After getting a degree at American College for the Applied Arts and a stint working at a local shoe store, Evelyn Ungari launched LA footwear outpost Diavolina in 1998. The then 22-year-old quickly became a key style influencer for the West Coast with her keen eye for must-have footwear and emerging designers. This week, Diavolina expands into a new location on 3rd street, adjacent to Madison, where this footwear fetishism transcends to a whole new level. JCR caught up with Ungari, who tells us about transforming the LA style aesthetic, hot new labels and how to make shoes both casual and dressy.
JC Report: Has the LA consumer matured over the last few years or become more sophisticated?
Evelyn Ungari: LA has changed so much as far as fashion since I opened my first boutique. Back then, in 1998, LA was known for being really casual and beachy. Going out meant throwing on a pair of jeans and flip flops. When I started bringing in unique sexy stilettos, LA girls just couldnt get enough! It gave girls a reason to dress up and show off their amazing shoes.
JCR: What footwear brands are you most excited about coming into the new store and how will we see them displayed?
EU: For the new store I have picked up amazing new lines such as Charlotte Olympia, Alexander Wang and Camilla Skovgaard, to name a few. These are all young, up-and-coming designers who are not afraid to take a chance on sexy shoes with a bit of an edge. They will be displayed on a back lit up wall and on tables all around the store, so that girls feel like they’re in their living rooms surrounded by shoes that look like pieces of art.
JCR: What are the biggest footwear trends you are seeing in LA right now and how does the celebrity connection of Hollywood impact those trends?
EU: Right now, in LA girls are wearing high heels with just about anything—from sweats to shorts to skirts to dresses to boyfriend jeans, and finally dressing up. Celebrities are such an influence on LA girls. Celebrities like Kate Moss’ effortless style show girls here that it’s okay to throw on a high heel with just about anything and not look too overdone. Or like Nicole Richie in her Pierre Hardy gladiator heels (which she purchased from me). She’s been photographed in them at black tie events, and then throwing them on in jeans to go to the market.
JCR: How have you been dealing with the current economic situation?
EU: My budgets have been cut more then 30%. I have to be extra careful with my buying, but I’m finding that the edgier styles are selling better than the more “commercial” styles. I think girls would rather spend less on clothes—a killer pair of jeans with an off the shoulder tee—and then throw on an amazing pair of heels to dress up the look.
I can’t wait to open in the new location and hopefully bring LA girls back to life. I definitely feel that LA, and California in general, really felt the failing economy first. And being on the shop floor, I feel a bit of sadness and worry about job security that I never felt before. Hopefully I can bring a smile to girls’ faces when they see all the amazing styles that I have to offer in all different price points.
JCR: What are your favorite pair of shoes and why?
EU: My favorite pair of shoes that I own to date are Christian Louboutin black pumps that I have had cleaned and repaired too many times to count. I wear them with everything—shorts, jeans, skirts, dresses, you name it. They make me feel like a million bucks, and make me feel like I have legs for days. One of my favorite quotes from Louboutin is “aint no heel high enough!” and I totally agree with him.
This interview was conducted by Meghan Cleary.