Aldo Shoe Aficionado Daianara Grullon Amalfitano Talks Trends, Influencers, and What’s Next

by Kristen Heinzinger

Meet Daianara Grullon Amalfitano, Aldo’s VP of global footwear, who was brought on to lead design and product management for the brand just over a year ago. With more than two decades of experience at Steve Madden, the shoe aficionado breaks down her career and what we can expect from Aldo’s shoe haven this spring, next fall, and beyond.

Daianara, how did you get involved in this side of the fashion industry?
I’ve been in the footwear industry for 23 years. I started with Steve Madden in retail, which then led to design. As the company started to acquire and license brands, I took over those departments. Most recently, I was the international brand manager.

When did you realize you wanted to get into fashion in the first place?
As young as 7 or 8 years old! I would always try to make clothes for my Barbies. I went to FIT, where I initially focused on ready-to-wear. As much as I was obsessed with footwear, I didn’t realize it until the first time I stepped foot inside a shoe factory.

What was it like to work with Steve Madden from the beginning stages?
Incredible. It was a fast-paced environment, especially in the early years. We all wore multiple hats because the team was so small, so I did everything from designing to costing out the products…even as far as speaking to magazines and a little bit of PR. Anytime I went to a place like Dubai, for example, I’d visit Steve Madden stores and then right next door was an Aldo store, so it was a natural transition of understanding the Aldo brand. Over the years, it’s
a brand that I’ve always looked at and studied.

Do you keep in touch with Steve?
Yeah, of course. No matter what, he was a big piece of my life and I wouldn’t be where I am without him.

What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
Timing is everything. As designers, we want to be first and to deliver products that are fashion-forward, but timing is everything and understanding your consumer and what your consumer needs is No. 1.

What intrigued you about the opportunity at Aldo?
Meeting with Aldo Group, especially Mr. Bensadoun. I feel aligned with the company’s values of love, respect, and integrity. It’s amazing coming here to Montreal—I was born and raised in Brooklyn as a first-generation American. At Aldo, everyone is motivated and lives through that on a daily basis.

What was your vision for Aldo when taking on your role?
Naturally, the retail and fashion businesses are changing. For Aldo, we realized it’s an opportunity to reignite the passion for our brand, and we’re looking at everything from our ad campaigns to our social media to the products. To me, Aldo is young in its spirit, urban in its mind-set, and aspirational in terms of a personal lifestyle. We’ve spent a lot of time and research looking at our customer—we are reinventing ourselves, and I’m leading the team in doing that.

Which trends are we seeing in the Spring/Summer 2017 line?
There are a lot of retro silhouettes, but with a modern twist. It’s all about platforms and blocky heels in fun combinations. Transparency is important, and treatments like beading and embroidery—anything that feels somewhat opulent.

Have you gotten more shoe-obsessed throughout your career?
I have close to 400-500 pairs, but it’s what I do for a living—I’m obsessed with shoes. I’ve purged a lot since my move to Montreal. My favorites are absolutely heels, whether it’s a platform or a single sole. I’ve recently switched from stilettos to more of a block heel, which I’m loving, and I also love ankle booties. I can’t help but collect them! Some of them will become a part of my archive, so even if I’m not wearing them anymore, I feel like I’ll circle back to them one day.

What was it like moving from NYC to Montreal?
Honestly, I spent more time worrying about the transition than the actual transition. It was really easy. I feel like the culture and the diversity that this city has reminds me so much of New York and even parts of Brooklyn. The food is incredible; the people are incredibly welcoming and friendly. I’m a big runner, so I love running in Mount Royal Park, which was designed by the same person who designed Central Park. The aesthetic feels familiar to home.

Tell us about your running team!
Born Guerrera is one of my other passions. It means warrior in Spanish. It’s a running team that a friend of mine and I co-founded. The goal is to bring people together, whether you’re a beginner runner or a runner who’s extremely advanced, but another big piece of it is to help raise money and get people together to run for charities. One of the charities that we worked with last year was SOS Children’s Villages and the goal was to run the distance from New York to Santiago, where there is a village that my parents were born and raised in. We did a run streak for 60 days and slowly, as word spread, we had people in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Florida running, and it became a team of 40 people. We raised $20,000 in 60 days, so it was a huge accomplishment. On day 60, my running partner and I went to the village in Santiago, in the Dominican Republic, and handed over the $20,000 check.

Aldo works with a lot of influencers. Who’s your favorite to follow?
Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad. She’s amazing. I’ve worked with her in the past. I think she’s an incredible talent and so grounded and down-to-earth. She’s a natural when it comes to influencing fashion.

What’s it like looking back at your first year at Aldo?
The most exciting thing has been working with the teams. I have a large global team that I lead, and they’re extremely talented and experienced designers and product developers. Getting to know them and setting them up in a way to succeed and continue growing has been one of the best parts of my job.

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