If you are into fashion, it's practically impossible that you haven't heard of this shoes and accessories brand – and now clothes too – that a few years ago invaded our wish list and if we are lucky, our wardrobe. Laura Villasenin – founder of Miista – tells us, among many other things, that the meaning of the term Miista comes from the idea of mixing: “It is the way I design, influenced by many elements, mixing and putting opposites together,” and that is why the pieces are unique, special and have their own identity.
With the launch of the new Fall/Winter 2021 collection, Miista has added clothing design to the brand to expand that lifestyle idea, that unique identity, “I think it's more interesting because we see clothing as an extension to shoes, and normally it's the opposite: as a general rule a brand starts with clothing and then they do shoes.” Villasenin tells us, as she's so excited about this new branch that feels as if she has started the project all over again while perpetuating the values that have always governed Miista.

If you've had a look at their Instagram profile you've probably seen a video or two of the manufacturing processes of her products – the shoe factory is in Alicante and the clothes factory in Galicia – and, as the Galician designer says, “Our values truly lie in creating beautiful products and being transparent in the process. Our Miista community really responds when we share behind the scenes films from our factory.” Following this transparency and honesty that represents the brand, today, at 5 pm (Spanish time), the factory will open its doors so that viewers can witness on stream their first runway from the factory. Read on to discover the ins and outs of the brand and its founder, what she believes in and what inspires her.
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Hello Laura, where are you answering us from?
I’m in London today, I split my time between London and Galicia, where our new clothes factory is. I have been based in London for the last 21 years, but all our footwear is handmade in Alicante, so now I spend more time in Spain.
You were born in Galicia, right?
Yes, I was born in A Coruña, and I moved to London to study 20 years ago.
Does your passion for footwear and fashion run in your family?
I actually grew up in the countryside with no real family involvement in fashion, part of my family is involved in furniture-making. Actually, most pieces in our London studio were created by my family. I think that's why I was so determined to create. Coming from a family of makers, from a young age I was always drawn to experimenting and making myself.
Tell us what your journey was like up until creating Miista in London?
I studied a degree in product design for fashion at Cordwainers London College of Fashion. And then I got experience in the industry and later, in 2010, I started putting all this knowledge together and created Miista.
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What is the meaning of the word Miista? Is it related to the brand in any way?
It comes from this idea of mixing: we wanted to incorporate many elements within the brand, mixing materials and shapes with cultural references. It is the way I design, influenced by many elements, mixing and putting opposites together.
We see that, among many other aspects, the craftsmanship and the production chain of the pieces are very important to you and it is a distinctive factor of the brand. Although it seems obvious and necessary, not all firms decide to invest and give value to these processes, because it seems that it is not profitable…
For us, the craft is where everything starts. It’s our interest. That's why I started Miista, because of an interest in making, an interest in the community. And then there is an important factor that goes hand in hand with who we are: we like taking risks. For example in the creative process, but also taking risks in life, and that aspect of not worrying about making mistakes, laughing at ourselves, mixed with our interest in craft and community leads us to do it. Also, in the beginning, it's never going to be profitable to invest, but we are investing in the community and considering the brand's long-term impact.
So, what values would you say Miista is based on?
As I was saying, craft and collaboration are our core values, and we stay true to them in all elements of the business. Over the last 10 years, this is how we've built the brand, as well as being able to laugh at ourselves and take risks along the way. Our values truly lie in creating beautiful products and being transparent in the process. Our Miista community really responds when we share behind-the-scenes films from our factory. Also, I think if we are able to create a product that you really want to keep for a long time, we will feel proud of our work.
Since the first collection that came out in 2011, your designs of both shoes and bags have stood out for their originality, standing out from what until then we found in stores, and today, that unique essence is still in force. What would you say are your sources of inspiration?
As the name of the brand, inspiration comes from many sources, it's a mix too. Even so, much of the inspiration comes from music, especially female musicians and music movements that have shaped culture. I love looking at references from past decades, colours and textures coming through and then thinking how I can play with that reference and make it Miista.
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I would also like to talk about the importance of having a careful identity like the one Miista has. More and more, fashion brands are no longer mere brands that sell designs but become something three-dimensional, giving value to that identity we were talking about, an own aesthetic beyond the pieces, recognisable, as well as the digital identity, in networks and others, the creation of a community of its own, etc.
It’s something that's been happening more and more for the last 10 years. When we started Miista it was something we considered. My team and I found many interesting elements in our daily life, so from very early on our blog had not only fashion but music and general culture. As we all know, at the end of the day your friends tend to have the same cultural values as you do, and we feel the same about our customers.
For us, it is fascinating to have other things to share than just a product: a way of seeing society. We’ve never been too worried about expressing our political views; many other brands are, but we have never been worried about that. You will never be able to please everyone.
