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THE JOY OF MAKING

I learned to knit when I was 3 and though I was so young, I discovered the absolute joy of creating things! I felt empowered. I learned to problem solve. I learned to design. I challenged and exercised my creativity. I learned to accept mistakes and understand that they are part of “seeing the hand” in handmade. Knitting opened up an entire world that has and continues to bring me great joy. My mother was an “off the boat” English woman who had lived through WWII. Through that experience she learned many useful skills and developed principles that she passed on to me.I constantly pass these skills and tenets on to numerous students and friends, allowing them to pursue their own creative journeys. So many times I hear people say, “I can’t do that,” to which I reply, “Of course you can. You just need someone to show you how. There is nothing more satisfying than watching the discovery and success on learners faces after they master the first steps of a project.

The past few months of stay at home has led to a similar experience of my own. Out of necessity, boredom or interest, the isolation has put us in touch with our creativity. We have been forced to learn new digital platforms to communicate, express and share our lives more often with those we love. We’ve had to find innovative ways of entertaining our loved ones and ourselves as well. Many of us have used this time to learn a new craft or skill, anything from bread making to mask making and numerous things in-between. We’ve learned to utilize what we have and what is readily available. We’ve learned what we need and what we don’t. We’ve learned to appreciate handmade and the value of human connection. We are in a moment where we can reset and forge a new path forward, personally, professionally and together as a global community.

Some of us, myself included, have been working through the pandemic and may not have had time to explore their creative side. I want to share the Joy of Making with you and have developed a challenge for you (and your family, neighbors, friends, etc.)

Take my upcycled sandal challenge.
NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY! This challenge is tons of fun for the entire family. Kids under 12 may need some adult help. In this challenge, you’ll come away with a basic understanding about shoe making components and materials along with an understanding of how adhesives work. You’ll also create your very own unique pair of sandals for indoor or outdoor use…a great challenge right down to your feet!

Partnering with various organizations and groups, I‘m challenging people to scour their homes to find 2-3 materials and an adhesive that will allow them to make a simple sandal. The sandal has 3 components, but you just might find a material that will double for 2. The Party sign in the above image can double as insole and outsole.

Upcycle challenge entries I have received stimulated me to re-think my shoe making kits. Using hair ties and placemats you can make your own beach or pool sandals. The placemat provides the fashion and fun, while the hair ties can be organized in a variety of groupings to make your unique 100% indoor or outdoor wearable design.

The first shoes I ever made upcycled components from a pair of well worn sandals and leather and hardware from a Betsey Johnson handbag. You can see the same design influence in this refined flat using upcycled bracelets and likely pyramid studs. The large pyramids are from a vintage bracelet acquired on my travels. I’m pleased to give them new life. Rethinking items we already own is a great opportunity to practice creativity, innovation and design. We learn new skills. We try new things. We understand how things are made. We appreciate hand made. We grow as people. And we work toward less waste. Celebrate the Joy of Making. Challenge yourself today. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram to catch the next Upcycle Challenge.

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I Love Mary Janes!

Mary Janes – you either love them or you hate them. Today, my friend Julie tells us all why she loves Mary Janes.

I buy shoes like many women do – too many of them. I own too many and so many of them are sort of predictably Julie. I know the people around me will comment about shoes , saying  “those are so Julie” and what it is that makes a Julie shoe is a variation on a Mary Jane.

Basically, what I wear a lot of is simply some variation on the Mary Jane. It’s so funny. The other morning I was browsing the internet from bed as one does in lock down and hit “buy” on a pair of shoes. A couple of  days later I was thinking about them and thought I think I bought shoes the other day but I can’t remember what I bought. I was asking “Will I still like shoes when they arrive?” They arrived just yesterday and I love them. They are a plum Mary Jane with sort of a stack heel, a slight platform and of course an ankle strap, walking across the instep and the suede! I just think they’re gorgeous. This  is a  classic Julie shoe. It’s a comfortable shoe, but it’s feminine. It always has that strap. For some reason, that’s just what I’m attracted to. I’m going to insist that Mary Janes can be really pretty too. I just think is super sexy and super pretty. It’s beautiful. There’s colors and texture and contrast and collage and the strap. It can go with a million dresses. So when I started to think about it, I began to realize a lot of people actually have more fraught histories with shoes than we think we do.

