Stepping Up: Maria Sharapova by Cole Haan

You probably can’t play tennis like Maria Sharapova—but if you stop into a Cole Haan store, you can dress like her. The on-court legend, who’s moved into the second round at the U.S. Open, has colaborated with the label on the special edition Air Bacara Ballet Flat, a sleek shoe tailor-made for the active woman. The “day ballet,” pictured, is made of feather grey perforated leather and sports a hot pink lining; the “night ballet,” a black perforated suede flat with a bold, bright yellow lining, is a  bit more demure.

Before the shoes hit Cole Haan stores nationwide, we spoke to Sharapova about moonlighting as a designer and how her two careers—world-class athlete and footwear architect—intersect.

ERICA BELLMAN: What inspired you to begin designing?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Designing with Cole Haan provides me a creative outlet in which I can express my love for fashion. My collaboration with Cole Haan adds a new dimension to my interest in fashion and design.

BELLMAN: What are the general themes/concepts you considered in designing the latest fall 2011 collection?

SHARAPOVA: My Fall 2011 collection continues to be an expression of my everyday style off the court. As a result of my travels, it’s very important that the styles within my line are versatile, fashionable and easy to wear. This season, I was inspired by the idea of duality—drawing inspiration from both traditional and modern elements—to create wearable styles that can take you from day to night. Within the collection, there are classic menswear details such as the monkstrap and use of traditional hand-painted techniques within the footwear. We also play with sophisticated materials such as lizard-embossed print leathers and incorporate innovative Nike Air technology within all of the footwear, from flats to heels.

BELLMAN: What is your creative process like?

SHARAPOVA: I work very closely with the Cole Haan design team throughout the creative process. Through my travels, I find inspiration in street style and how young women create their individual looks and identity. I always take lots of photographs and I sketch things I see. The Cole Haan team and I will meet to discuss my ideas and my references of the things that inspire me. From this point we work closely on silhouettes, materials and colors to reviewing and approving all final product; it’s a collaborative process from start to finish.

BELLMAN: What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about designing product?

SHARAPOVA: When I travel, I love speaking to women around the world about the things that inspire them, the fashions they like, what makes something good and what would make it even better. It is both a personal reward and a positive challenge to strive to continually enhance women’s experiences with the Maria Sharapova by Cole Haan collection.
BELLMAN: What is your favorite pair of shoes in your closet?

SHARAPOVA: My Air Bacara Ballet is a personal favorite. This style is perfect for travel when I need something that’s both classic and comfortable. I’m excited about the special edition Air Bacaras that will we will be launching this fall. This is the first time that Cole Haan and I have collaborated on a special edition release!

BELLMAN: How do your two activities—playing tennis and designing a collection—relate to one another?  Do you find they’re interconnected in any way?

SHARAPOVA: I have always had an interest in fashion and design and I appreciate style and timelessness within my footwear and accessories both on and off the court. My collaboration with Cole Haan allows me the opportunity to design product that combines innovation with crafted classic style. My collection reflects my style sensibilities off the court and provides easy-to-wear pieces that you can mix and match, dress up or down.