Do you think that the way of conceiving fashion and lifestyle brands is changing in this aspect? Do you advocate any other radical change in this area?
I think it’s changing because one of the major improvements in this extreme capitalist society that we live in is the appreciation for craftsmanship and handmade products. Most people choose them – even if they know that they can’t afford to spend that much money – because they prefer to pay more for something that will last, and they will keep for a long time. That’s one of the major changes in fashion. A trend that defends the non-overproducing is basically an industry that is more sustainable, avoiding massive sales by controlling what you are making.
Beyond your aesthetic identity, your multiple and cool ambassadors, and, of course, your exquisite product, you have a website that is out of the norm. From a blog where you not only deal with topics that concern the brand but many others such as art, sustainability, social activism, etc., to ‘fix it,’ an option to fix the pieces in trusted addresses, and then also E8, which we could say is the less premium brand of Miista, right?
From the beginning, Miista is our favourite child but is also not that easy to wear sometimes, so we felt that we needed something extra, and E8 is a more everyday brand, it's easy to wear than Miista. We want to offer to our customers a good quality product, E8 is still all leather and it's manufactured in Portugal. So, it's really good quality, and it still looks good but it’s less complicated. You can style it with anything, you can wake up in the morning, not think much, and just put on your E8, with Miista you have to think more.
And, as if all this were not enough, along with the new collection, you have announced that you are diving into textile design. Is this something you had in mind when you started Miista or has it been emerging as you have moved forward? Tell us how this expansion came about.
I had to start somewhere, and I started with what I knew, which was shoes and accessories, but from the beginning lifestyle was always in the back of my head. The crisis caused by the pandemic gave us the opportunity to basically reshape our business, and it felt like the right time for us to take the next step and bring the vision to life, whilst staying true to our values.
I’d started to notice there was less interest in garment making in northern Spain, and I wanted to work with local artisans and try to revive the once-thriving industry. I feel extremely proud to have an opportunity to set up our own Miista factory and am excited to take that challenge with both hands. As we celebrate a decade of Miista, our priority is now cutting our supply chain down and complete transparency in every product we make.
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Talking about this new collection, it is not the first time you take pioneer women in electronic music as a source of inspiration, is it? Tell us a bit about who they are and why they inspire you so much.
As I said before, music is something that definitely always inspires us, but in this case for the Fall/Winter 2021 collection, we got inspired by early sixties composer and electronic musician Daphne Oram. Daphne created oramics art, so it is a method of drawing out electronic sounding music. In this case, it is her, but there are other women like Delia Derbyshire, Laurie Spiegel and Wendy Carlos. At the moment, we are very much in this sixties mood, because of the kind of freedom that represents. Different collections have different vibes.
We see that you continue to give a lot of importance to materials and textures and that you play with them to create silhouettes and structures that are free and heavy at the same time, elastic, adaptable, and unique.
We have always placed great importance on materials, and this collection is no exception. For example, we coated linen with a sort of wax to make it waterproof and more wintery. But we also did research into knitwear, which is a difficult category, but it allowed us to experiment with the structures, the pieces that expose and restrict, using smooth stretch knit material and one hundred per cent merino wool. Also, we sort of made a tribute to Miista’s best-selling macramé sandals, the line features handmade macramé overlay pieces, sustainably hand-crafted in Spain from hiking rope by macramé artisans.
And then also shoes, which are still the main category. We experimented a lot with exaggerated, angular soles or heels, different types of shape-mixing very square tools with thin heels, mixing the opposite... We keep talking about Miista as the opposite thing, and I think a lot about how we play with shape.
Do you have a favourite piece or one that makes you especially excited about this collection?
There are so many pieces I’m excited about! There is an amazing waxed linen emerald green trench coat with a matching skirt that is pretty special. The waxed linen is actually waterproof, it’s very interesting and unique.
And will the clothes have the same weight as the shoes in the firm or will it be a more limited production, as you do with the bags?
It’s a sixty-four piece collection, but we have kept quantities of production very low to reduce any waste and focus on the quality of each piece, taking time to produce them by hand. Our clothing is from an artisan who makes the piece from start to finish. We produce in small quantities, everything is manual from the pattern-cutting to the final finish.
And, finally, although you have just started with new projects, where would you like to lead Miista in the future?
It feels like we have gone back to the beginning, especially with this project. I hope we can continue to grow in an authentic way and expand on what we are doing, whilst developing our sustainability strategy and making choices for a better future.
A huge part of that is educating the younger generation on the value of quality, when you are committing to producing responsibly you understand the time and skill that goes into creating something with a luxury value. I see the interest and passion for making are dying out. I'd love to work on a project that supports the younger generation to fall in love with making and understand why it's important to actually buy less, then wear and repair. This is so important for a more sustainable future, keeping production local and small with a short supply chain. I’m excited to see where the future takes us in this process.
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