Maria has a pure passion for fashion!
From a young age she always knew she was going to work in fashion. There was no plan B.
She is a firm believer (and proof) that if you work hard towards your goal, anything is possible!
Tell us a little about yourself...
My name is Maria Mastrangelo and as you can probably tell by my last name...I am of Italian background -but born in Montreal, Canada. I am 29 years old and ever since I can remember I have had an obsession with fashion in general, but specifically footwear. For anybody that knows me, they would tell you that I never wear the same shoes twice in one week and I am very passsionate about colour and design!
In actuality my journey through the fashion industry started young. I used to watch runway shows for a countless amount of time and distinctly remember one day taking it upon myself to grab a piece of paper and crayons, sitting myself at the kitchen table and sketching up my first ever "fashion design" dress. The dress was a red, long evening gown and even though the drawing wasn't at all fancy or designer approved, to me it was my vision. It was my start. Knowing exactly what I wanted to do in life began that very day at the age of 14.
To this day, I will never forget that moment. So, when it was time for me decide what to do after high school, the choice was clear. I enrolled myself into the Fashion Design program at LaSalle College in Montreal. Upon starting my first day, I brought all materials, all fabrics and all books and pencils I needed. I cannot even explain in writing how truly excited I was to start and learn about the design world. There, I worked on projects endlessly, from sewing to pattern making to tech packs for womens clothing, I learned the entire process. I completed my 3 year long program where I graduated to recieve my diploma and all my work throughout my final year was showcased in the final graduation fashion show. But, I did not stop there.
To me, the world of fashion was so intriguing. I wanted to take it a step further so I became a student of the fashion school in Milan named Instituto Moda Burgo. There I continued my studies in design, but this time for mens clothing and tailoring. And where better then the wonderful land my father is from! I received a certificate from this school and gained an experienced that would last me a lifetime. Forever grateful for my time there, I returned to Montreal with the mission to find a job in the field.
As many say, it is a challenging industry to work for as in Montreal there are few brands here but I was truly determined and having no plan B, I hustled to get my foot in the door. And this is truly when it all started. I began my career 9 years ago as an assistant swimwear designer. Knowing little about swimwear, I immersed myself and learned the category well and enjoyed every minute of it until later, when I left to give my go at designing handbags.
To me, design is design. If you are creative and love what you do you should never let fear get in your way. This is precisely why I never held back to try things that I hadn't studied. I knew that with time, while working and getting experience, I could achieve my goal. I designed handbags for 7 years until finally working my way up to designing footwear.
Today, I am the footwear designer for the brand Matt & Nat in Montreal, which is a vegan company that does not use any leather. I am humbled and so grateful to have been able to work for several brands and learned so much throughout all those years that all I can really say is, if you really want something never let it go. Always work hard for what you want and anything is possible.
Maria's concept sketch of the shoe she created during her 5 day Studio Intensive
If you were a shoe what type of shoe would you be?
This is such a great question! If I were a shoe, I would definitely be a heel. A high heel, at least 3". I say this because I always found that a woman in heels gives off an undeniable sense of control and class. I have always loved high heeled shoes, so much so that (before sneakers became the thing to wear) everyday I would wear a different pair of heels in a different colour to match my outfit. A fun fact about me is that to this day, I live by the rule of choosing my shoes before selecting the outfit I will wear that day...strange, no?
Snakeskin Wedges made by Maria during her 5 Day Studio Intensive in 2016
What inspired you to take classes at Art and Sole?
Art and Sole was a blessing to me! Being in Montreal, there are no schools that teach footwear. So, literally the only way to learn is to study abroad or buy books and teach yourself, which is exactly what I did before discovering the Art and Sole Academy.
After hours and days of research on possible schools in Canada for footwear, I came across the Art and Sole website and there I knew I wanted to attend. I was so extremely excited to learn the fundamentals of footwear design that I wanted to make my own pair of shoes, which is why I took the 5 day intensive course. My experience at Art and Sole was incredible. I miss it so much and wish I could go back every 6 months to learn something new!
During my time in the amazing studio, I was able to hand make my shoes. A pair of shoes that had been inspired by snakes. I sketched the shoe, went fabric shopping with Jennifer (my wonderful teacher at Art & Sole) and returned to make my first pair of leather Cut out snake wedges! .....but, being an over achiever I did not stop there! ....I decided that I had a couple days left in the studio, so I also made a pair of white block heel sandals with gold hardware details!
What a great adventure it was to design, develop, sew and assemble my very own shoes!!!!
Have you continued to practice the craft?
Yes! I have absolutely continued footwear design and have made it my career. I currently work for a Montreal brand where I initially was designing the handbags but later moved up to designing footwear. My favorite part about my job I'd have to say is visiting factories overseas in Asia and Italy and doing trend research. Travelling makes my creative juices flow and allows me to think outside the box!
Matt & Nat PE20
What type of materials do you like to work with?
In all honesty, I love leather! I love the smell, I love the look and I love the lifespan a leather piece can have. Example, a good leather handbag can last you your entire life, while a good pair of shoes can be timeless and so comfortable! However, in our ever changing world I do realize that going vegan (design wise) is the most resourceful and completely the way to go, this is why I am very happy to currently be a designer of a vegan footwear brand that uses recycled material. Every season I work to source materials that are long lasting, vegan and sustainable.
The Matt & Nat all new ITZA classy lace up oxford
What does being a designer/maker mean to you?
Being a designer/maker means the world to me. It means that I wake up every morning to do what I love. I am tremendously blessed to be able to work in an industry that is so competitive, so fierce and so intense. You have to have thick skin, work very hard and just give it your all! There is nothing else I ever wanted to do as much as creating and designing. To me, there is no plan B.
High heels designed by Maria for Matt & Nat
How does being a designer/maker influence your relationship with shopping and retail?
This is a funny question as it comes up in my everyday life all the time! Wherever I am or whatever I want to buy, I always think about how it's made. It has affected my relationship with retail in the sense that before making a purchase I reflect on how long it would take to make the item or how much the item costs to be made, which then causes me to reflect on where it was made and if I should buy it or not.
What’s next for you!?!
My upcoming goals at this very point in time would be just to stay healthy and live life to the fullest everyday. Always remember that nothing is impossible and what really matters is your happiness and health. Having said that, I can happily say that I feel fortunate to have had so many different experiences within this industry and having had the privilege of designing many different categories of the fashion world, I am so grateful that ultimately I just want to continue to create, learn and design my way into the future.
How can we follow along with your next steps?
My social media account is: @maria_mastrangelo (personal) @leather_and_coffee_ (shoe blog account)