Westward migration: Though he studied architecture in his native Yugoslavia and worked as an interior designer and artist in New York, it was in Los Angeles that Dragan Mrdja found his calling: men’s shoes. “This gave me the biggest creative satisfaction because I see something I don’t think anyone else is seeing,” he says. Best of both worlds: Finding British shoes too heavy and Italian ones too feminine, he came up with a hybrid last year. “My message to men is, You don’t have to be macho. Shoes can be comfortable and durable without sacrificing elegance.” His signature is the shape of the sole. “I spent months on that design. Just shaving three millimeters off the side made a huge difference.” Rainbow coalition: In addition to the usual neutrals, Mrdja’s oxfords, wing tips, desert boots, and ankle boots come in sherbet colors, a palette inspired by the pastel suedes he saw in Florence, where he buys his materials. “It’s not important that they sell,” he says. “I just had to make them.” » Dragan Mrdja shoes ($425-$795) are available at draganmrdja.com.
Photograph by Coral Von Zumwalt