zvelle wedding

The founder of Zvelle on giving back to healthcare workers, COVID-19 brides and her own wedding story

Toronto-based footwear brand Zvelle has found a way to give back to the healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Founder Elle AyoubZadeh says they weren’t able to produce masks, but wanted to do something to lift the spirits of the dedicated healthcare workers on the front lines.

The team created the Stowe sandals to honour the first female physician and founder of Women’s College Hospital Dr. Emily Stowe. They have asked people to nominate frontline healthcare workers to receive a pair of the sandals. After an overwhelming response, Zvelle has decided to keep the campaign open-ended as the team continues to receive and read each nomination and send out a pair of Stowe sandals to each healthcare hero.

“We wanted to bring some beauty and inspiration into their lives at a time when they need it most,” says AyoubZadeh. “It was only after personally interacting with many of these women that I realized how much this gesture meant to them. The last two weeks have taught me that we should not underestimate the impact of our actions, big or small.”

While Zvelle continues to send out sandals to nominated healthcare heroes, the company also partnered with Weddingbells magazine to gift shoes to brides whose weddings were impacted by COVID-19. They have been encouraging brides to share their stories on Instagram, and three will be chosen to receive a pair of shoes to walk down the aisle in.

We also had a chance to chat with AyoubZadeh about her own nuptials, which were a small and intimate affair in Venice, Italy long before the days of COVID-19. Here’s the full love story on how she met her husband Raymond Luk.

How they met

We first met in Montreal at a technology event Raymond hosted. I had reached out to Raymond professionally, and we agreed this would be a good place to meet. After that we ran into each other for nine months as we were in the same professional circle. One evening, while at a dinner in Montreal with some of our mutual friends, Raymond turned to me and quietly asked me if he could take me to dinner the next time he was in Toronto (Raymond was living in Montreal at the time). And I said, “I’d like that.”

The first date

Our first date was on Oct. 23, 2010. We met for dinner at a restaurant and walked to a jazz bar afterwards. After enjoying some drinks over the music, Raymond walked me home. We had an instant connection of mind and heart, and we talked for hours. In fact, we talked until 2 a.m. For the next eight months, Raymond drove from Montreal to Toronto every Friday to spend the weekend with me.

The proposal

One cold January evening, we had date night scheduled, but I was tired from a long workweek and wanted to stay in. Raymond insisted we go out and said he had found the perfect restaurant where we could dine in with our dog Chilby. We went to the Four Seasons Hotel where Raymond indicated that we were going to a private restaurant. After a short elevator ride, we arrived at a suite, and I saw long stem roses everywhere. Raymond had gotten one rose for every month we were together, and after being together for almost seven years, they practically filled the room! I still had no clue, and I was thinking to myself, “Where is this restaurant?” I turned around to find Raymond on one knee proposing. I said yes, and we hugged Chilby who was having the time of his life!


Elle AyoubZadeh and Raymond Luk

The wedding

We got married in Venice, Italy, at the Palazzo Pisani Morretta that same year on Oct. 15. Our family lives around the world, and we wanted them to experience the destination as well as celebrate at the wedding. We chose Venice because it’s magical and romantic. I have a brother who has special needs, and we wanted him to be a big part of our wedding day. He cut the cake and shared our first dance with us. We were so happy to share these moments with him. For our honeymoon, we went to Rome and Amsterdam.

The little one

We have a majestic American cocker spaniel named Chilby who is five years old. We love him. As for human babies, not yet, but never say never.

Balancing careers and marriage

We integrate our careers with our personal life. It’s a blessing to be married to someone who really understands you and your desire to build a company and the sacrifices that can come with that. Raymond’s company Hockeystick is in the financial software space, and my company Zvelle is in the fashion space. The good and bad thing about that is that we have different calendars, which means that, when it’s quiet for him, it can be very busy for me and vice versa. We realize, however, that to build the kind of businesses and lives we want we need to invest time and effort into it.

Secret of success

I don’t think there is a formula as every relationship is unique. I’m an independent person and I appreciate that my husband and life partner is too. I give him the space to be who he wants to be. We both celebrate each other’s aspirations and goals and I think that’s really important. For us to be together, we need to continue being two people who choose to be together every day. And that’s okay if that means riding the ups and downs together. He’s my best friend and confidant. I trust and respect him immensely.

The home

We are at Avenue and Lawrence and have lived in this neighbourhood for the past seven-and-a-half years.

Life after retirement

I don’t think we will ever retire in the traditional sense. We have many ideas for other businesses we want to work toward and causes we want to support. We would like to do something in the area of supporting families who have children (young or adult) with disabilities.

Article exclusive to TRNTO