quoting the wish of my good Italian friend Eva [“….con l’augurio che tu possa contribuire a vestire le gambe delle donne del XXI Secolo!”, which roughly translates into “I wish that one day you will contribute to dress the legs of the XXI century’s women”.