During a trip to Morocco in 2012, Tory Noll was weaving her way through the fragrant spices, hanging lanterns and shouting merchants at a Marrakech market when she stumbled upon a shoemaker's shop. Most travelers were requesting custom leather styles, but Noll asked the cobbler, Hamid Fadhli, to turn a vibrant pink and navy handwoven rug she'd just purchased into a pair of flats. "When I got back to New York, people stopped me on the street—'Where did you get those?!'" says Noll, 29. "My friends were begging for their own pair if I ever went back."

In hopes that her chance creation might really catch on, Noll returned to Morocco two months later ("If the plan failed, at least it was a fun vacation," she says) and, with the help of a translator, worked out a deal with Fadhli: Noll would sketch the designs and supply the boldly patterned sheep's-wool rugs, which she finds by scouring auctions and markets in Marrakech and surrounding areas, while he would craft the shoes. "The textiles are my secret sauce," Noll says. "I'll never reveal my sources. It takes the artisans several weeks to finish a single rug— enough fabric for about 40 pairs of shoes."

Thanks to enthusiastic friends and word of mouth, Noll's first run of a few dozen oxfords was an easy sell. Now she travels to Fadhli's shop twice a year, spending a couple of weeks fine-tuning designs for her label, TEN & Co., while he and his two apprentices hammer and stitch away. "I bring a pad of paper and a huge bag of colored pencils," says Noll, whose fifth collection just debuted with ankle boots and flats. "I don't speak Arabic, so there's a lot of drawing and gesturing!"


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