No one does neutrals and sculptural silhouettes like Gray Matters’ founder and creative director, Silvia Avanzi, proposing a new collection of laidback luxury as the new code of conduct: a new vision of power dressing where mid-heels – surprise! – have a lot to say.
While developing advertising and marketing strategies for many fashion brands, Silvia always appreciated shoes as sculptural objects with a distinct identity, feeling there was a need in the market for a modern interpretation of the mid-heel, a shoe height typically resonating with an older or conservative target. “I had a wonderful tutor at Parsons who taught me how to create a successful collection. I also spent a few years working with a bespoke shoe atelier in Brooklyn and our factory in Italy. It is essential to learn about all the technical ‘tricks’ of shoemaking and gain respect from artisans who have been cutting and sewing leather all their life”, she says.

This is perhaps why Silvia always finds in her native country, Italy, the inspiration and artisanal details to apply in each piece, made by three generations of expert shoemakers near Venice, in enriching contrast with the hectic lifestyle of her adoptive city, New York.
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Silvia, tell us about your Italian heritage.
I grew up surrounded by the masterpieces of Italian design by Gio Ponti, Achille Castiglioni, or Ettore Sottsass. I am often inspired by the clean lines and color palette of Italian mid-century industrial design rather than fashion.
You use subtle nuances and neutrals. Is the gray color special to you? Did you choose the name of the brand for that reason?
I find the color gray the perfect backdrop for any composition. Neutral and versatile at the same time, it ‘matters’ on any occasion (smiles).
Sometimes, we feel like everything’s been done. And then, we find these unexpected and architectural heels. Are they wearable for the day-to-day?
We don’t believe in reinventing shapes that worked very well until today. However, we love the idea of reinterpreting a heel or silhouette by seeing it from a different point of view. Being wearable and comfortable is key to our shoes. There is no point in applying a great idea to something that can only sit on a shelf!
“Quirky sophistication for women with character”. Do you identify with this kind of women? Which is the ideal attitude to pair with your shoes?
I always admired the work of Guy Boudin or, the recently, of Alex Prager. The way they picture sophisticated women in simple daily moments is priceless. We speak to confident women that are not afraid to show their flaws and know how to feel appropriate at every moment.
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Gray Matters is made by three generations of expert shoemakers near Venice. How do you manage the production process from New York City? I guess you travel a lot.
I do, but we also have a small team in Italy that can manage the daily contact with the factory and every artisan. It would be impossible otherwise!
Talking about New York, how is your life in the American city?
I lived in New York for almost ten years, following a few more in London, Switzerland and, of course, Italy. New York is definitely the most hectic of the cities I’ve ever lived in! Opportunities are around the corner and we live with this constant FOMO that can be very tiring. My current lifestyle is very much driven by what happens at Gray Matters. We recently moved our studio and showroom to a beautiful space facing the Hudson River. I spent most of my day there brainstorming new ideas for the brand, meeting buyers, and planning for the next fashion week.
You’ve developed a short film series about the idea of getting ready to travel and all of the idiosyncratic humorous things that happen in the planning and logistics phases. What makes you smile in your daily life?
Exactly that! Simple events that we can all relate to.
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