The Spanish designer born in the heart of the Alicante province — a region famous for its footwear production — has been immersed in the shoe & handbag universe since forever. So why has Abraham Ortuño’s brand, ABRA, been around for less than a year, you might ask? ’Cause he’s been lending his talent to the biggest names in fashion, like Jacquemus, Givenchy, Kenzo & so many more. 🍃🍃🍃
What’s all the fuss is about? First off, his sharp craftsmanship gets the attention. Next, his fresh gender-fluid concept — which inspires him to present “feminine shoes in large sizes & masculine shoes in small sizes” — steals the show. Last but never least, his playful & powerful use of leather has everybody awestruck.
You did it, ABRA: with such supreme leather pieces, you just brought the power back to dressing. Ready for a standing-O?
We were already so hyped for this chat & it even got us doing an exclusive FaceTime shoot with him. Scroll down & see why.
You were described as the best-hidden secret of the fashion industry. What did it mean for you to emerge from backstage into the spotlights with your own brand?
Omg, I was? This is very nice. It’s the ultimate form of expression as a designer, to be able to communicate your idea of design to the world, to express all these little things that have been in your head for so many years. It feels good.
Why do you think that a brand as young as ABRA was embraced so quickly by the industry?
I feel like the world is constantly waiting for exciting things to happen in fashion, and many people in the industry knew what I had been doing the past few years, so it was very nice to see how everybody supported me.
Also, what we create is very attractive to see in stores, it’s actually what I would love to buy or see in the streets.
Gender-fluidity is one of the defining concepts of your brand’s philosophy. How does giving people more footwear options change the way they express themselves thru fashion?
It kind of happens accidentally, I always knew who was ABRA’s target client. It was me and my friends. We grew up without the possibility of having the shoes we wanted in our sizes, I remember using plastic bags as socks to fit in shoes 3 sizes too small, or constantly checking eBay to see if someone would sell Martin Margiela samples shoes from the shows in size 42 ’cause there were none in the stores.
Well, all these problems are solved now, we can create ABRA shoes for everyone. Gender doesn’t matter anymore for me.
These diversity-focused principles are also presented in a very versatile material, making your concept even stronger. Why did you choose leather as a tool to send your message?
I grew up around shoemakers in Spain so I’ve always been very attracted to it indirectly. Why leather? I think every time you work on something you have to make the best version of it. The way leather shoes last through the years is amazing, I still have shoes from when I was 17.
This FW20 I worked on some shoes in very soft leather for bags, I use all local materials as it is done in Spain.
Your brand is a big advocate for power dressing as well. What is it about leather that brings the power back to dressing in your opinion?
To me, leather is the richest material we can work with, we need to be very respectful of it.
As a kid from the 80s/90s, seeing women on TV in black leather coats and sunglasses was very impactful. And now, it is part of ABRA’s aesthetics.
This material has been a part of your career for a long time. You’ve designed game changer pieces for global brands that have leather as their core. In what ways do you think that using leather has influenced the success of your designs?
It totally has, maybe I know too much, but when I see shoes I’m already imagining the amount of time you’re going to be able to enjoy them depending on their material, and one of the strongest aspects of my work is the ability to enjoy them for as long as you can.
And how does the material affect or shape your creative process, for either your own brand or others you’ve worked with?
The material is probably the most important aspect of a shoe or bag, I love to be very creative and use materials in an ironic way to develop something new.
I’m very lucky to work in luxury, because the leather we use is top quality and, for me, it’s extremely important to respect the material.
Since we’re talking about creativity: through your mood boards on social media we’ve learned that you get inspiration from all sorts of places & artists. Tell us a little bit about how Charles Ray & Yrjo Kukkapuro cross your mind while you’re creating.
Some of my favorite artists have had a big impact on me, probably because we have a similar obsession. The huge woman from Charles Ray’s work is one of my biggest inspirations and one of the starting points of ABRA.
Industrial design is very similar to fashion, my dad built our house and most of the furniture in it, we always had tons of interior design magazines during the 90s. I believe we always go back to our origins in the process of creation, we repeat what we’ve lived, again and again.
I like the idea of letting people discover, little by little, what my inspiration is.
I think it is very important not to try to be anything other than yourself, the mix of all of this creates something new: ABRA.
Now, could you tell us what other four artists spark the creativity in you?
Hideaki Anno, Mario Botta, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Britney Spears.
Portraits \ DEARABRA \ ABRA_NOW