julies beautiful shoes
beautiful shoes

I want to talk about my origin story. Basically a lot of people who know me, professionally or socially don’t often know that I actually grew up Mennonite.. This is a picture of me and my brothers when we were young. Being Mennonite involves a very restrained style and a dress style that is prescribed by the faith, essentially, and the way that you dress is not about self expression. It’s about adherence to religious law. So the dress is the clothing that we wear, all homemade. My mother made all of the clothing that the three of us are wearing in this photo, except shoes, shoes, were not homemade. She had to buy these things. So it was a duty to spend money in a practical way.  We lived on a farm in a rural Mennonite community in Ohio in the 1970s. This kind of durable, sturdy, functional attire that is not pretty and it’s not to draw attention to you is all about getting the work done. And you’ll notice the shoes I’m wearing here is an Oxford . This is a dressed up picture, I think this was Christmas that we’re going to church or something like that and we’re dressed up for the holiday. And those were my good church shoes. So it’s a shiny black, could equally be for a boy or girl and a lot of times my shoes literally were hand me downs from my older brother. So we did our “sneakers” that are heavy black shoes, and that was the default. So my early history was shoe as function.

“Who else wears these kinds of big solid black things?” Raggedy Ann. She’s got literally black stumps on the end of her feet. And that was basically like with socks up above them but that was basically the model for little girls, your socks hiked up under your layers of dress.  I would have a slip under dress. Always proper undergarments and then socks and then this black stump of shoe and the shoe can’t really be that expressive.

Now add to that. I had childhood bunions. Hmm. So even as I grew older, I had to wear pretty heavy solid Oxford’s and shoes that would have a really thick almost two inch high plastic sole insert that would hold my foot in the proper shape as it was growing so I could not wear any kind of pretty shoe after that diagnosis. I think that would have been about second grade or so. Being a public school girl in a homemade dress in the 70s when all the girls are wearing pants and jeans withc decidedly the ugliest big clunky shoes sometimes that were even literally from my brother on the playground was my norm.

When I left home and was on my own and making clothing decisions that were unaffected by any church relationship because I had left the church and stopped dressing Mennonite when I was a teen, I bought these flat Mary Jane’s that you buy in Chinatown for $3-$4. They are fabric with little to no shoe support. When I was 18 I had my bunion surgery for the correction of the bunions so I had to wear a flat and open shoe. These fit the bill and were inexpensive, so you could buy multiple pairs you can have them in various fabrics or different colors. On my student income, I could afford to start a collection of shoes. So these were my favorite shoes for the four years of college and probably wrecked my feet all over again.

chinese mary janes

In the next pictures you can see all of the kinds of variations of Mary Janes that I own. They are all a flat or or modest kind of a stumpy heel. I like a little bit of a chunky heel. And a good slight platform at the front just like the ones I just bought. The brown ones here that are in both of the pictures on the centering right hand are by a company called Jambu that happily does different versions of Mary Janes every season. This is one of my favorite brands and they are just a little bit fun and just a little bit conservative. I can wear them for work, with professional dress code or with fun skirts for casual too.

Jambu

Julie Steiner is a museum professional, shoe lover and collector and knitter extraordinaire.

Want to hear much more about Mary Janes, the controversy, the academia and developing a personal style? Listen to our discussion on my KindredSoles podcast.

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Absolutely Fabulous – an Iconic Shoe Love Story

–Deborah Cantor

EARLY MEMORIES

I found it an interesting challenge to remember the first time I fell in love with shoes.  There were so many memories as a kid, trying on my Mother and Grandmothers shoes playing “dress up” with my sister.

I experimented more when I was at fashion college.  As a fashion student anything was possible and acceptable to wear, as we were art students. I used to love going to the flea markets or vintage stalls and the one off indoor eclectic markets by individual designers like Afflecks Palace in Manchester near where I studied, or if in London Kensington Market admiring the array of shoes from afar and getting inspiration to design a collection around a shoe or boot I had seen. As a student I could not afford these one off artisan pieces, but would try and find a cheaper version.

When I left university and started on the glossy magazines in the nineties I would go into the fashion cupboard at Harper’s & Queen, I would be assisting the editors to put looks together for the stories they were shooting. I was mesmerised by these amazing shoes, anything from Prada to Manolo Blahnik. I was actually handling what I can only describe as works of art but again unable to afford them.

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS

I then moved onto the BBC Costume department and I was was like a kid in a candy store, shoes of every period in every colour. Every single style of shoes from Elizabethan  to Victorian and Edwardian to Nineties. But my arty side and slightly kookie style at that time came to life when we received all the stock from Absolutely Fabulous when the filming finished in 1995 after three seasons and all the designer wear from Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and Edina (Jennifer Saunders) wardrobes came back to the BBC for our stock.

