Meet Pixie a pointed-toe flat mule, created on a vintage 1980 last (Ah memories of my wanton youth). Pixie is my first foray into working with soling weight leather. What an experience. The leather I have is thick with a veg tan finish. I think it will make for a sturdy sole, but boy is it hard to cut. After using my scalpel (too weak), a 45mm rotary cutter and leather scissors (both hard to control on curves and often crushed rather than cut) and my regular utility knife, I was defeated. I couldn't imagine how I would be able to do it. My hands hurt and were a bit numb. I wallowed in self-doubt and self-pity for about a minute and then did what any self-respecting maker would do - I went took a tour on the internet to see what I could dig up. Someone suggested an Olfa Heavy Duty Utility knife with heavy duty break off blades. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I got my new knife/blades, a 60mm rotary cutter and blades for the 60mm and 45mm the next day. I also got an electric rotary cutter, but I haven't tried it yet. The rough edge gave me an opportunity to learn about edge finishing. The insole on this baby is another piece of lighter weight leather. Between the 2 pieces and the heel, I was able to learn to bevel edges, sand and burnish edges. I got to experiment with my Dremel tool which proved to be a life saver. This shoe is 4 component pieces and again I was working with all cement construction. I knew I wanted a nice finished edge to the upper so I got to incorporate topline tape and I repeated that folded edge that mimics a sewn edge with the construction. Here you can see the folded top edge and skived edges of the upper ready to be glued over the last to the French Beveled insole. ( Another tool in my tool kit!) Several wrappings and edge finishings later Pixie debuted. Even with a few warts (I need to get the upper flatter to connect more seamlessly with the sole), I love her shape, style and spunk. She's mine to test as we transition into Fall. I definitely need some more work on cutting veg tan sole material and finishing these edges. The only way to get better is to do it, so I carry on.
Architecture and shoe design lost a great one this past week - RIP Zaha Hadid. As we see somewhat often, architects understand how to make shoes. In 2013 Hadid and United Nude creative director, Rem Koolhaas produced a wonderfully sculptural, chromed collaboration dubbed the NOVA. Shown as the art pieces they are, the launch rightly presented them in museum exhibition mode, under glass. According to the United Nude website, "the revolutionary design of the NOVA shoe combines innovative materialization and ergonomic considerations with the dynamism of [her] unmistakable architectural language to convey an inherent sense of movement...[she] has developed an innovative cantilevered system that allows the staggering 16cm (6.25 in) heel to appear completely unsupported." An innovator and futurist, she leaves the world a more interesting place.
The footwear industry can be environmentally damaging, enter SOS (Save our Soles), a design consultancy that merges tradition practice with technology to provide innovative and creative footwear. Masterminded by visionary, Ridhwana Shaik, this consultancy promises passionate design, conceptualization and sustainable manufacture and offers limited quantity, great quality, and uniquely African aesthetic. Some projects include: MonkyNutz, a uni-sex kids range that is eco-friendly, created from organic cotton and recycled shoes; SOS fold ups made from 100% African cotton and recycled soles; and the Meshuga brand that provides wood soles from the scavenged wood of Jacaranda tree combined with leather by products from the meat industry that are veg-tanned used as uppers. Most of all I like the tag line: "Leave behind a legacy of great footwear, not a landfill of wasted shoes." A great thought for today or any day.
In keeping with the Inuit tradition of using all of an animal, Nicole Camphaug, an Iqaluit designer, uses sealskin to create shoes with lots of panache and style. Considering a pair of her own worn out boots that she was going to sell, she suddenly got the idea to dress them up with scraps of sealskin. 5 hours later a trend was born. Family and friends asked for their own pair and pretty soon Camphaug was buying pelts. Made by Inuit in Nunavut these babies are popular. Offering Women's and Men's styles, Camphaug has had to recruit her husband to help and has even added in some jewelry with Inuit designs. Even so, at 5 hours of labor per pair, she is still looking for a business model that will lead her to a profitable fashion career. Listen, I'll help her out. These beauties are to die for. So Anne!
New Shoe Books for 2016. Each year some of the people who give me gifts uncover some of the best books about shoes. This year I got two great ones just in time for the winter weather. Grab a hot cuppa, cozy up inside, peruse and dream. Heavenly. Shoe Innovations A Visual Celebration of 60 Styles by Caroline Cox explores the history of shoe design through 60 iconic styles. Each style features a written contextualization and photo catalog. Great for learning styles, understanding the fashion cycle and inspiration. Olivier Dupon's Shoe Contemporary Footwear by Inspiring Designers is a sumptuous coffee table book that looks at beautifully designed luxury shoes by some well known and emerging designers.