Citizen of the World

Elle AyoubZadeh, founder of a luxury shoe company, reflects on the power of global inspiration

Favourite Toronto restaurant: “I like Le Sélect Bistro. I had one of my first dates with my now-husband there. The owner is very supportive of creatives like myself and we even did a beautiful photoshoot there. The frites are my favourite, and it’s very café-like, but on the high end. It’s not your typical snobby restaurant; it’s French: stylish and confident.”

Favourite travel destination: “Australia and New Zealand, to see my family. And I’d like to go back to Venice. I got married there last year and would like experience it without all the wedding preparations.”

“What is the point of dying with all your dreams inside of you? That is always at the back of my mind. That’s what inspires me more than anything,” says Elle AyoubZadeh, who departed from a corporate career in 2011, and founded her luxury shoe company in 2015. “At the end of the day, when you put your head down on your pillow to sleep, you really have to have the conviction of what it is that you are doing in your life. Because it doesn’t matter how many great things you accomplish or how many failures you think you have, nobody cares as much as you do. You need to have that conviction and that’s what drives you.”

Elle, who lived in Iran, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Australia before moving to Canada, has a decidedly multinational and multicultural approach to her company philosophy. “I take a global view. If you look at all the problems we have in the world, it’s because people think there should be one dominant culture leading the conversation on many topics. The best thing that has happened to me is being exposed to all of these cultures,” she says. “Every positive thing we’ve done in the company has been because of this global outlook. Two hundred people have to come together just to make one single pair of Zvelle shoes. That’s working with the leather guys, the heel guys, the lathe maker, whether it’s in in Italy or Brazil. All of those people have different backgrounds; their parents came from other places too. Everyone has a story.”

In Toronto, Elle visits the Aga Khan Museum to take in the Eastern and Asian art exhibits for inspiration. “It’s beautiful and hidden away, and you always get a fresh perspective.” Elle also draws inspiration for her designs and for her worldview when she travels. “Walking is the best way to experience a city; to be amongst the locals. I avoid the tourist spots. When you’re walking, you really get a sense of the culture, the environment and the different views. I get my thinking done when I’m walking, [but I’m also] in the moment and taking everything in. The architecture, the colours, just looking at what people are wearing in their day-to-day life gives me a lot of ideas.”

What’s next for her company? “We’re just getting started. I want to grow it in many different product categories and take it to different world markets,” she says. “We’re in the early stages of a long and beautiful journey.”


Elle AyoubZadeh , Toronto, Ontario, Founder and creative director of Zvelle