There was a pair of gold rocking horse ballerina platforms by Vivienne Westwood worn by Jennifer in this iconic British fashion sitcom I fell in love with them. The BBC would hold parties with a theme twice a year and I actually wore them one year. I obviously couldn’t own them, but had to buy a similar pair from a British designer brand that was very on trend at that time called Red or Dead. I felt very cool and part of the London scene in these. I kept them for years and wore them a lot always receiving comments as they were very unusual at the time and they were interesting to walk in, but I didn’t care.

Vivienne Westwood rocking horse ballerina platforms

My love of shoes has continued ever since and I own some Gucci sliders, again bought in the nineties with the branding all over them.  It just shows that if you keep something long enough it comes back in fashion, thirty years later and they are on trend again. I can say I now have Prada, Gucci and Alaia among my collection.

Want to hear our discussion? Check out our conversation on my podcast KindredSoles

DEBORAH CANTOR BIO:

Often designers find their niche and remain in one section of the industry for a long time – sometimes for their whole careers. They work in theatre and continue there for years – some work in film on occasion and keep getting film jobs – stylists often stay firmly in the world of print media and commercials. But the demands of the industry mean that increasingly creatives have to cross-over and diversify their portfolio.

When I tell people I’m a Costume Designer, the reaction is usually “that sounds exciting”! Do you make your own clothes? What exactly is a Costume Designer? A Costume Designer is multi faceted. It can be challenging to be a costume and wardrobe professional and successfully straddle almost every medium during your career.

As a costume designer, I have had countless opportunities to create inspirational looks and vision in many mediums. I started my career  by doing a fashion and textiles degree at Manchester Metropolitan University (UK). I produced a final collection that was showcased at Graduate Fashion Week, in front of fashion professionals. After I received some high profile press on my work, I then moved into the high-end print fashion world, working for British Vogue, Harpers and Queen (London) and Harpers Bazaar (New York), to name a just few. My main focus is now on-screen wardrobe as a Costume Designer.

Currently, I work with all the major UK television networks such as BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. My costume career started at the BBC Costume Department. For over a year I catalogued and indexed stock from various productions. This experience was a crash course in history and time periods. I moved onto become a BBC Costumier running different departments over the years. I eventually went freelance as an assistant costume designer. 

My body of work covers design and style for television, print, music videos, commercials, film, theatre, publicity and editorial shoots. I have experienced many changes in the industry over my career. Working as a Costume Designer in an industry I love and am proud to be a part of. I find things are constantly evolving. I am privileged to work in such a niche area.

MORE ON DEBORAH

Follow Deborah on instagram @deborahcantor
Watch her interview with Phillip Silverstone
Read her interview on Kozzii Mag

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From One-Night stand to Forever

The first time I fell in love with shoes, it was a one-night stand. It was back in 1970. I bought a pair of shoes on Carnaby Street – High heel platform snakeskin boots which were, as we used to say, THE business. They were wonderful because the way I used to dress all the girls thought I was gay. So it was a lot of fun dispelling that myth. I didn’t so much fall in love with the shoes. I fell in love with what the shoes helped me accomplish in those heady days.

I first truly fell in love with shoes after I met somebody, I don’t know if you’re familiar with this person, Anne Cecil. When I first met her, she was obsessed with shoes and I thought she was a nutcase. And within about three months, I was besotted with shoes, and I now own about 40 pairs.

Phil admires his Aldo boots
Phil with his first Shoe Love

The first pair of shoes that I fell in love with was a few years back. I was doing a makeover and changing my style from bow ties, blazers, pocket hankies, ironed shirts, trousers and penny loafers to something more rock & roll. I fell in love with Aldo’s shoe shop who made the greatest shoes. I fell in love with a pair of boots that were $165, way beyond what I would put on my feet. And then I saw them come down to $68 as I was driving past their store on Chestnut Street in Philly. I found a parking space. It wasn’t legal but I parked anyway and ran in there to see what was on sale. And there they were my Aldo boots on sale. They are red suede ankle boots with a zip closure on both sides for easy on/off and star studs around the ankle, another Anne Cecil influence. They’ve got this low block heel and when I bought them I knew that I would only wear them with white pants and a sleeveless cotton jacket.

Every time I go out with these boots, people just go nuts. In fact, I’ve had people take photos of me in the boots. Unfortunately, I don’t have to prove to anyone I’m not gay anymore. My wife doesn’t allow me to do that. So the shoes haven’t had any success, further than old ladies with blue hair saying, “Oh, I love those shoes. Let me take a photo of you in them.” And that’s my story.

