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Introducing Jori Papa Footwear


Jori Papa Footwear

Jori Papa is a new footwear brand founded by husband and wife Thoma and Jori Papa. Originally from South East Europe and established in London, the brand embodies modern femininity, with strong references to architecture, art and nature.

By Thomas Bouige

AM: Jori, you grew up in Albania. What was it like over there?
I was born and grew up in Tirana, Albania. The country at the time was under a strict communist dictatorship, completely isolated from the rest of the world. However, my childhood is filled with great memories, from playing with kids in the neighborhood, daily picnics with my grandma, learning how to cook local recipes and also learning the Italian language from watching Italian TV channels, which the regime didn’t allow. My favorite though was sketching fashion outfits and shoes in secret when my grandma thought I was taking a nap.

AM: Do you still divide your time between Tirana and London?
Whenever I have time I go there as my parents live in Tirana and I always find a moment to visit them in summer time or during the year. At the moment my family and I live in London where the brand is based.

AM: It’s common to embark on a career thinking it’s one thing, then finding out it’s another. As a successful architect, do you feel those years have helped shape your new career as a shoe designer?
Being trained as an architect has been invaluable in experiencing the process of designing and implementing the construction of new shapes. My background has helped me to become who I am today. However, becoming an architect was my parents’ dream, not mine. I hoped that by following this path I would have found the pleasure of creating interesting designs and seeing other people enjoy them. But working as an architect was not as fulfilling as I expected. I always had that voice inside which made me question if architecture was the thing I wanted to do my whole life.

Jori Papa Designer
Designer, Jori Papa

AM: Despite having a career in architecture, you regularly browsed shoe publications. When did you decide to become a shoe designer?
After office hours, I remember spending long hours researching, typing questions on Google about how others started their journey as shoe designers. Indeed, all of this process was a self-discovery. Then one day, when I was speaking with a friend about this process, I realized how I felt in different moments during my research. It felt like connecting pieces of a puzzle. I realized I had a strong desire to become a shoe designer. And this is where the magic happened.

During a conversation, my friend said: “If you really want to become a shoe designer then no one can ever stop you.” I remember that phrase hitting me deep like a fairy’s magic wand above my head. Since that day I started printing all my inspirational images, did a mood board and spent hours looking at it and started sketching my first collection.

AM: And how scary was it for you to switch careers?
To me it was exhilarating that I was taking action to make my dream come true. I didn’t look back or felt scared of what lays ahead. Every step I have taken has taught me a lot and that’s why I have enjoyed it.

AM: So when do you feel the most creative and inspired?
At night, before falling asleep I sometimes visualize new shapes. If I don’t wake up to sketch immediately I try to draw them first thing in the morning.

I think this might be because at night our body slows down and our brain starts to relax. With non-important thoughts of the day fading out creative senses are more active and productivity is higher.

AM: Your designs have particularly inventive forms to them, with harmonious shapes and structures. Do you feel that architecture helped you develop an eye for balance and shape?
Architecture was indeed a big help in creating the new silhouettes. I am also addicted to fashion and the new trends. I wanted to come up with a silhouette that was never created before and was unique, both comfortable and feminine.  

Jori Papa Footwear

AM: What research did you do before establishing your brand?
For a long time I have studied the female foot in different positions, especially on a high and a medium heel. This has helped me understand the best ways on how to make the foot look more elegant, attractive and sexy.

AM: And what are the restrictions to the forms you’d like a shoe to take?
I wanted to create a shoe with a unique silhouette, that is eye-catching and that emphasizes a feminine sensuality in the foot. This was quite a challenge for the manufacturer. It took us a long time and a good few alterations and different prototypes to achieve a shape that has the above attributes and is comfortable to wear. The manufacturer has done a great job.

AM: You then partnered with Heelena on the foldable heels. What were the challenges there?
In 2017 I partnered up with a group of inventors to co-design the first fashion shoe with a foldable heel. Sponsored by WORTH* European Union Partnership Project, the aim of the two creative forces joining together was to combine the design aesthetic of Jori Papa with the modern invention of Heelena’s mechanism of a foldable heel, so that one style of shoe could function as a high heel as well as a flat. A prototype of the shoe was presented to a jury in Valencia in Spain in February 2019 to a very positive acclaim.

AM: Now that you’ve launched your own brand, tell us about your recent collections
We are quite pleased from our customers’ reactions. These new silhouettes have been very well accepted and women are challenging themselves to style their outfits. We hope and wish that women would feel uplifted and unique wearing our shoes.

AM: You’ve suggested that bags and clothing are potential extensions to your work. Do you have some ideas in mind?
My vision is bigger than creating shoes. In the future we want to expand to bags and clothing. I think it’s right to make women feel happy by wearing my creations. That’s my purpose in life. 

Shop Jori Papa here.