Freshly graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in government, Najeeba Hayat decided that she wasn’t destined for a life of bureaucratic “banging your head against the wall.” Chasing a lifelong love of style, the self-described “fashion freak” moved to Milan and took up a shoemaking course at the city’s storied ArsSutoria School.
Liudmila, the name comes from an early 20th-century novel Hayat fell in love with in Russian literature: Fyodor Sologub’s The Petty Demon.
Three years later, Hayat has cultivated a brand of footwear fantasia unlike anything else on the market right now, an aesthetic crossroads that the designer dubs “Victorian forms with a cartoon twist.” Her collections thus far have found inspiration in everything from the mermaid lagoon in Peter Pan (she custom-dyed leathers to mimic the dreamy pastel palette of the cartoon feature) to the hallucinatory, swirling brushstrokes of Iranian artist Mahmoud Farshchian. Produced in Italy, these pairs march to a beat all their own, equal parts idiosyncrasy and offbeat elegant. Hayat tells Vogue.com: “Most [luxury shoes] are very uncomfortable, and to me, a shoe is a very transformative item of clothing. There’s nothing wrong with being sexy, but there wasn’t anything else. There was no other side to a woman’s personality, except, like, frumpy-chunky or the extreme Louboutin sort of style. I really wanted something that just made me happy.” To quote key Liudmila muse, the fictional bon vivant Auntie Mame: “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
Hayat is a perfectionist and ensures only the highest quality material and is rigorous in every step of the production process. Each shoe tells a story, be it a fairytale pastel pink heel or metallic strappy stiletto, Liudmila shoes are a fantastical illustration of passion for design.