We never met a jazzy, comfortable flat shoe that we didn’t love. But some are clearly far superior. Meet Llani, a collection of divine slides, slippers, Babouches, and sandals that are intricately embellished and have style for (walking) miles. There is a slip-on for every mood and each pair is lovingly crafted by female-founded, family owned factories in India. Making for an all-around, feel good purchase. Founded by designer Alana Oates, this burgeoning brand is really hitting its stride (no pun intended!) during our stay-at-home reality. Let’s take a walk in Alana’s shoes!
Things are a little different right now, we’re in an unprecedented time…how have you shifted as a business and as an individual to accommodate this new normal?
Before COVID hit we were working on some pretty big partnerships and brand expansion. This is still a huge goal for us this year, but COVID forced us to take a step back from the bigger picture and refocus on our direct to consumer business. It was a blessing in disguise. As it happened, our core customers were wanting the comfort and practically of our best-selling shoes. Although we had been working on expanding the brand into other categories, it was a kind reminder of what we built the brand around, cozy comfortable beautiful shoes that can be worn best at home.
Tell us a little bit about your journey in fashion and specifically, what led you to shoe design?
I studied fashion in college and I found myself getting restless about the idea of designing apparel. I thought I would go another route, maybe into styling or art direction, something more overarching. I was interning at the time for an apparel brand and I had to stay late one night to help the new shoes designer we had just hired prep for a sketch review. As soon as I saw his sketches and the materials he was working with, stingray, feather, python, and these beautiful sculptural heels, I never looked back. He eventually hired me as his assistant and spent 2 years teaching me about shoe design. When he left his role, I took over as the shoe designer for all of the private label shoes at Anthropologie. I was lucky enough to travel the world and design for 5 different brands within the company.
You work directly with factories in India that are committed to female-led work environments as well as impeccable craftsmanship. How did you form this unique supply chain and how do you continue to nurture it?
When I founded Llani I knew I wanted to be working in India. I had traveled there before and instantly felt connected to the country and its culture. It was thanks to some wonderful contacts that led me to launch. Four years later we have the same commitment but we are partnered in a new way. I now have a small team in Delhi and we develop everything together and find the right vendors for each individual item. It’s amazingly helpful to have eyes and ears right there. When I’m able to travel, I spend days at a time working alongside the vendors to create unique designs tailored to each craftsman’s expertise.
Your slippers and babouches are literally the most perfect thing to wear if you have to be stuck at home but still want to feel pulled together. Did you find that a lot of people are discovering you due to our current (COVID) circumstances?
Yes, for sure. We also had some of our best and loyal customers rediscover us through this time. People that mostly come to us around holiday time for gifts were coming to re-order pairs for themselves. We founded the brand around the comforts of home and wanting to feel your best in the space you love. I agree—there couldn’t be a more perfect at home shoe!
Since so much of your business is centered around India which means you are probably a world traveler. Tell us some of your travel particulars for your cross-continental journeys!
I have a few strange particulars I follow on my business trips to Delhi. Here they are:
- I never travel for less than 6 nights
- I take the exact same flights each trip
- I insist on switching hotels at least 2x so even if it’s a week-long trip I end up staying at 3 different hotels or more. I do this because each hotel has something different to offer. Also, Delhi is so congested it’s easier to see and visit different parts of the city if you stay near by vs. spending 1/2 a day in traffic (it’s happened!). My flight home is usually very late at night and I like to have an airport hotel (there are really nice options like the Andaz!) booked that day so I can relax and anything that needs to be reviewed at the end of the trip gets sent there so I can see it right before I leave.
- One complete day, usually the first day, is reserved for shopping and fabric markets
- My schedule completely shifts. When I’m at home, 11pm is a late night for me. In Delhi, I hardly ever go to sleep before 2am. It’s not because of the time change, I adjust quickly to that, but I’m almost high off creative energy when I’m there.
- I end every night with a salt bath and a scotch on the rocks (something I would never drink at home!)
- If I’m there over a weekend, we take a road trip to somewhere like Jaipur. Next one will be Jodhpur!
What are some of your daily particulars that you always put on (jewelry, accessories…etc.)? …this could be pre-social distancing or what you are doing now.
Sunscreen is a big one for me this year! Even when I’m in my home, it’s on. D.S. & Durga Coriander, tinted eyebrow gel, praline colored lipstick. My good gold jewelry that never comes off, my grandmother’s high school ring, my wedding and engagement ring stack with a diamond band from India, delicate hoops in my second hole, and 2 loud clanky bangles on my left arm, and lastly, our 14k Gold Mahal Anklet. Llani’s on my feet at all times. Right now I’m rotating our new scrunchie sandals outside of the house and our modern babouche in rose grey & the luxe embellished slides for inside.
With summer here, what’s next for Llani?
Most importantly, we are working on ways to give back to our communities. We have two initiatives happening now; this month we are supporting Black Mama’s Matter Alliance through donating 100% of our sales of our Incense Match packs, and our $50 or 50 promotion where we donate 50 masks for every order over $50 to COVID prevention efforts in India.
On the product front- we just launched a very exciting accessories collaboration with Anthropologie including headbands and jewelry! You can expect to see some newness on our own site too including more handbags, jewelry, headbands, and textiles!