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Interview • Taghrid Chaaban Zorob of RAFA

by Akosua Adasi
Finding the perfect shoe to take you from class to dinner to the bar is no easy feat. And finding a shoe that is unique and sexy? Even harder. That's where RAFA comes in. The LA-based brand specialises in sustainable footwear ranging from strappy sandals to the ever trendy sock boot. Each piece is made with vegan materials like faux-suede and velvet, and come in a fabulous range of colors including chlorophyll green and peach pink. Keep scrolling to meet the equally dreamy woman behind the dreamiest shoes we've ever seen.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Kiss my two daughters

What’s your background?
I was born and raised in Tripoli, Lebanon and at 11 years old I moved to LA. Coming from a very homogeneous, conservative society and entering 7th grade at a public school in the heart of LA was a huge culture shock. I remember feeling overwhelmed and thrilled at all the different types of people, languages and cultures I was newly encountering. This experience shaped my view on the world, and it is part of why I have a huge commitment and passion about Los Angeles. In college, I studied business knowing that one day I’d embark on a venture that encapsulates all that LA and its people have to offer

When did you make the decision to move from blogging and photography to designing? How did your experience in both of those arenas help you with the switch?
All of my ventures thus far have been creative expressions in different formats. Blogging was an excuse to play with a camera, photography was an excuse to create connections and learn more about the back end of the fashion industry. I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some amazing people through whom I learned so much about not only design, but simply running a business, and life. RAFA is a combination of all the things I have learnt and love.

How do you stay grounded amidst all the work and stress that comes with being a designer?
I launched my company in 2015 whilst 6 months pregnant--I do not really have the luxury of taking myself too seriously these days. [It’s] a daily struggle to get all the things on my to-do list done

What is one crucial lesson you’ve learnt as a designer?
Stick to your gut, and don’t look at what other people are doing

Why sustainability? What are the challenges of having a sustainable and ethical brand?
My philosophy is to create beautiful things that will still be relevant in 5, 10, 15 years that are both good for people and good for the environment. Thanks to advancements in the technology of recycling, we are able to use beautiful, durable, animal-free materials in our shoes. Also, Los Angeles is home to really talented 2nd and 3rd generation artisan shoemakers who have been struggling to keep the doors open when businesses decided to manufacture overseas. RAFA’s profit margins are not as fat as they could be if we did what everyone else does, but I’m OK with that if it means we keep jobs here and create an industry wide trend towards conscious manufacturing

How do you stay relevant in an ever-growing industry?
RAFA does not do things like most companies in the fashion industry. We don’t follow the traditional SS & AW calendar of the fashion industry. Almost everything we make is made-to-order to reduce waste and sell people only what they want when they want it. And in general stick to the timeless classics. We are not concerned with seasonal “trends”. And that, in a way, makes us refreshing

How do you integrate sustainability into your day to day?
The small things really make a big difference. For example, we make an effort to only buy what we need to make things/ ship things/ run our business from other local businesses within Southern California. In this way we help support other small businesses and reduce our carbon footprint as much as we can. A car traveling 30-50 miles to pick up materials puts out less junk into the environment than a plane or boat would coming from across the world

Where do you find inspiration?
I love and collect vintage sewing patterns from the 60’s and 70’s. The illustrations are just too good. More than one of RAFA's styles was inspired by a vintage McCall’s pattern.

Favorite city to visit?
I love every city in Mexico! Beautiful places with good people

Favorite RAFA shoe?
The Skipper Heel

Pet peeve?
I really dislike excessive packaging. I think companies don't really realize (or just don't care) how much of a detriment to our environment that a lot of "pretty" packaging is

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