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Absolutely Fabulous – an Iconic Shoe Love Story

–Deborah Cantor


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.


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


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.


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