Sultan Al DARMAKI, originally from the United Arab Emirates, has no formal training as a shoe designer, but as a young marketing professional (his first career), he found himself inexorably drawn to what had always been a childhood obsession - sketching women's shoes. In 2011, he took the plunge and, working with a talented team of Italian artisans, launched his own collection of luxurious haute couture footwear, including purple suede pumps trimmed with peacock feathers, and elegant evening slippers with toes wrapped in blue satin pleats, like a Charles James gown. Unfortunately, the sudden death of his father forced him to take a break from his fledgling business. Now, after a brief hiatus and a move to London (spent, Darmaki says, designing "thousands of shoes"), he recently unveiled his Fall 2015 collection, featuring what he's dubbed his signature "origami" heel - a faceted metal column - that lends this season's pumps and boots the architectural authority of contemporary sculpture. This is more than great shoe design - this is art, for your feet.
High fashion meets light bondage in the work of FLEET ILYA, a British purveyor of luxury leather goods designed to celebrate our human fascination with nearly naked skin. Simultaneously chic and provocative, these handmade items range from relatively practical handbags, corsets, bras, belts and wallets to more subversive, and erotic, harnesses, cuffs, restraints and masks. The palette is stark: black, red or nude (the natural color of vegetable-tanned leather), with seasonal shots of more vibrant shades, like coral pink and sky blue. Leather lovers beware: Fleet Ilya is not for garden-variety fetishists. Instead of Christopher Street daddies or Hell's Angels bikers, think Lady Gaga's boldness plus Daphne Guinness' stylishness, plus the late Helmut Newton's eye for Amazonian glamour. All of which adds up to some seriously sexy ready-to-wear.
Finally, for the chicest of sportsmen, we love the snakeskin toys and accessories designed by ELISABETH WEINSTOCK. With a background in both high-end loungewear and custom interiors, the Los Angeles-born-and-bred Weinstock brings a tongue-in-cheek attitude to "luxury goods," offering classically chic handbags and small leather goods, as well as more playful, unexpected items - things like soccer balls, baseball bats, teddy bears and boxing gloves - in exotic skins including anaconda, boa and water snake. Her celebrity following includes Usher, Elton John and Sarah Jessica Parker, but we love her for an entirely different reason: namely, that the mere possession of one of her python footballs or basketballs is enough to make anyone feel like a star.