Only a handful of America's designers on the rise get to compete for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. The prize? Money and industry mentors.
By Florence Kane. Photographed by Norman Jean Roy.
A fourth-generation shoemaker puts real soul in his soles.
"This was the flagship store," says Alejandro Ingelmo, flipping through an album of old black-and-white photographs of his family's shoe business in Cuba. "I look at it today and say, 'I want this.' " Ingelmo's designs—from sexy, high-concept stilettos with names such as "Terminator" to pretty pastel flats to men's metallic snakeskin sneakers—are a far cry from the sturdy wingtips on which his grandfather built an empire in pre-Castro Havana. But this tattooed designer's sole ambition is the same.
Ingelmo didn't always know he'd follow so literally in the footsteps of his forefathers (his great-grandfather was a cobbler in Spain). After the 34-year-old arrived in New York four years ago, he enrolled in interior design at Parsons. While there, Ingelmo took a shoemaking class, and his DNA caught up with him. He left school and started his collection, which was quickly picked up by Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Jeffrey New York. And the rest—like his family's fabled past—is history.