–Phillip Silverstone, Photographer | Producer & Host | The Silverstone Collection

Time Out With Phillip SilverstoneSilverstoneLIVEExposed By Silverstone
Entertainment • Lifestyle • Celebrity Interviews • Movies • Theatre • Fashion • Food & Wine • Travel • Music

First in a series where invited guests share their stories of shoe affliction. Want to hear the full conversation? Listen to our interview on KindredSoles.

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I’ll Never Forget the Day I Fell in Love…With Shoes!

purple gogo diba boots circa late 1960's
a lot like these but in mauve

In 1970 I walked past a boutique window in the Chalfont-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey and fell in love. The object of my desire? Paul McCartney? Mick Jagger? Davey Jones? David Cassidy? No, something even better than them…the coolest, on trend, ? fashionable pair of knee-high lace up boots made of mauve suede with black grommets and laces, with a softly squared toe, and boxy heel. They were beautiful! They were Italian, they were expensive, and they were groovy!

I was smitten, enamored, besotted – utterly and completely. The suede was soft as butter. They were fab, badass, and I wanted them, very, very badly. They reminded me of Twiggy in 1960’s go-go boots and Nancy Sinatra singing “These Boots are Made for Walkin.’” I loved that song then, and still do. I was 8 years old. My passion for shoes was born.

In 1977, I celebrated my next passionate shoe moment on my 15th birthday. I was visiting my family in England when we were walking through London, where I was entirely immersed in the London vibe. My Mum treated me to my first perm and I felt so “au courant” and grown up. While browsing our way through the sales, I spotted a pair of pointed toe, high heel pumps in purple leather with a tone on tone purple textured embellishment. They were brilliant, and I simply could not take my eyes off them… For the second time in my life, I was head over heels for shoes. I fell in love. I had to have them. This time my mother agreed that these would be my first pair of adult shoes, and I was thrilled!                                       

My perm and these heels were the beginning of my journey into adulthood. They were the foundation of a new identity I adopted as I went off to a new school. There, I wore buffalo sandals and Candies and found my place with a group of friends who self-identified as
mis-fits. Years later I learned we were the cool kids. Who knew?

I moved on to a number of serial monogamous relationships, cavorting with various iconic styles…surplus army boots, riding boots, cowboy boots, creepers, heels, platforms and gladiator sandals. The running theme through all of these relationships was constant…badass and beautiful. I was constantly drawn to the hardware used to add the sparkle and shine.

In 1985, Robert Palmer released “Addicted to Love.” His lyrics certainly rang true. In the early 2000’s I fell in love again. This time I was in Reykjavik with a group of my university students. We were studying how trends disseminated from Europe to the US and vice versa through Iceland. At this time Reykjavik was a key trend city. Icelandic music was all the rage and the world was starting to notice. The country was steeped in small business and had a growing creative economy. In addition to music, film and technology, lifestyle products were emerging.

gold fish skin shoes
sparkle, texture, shine

As I passed a window with 14 students in tow, I came to a screeching halt. My inner magpie had spied something sparkly once again,  a pair of gold fish skin, round toe heeled pumps. The elements of these pumps electrified every part of me… sparkle, texture and shine. My eternal love combination. The fish skin had texture, the gold provided shine, and the metal heel provided sparkle. The store was closed, but I knew I had to go back. I was already flirting with the pumps, batting my eyes, throwing my sexiest smile, telling them how dazzling they were and promising them that I would return…and the next day, I did. With tremendous anticipation, I entered the store to buy them, just as I told them I would. 

They were incredibly expensive for me at the time, AND they were at least a size too big, BUT I had to have them …and I still do. They became the first pair in a growing collection of Icelandic footwear. Most, I wear,  but the gold fish skin pumps are special…. because they were my first. As part of a limited production run and the brand lasted only a few seasons, so they are even more special. The crash in 08 resulted in the brand going out of business. I am one of very few people in the world who owns shoes (and boots) by Maria K. Magnussdottir.

You see, it is not always about wearing shoes. Sometimes shoes are about comfort and protection. On occasion shoes are beautiful object d’art meant to be admired, collected and put on display. For those of us who love them, shoes are symbols of who we are, who we aspire to be and who we become. Shoes reflect our dreams, our love, and our ability to admire something beautiful. Shoes empower us. As the saying goes, ”Give a girl the right pair of boots and she’ll conquer the world.”