When Adriana Epelboim graduated from the Pratt Institute with an architecture diploma, she wasn’t set on building things, per se. “I wanted to implement architecture into something else. I always knew it wasn’t going to be in a traditional way,” she explains. Born in Venezuela and raised in Miami, Adriana was also a fashion obsessive—and it was in that passion that she found her answer. “Shoes have the structure and balance that I had been studying for so long in architecture,” she adds, “I really felt I could apply everything I knew to a different skill.” In 2014, after learning hands-on in a Brazilian factory and getting formal training at Italy’s Arsutoria School, Adriana returned home to Miami and founded a line of sleek leather mules, loafers, and heels dubbed Alepel.
In 2018, though, she really found her footing when she landed on the hand-painted element that quickly became a brand signature. “The shoes were a plain canvas,” she says. “I thought why not extend my love for the arts and implement hand-painting?” To raise charitable funds for Venezuela, she designed animal and plant motifs and employed the talents of the local Miami artist TKNAME to wield the brushes. The collection was a fierce success, and as Ariana explains, it gives back in a few ways: “The people that are hand-painting the shoes are local artists—so besides supporting charities, we’re actively supporting the artistic community.”