Isa Tapia, Shoe Designer

The Puerto Rican born Isa Tapia has a bona fide shoe fetish, which she’s translated into her own New York-based label. It begun with Parson’s School of Design, followed by stints with legends Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta. Now her own carnivalesque yet practical range of shoes can be found among the world’s most established labels at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Bergdorf Goodman. Australians can also source her beautiful shoes at e-tailers My Chamelon, Shopbop and For Artists Only

Isa welcomed the Beauticate team into her Manhattan apartment, including its entire storage unit of shoes, a walk-in wardrobe of vintage gems, and a bathroom cabinet of beauty curiosities from around the world. 


"I love creating new things, it's an amazing process. 

Creating shoes is my passion. To dream up an idea and sketch it but then to build the patterns and execute it and make it come to life with materials and colours, it's a really magical thing. It fills me with joy. And to see other women wearing the shoes I’ve designed also makes me happy. 

Isa designs shoes with her own desires in mind

Isa designs shoes with her own desires in mind

 
the iconic pink isa tapia shoe box

the iconic pink isa tapia shoe box

I've been in love with shoes as long as I can remember.

I think of all the things I want as a woman in a shoe - I want to feel sexy but I also want to be sensible and be able to move around and walk all day. I feel most beautiful when I'm relaxed, laid back and comfortable; when I'm at peace. But if I'm wearing a flat sandal, it’s in python or it has crystals on it, or it's made out of satin! It has to be luxurious.

 

My favorite part of myself is my feet.

I'm actually pretty content with all of me, I think it happens at your 30s. But it’s especially lucky I have good feet. It would be a real problem otherwise! I’m actually really into sexy toe cleavage at the moment, it’s the latest thing in New York.

isa believes toe cleavage is underrated

isa believes toe cleavage is underrated

 
fabulous ponyskin pumps and lip loves

fabulous ponyskin pumps and lip loves

I really appreciate the imperfect beauty of actress Monica Vitti. 

She also has the duality of the masculine versus feminine, which I admire. She can be very strong but also very weak and she exudes sex appeal without showing any skin. It's her brain, her thoughts, her actions and reactions that make her sexy, not her cleavage. I love minimal make-up, but a strong look with a good cat eye just like Viti. For a bold lip I use Lady Danger from MAC, or Nars Heat Wave

 

I love messy, bed hair.

It balances the vintage aspect of my style, so I don't look too retro like a pin-up, for instance it modernizes me if I'm wearing a 50s Mad Men style floral dress. It also balances me out if I’m wearing cocktail dress during the day.

I usually apply Sahag Air Lift spray while my hair is still wet, then I blow dry it upside down (bending over) while combing my fingers though it, to create volume. I can blend Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray for a more summery look and with more shine. Once it's dry it's good to apply Bumble and Bumble hair powder. I use 'A Tint of Brown' but they make many colours for every shade. My hairdresser Niko Weddle also cuts my hair in layers for volume. 

isa changes her hair colour frequently

isa changes her hair colour frequently

 
bold colours and prints adorn isa's apartment

bold colours and prints adorn isa's apartment

I cannot make up my mind if I want to be a blonde or a brunette! 

I spend one year as a brunette get bored and dye it blonde and vice versa. Hopefully my hair will not turn against me later for this, because for now I'm having fun!

 

Sonya Dakar face cream gets me through the New York winters.

It’s thick and builds a good layer in the winter. My facialist recommended it and now I swear by it.

I also use Erno Laszlo Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar followed by his Hydraphel Skin Supplement and lately I finish it all of with a healthy dose of Marula Oil infused with Neroli, it's a small South African company making small batches of wonderful stuff. Sometimes I use Epicuren Fine Herbal Face Scrub. At night I slather on La Prairie Creme Biologie and sometimes an Annick Goutal Rose Mask – it smells fantastic!

isa sparkles in a sequin dress

isa sparkles in a sequin dress

 
luxe shower treats from kiehl's and more

luxe shower treats from kiehl's and more

I love to relax in a salt bath after a long day.

I use Epsom salts and add coconut oil, or the good old Vitamin E oil and Kiehl's Dermatologist Powerful Strength Concentrate Solution, but nothing is better than a good night’s sleep.

 

It's very interesting to me the concept of beauty how it varies in different cultures. 

I travel a lot for work and spend a lot of time between cities, so I get to try new products. In Hong Kong nobody likes a tan, it's all about preserving the childlike skin, so instead of bronzers they use whitening creams. In Thailand they love a tan, so I find great body oils.  In Japan I find face powders that leave your skin incredibly soft. They are also obsessed with fake eyelashes. They have every shape and variation, even cases for you to carry then in."  

isa collects beauty from all over the world

isa collects beauty from all over the world

 

Story by Jessica Burdon. Photography by Jonathan Bookallil. Hair by Niko Weddle. Makeup by Ellen Guhin