Design March 2019 thoughts about Leather

I was at Design March in Reykjavik at the end of March. The feature event is Design Talks, a full day of presentation that relate in some way to the overall theme of the event. This year the theme was “The Only Way Is Up” and much of the discussion revolved around how design process, discovery and innovation can be used to solve many of the big problems we face, particularly in sustainability in terms of the planet.

There is much discussion about Bio Leathers. Innovations include products from Modern Meadow in Brooklyn and Piñatex, a vegan leather made from pineapple. These may be solutions for the future, but I am still concerned with using leather that already exists today. One theme that kept coming up during the talks was to consider designs/concepts in terms of what has come before, what is there today and what can be in the future. In terms of leather, it is important to recognize the primal and primitive connection we have to leather in our history as humans.

As you likely know, I believe we should use every possible part of any animal we have killed for any purpose. I strive to use imperfect hides or remnant leather when I make my shoes. Even this practice leaves smaller bits of unused leather and that bothers me. Recently I found a solution – weaving the small bits into “fabric” to use as vamps. Combining the connection with leather and an available production process, I hope to celebrate and honor existing leather to the fullest.

A bonus – woven leathers are one of the key trends for spring shoes. How fortuitous to be in tune with zeitgeist! The downside – weaving leather is going to take some time…. In the end, the project will yield truly unique eco-friendly designs that will conform to the foot and last a very long time. Slow fashion at it’s best.

Foldable Shoes – Evening Slippers in a Bag

Feather Mocs foldable - 3 views
Feather Mocs foldable shoes – 3 views

A Night at the Opera

Foldable shoes circa 1960s always bring back fond memories of my mother. She often wore these slippers as her fancy dress flats. My most vivid memory of them is sitting with my mother as she dressed for the opera in a carefully chosen black velvet maxi skirt and suitably shimmery blouse. It was the 60s so the garments covered a carefully constructed body with the aid of a long line bra, high waisted panty girdle and nude stockings. (That’s when I learned that special occasion dressing is all about the foundations.) With all of that in order, my mother would grab a little plastic bag with a snap close and pull out her glamorous foldable evening slippers. She’d slide them on, add a red lip, finish with her red fox stole and join my father in black tie for their opera date. Talk about glamorous!

foldables in bag
Feather Mocs bagged

I go through periods of obsession with these shoes. They were reasonably priced, versatile and made in the USA and mostly NYC. This is an interesting fact in itself as much of the shoe manufacturing in the US was in Massachusetts.

Where have they gone?

Every department store sold them in the hosiery department. Why in the world aren’t these still around? My Feather Mocs I dream of Genie inspired mules recently resurfaced and that’s started me off again. Days of scouring ebay, etsy and poshmark ensued. Googling a number of brands – Feather Mocs, Etell, Bertlyn, Pamper Foot by Van Raaite, Nite Aires has resulted in nothing! How could these affordable, versatile shoes just disappear from our fashion culture?

Inspiration – vamp cross bar


Never daunted, I’ll keep looking. Afterall, I have a huge network of fashion scholars to ask. In the meantime, my design hat is on. I’m inspired to conquer the fold and bring back evening slippers strong.

Shed Some Light

Please do share you foldable stories, images and information in reply to this post.

Image Note

Featured in the images, these rare vintage Feather Mocs are for sale on Ebay. Let me know if you buy them!

–XO Roxanne Lava

The Art of the Mule – Something New for 2019!

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s 2019 and I’ve been reflecting on the first 18 months of RoxAnneLava. It’s been an incredible journey. Among other things, I’ve gone from one style offered in limited numbers online, the Signature to a second style, the Classic. Both are offered in Made to Order (RL-MTO) and Off the Rack (RL-OTR) options in leather, cork, fabric and ribbon. I’ve also launched the PopUp and shown in Philadelphia, Maryland and New Jersey.

The Art of the Mule Combines – Working Smarter, Not Harder

The Art of the Mule, my tumblr blog is truly my hommage to my favorite ongoing online fashion project, Burberry’s Art of the Trench, but keeping up with 2 blogs has been a challenge. In 2019, I’ve decided to combine my tumblr blog, with my RoxAnneLava blog. After all, both blogs are dedicated to all things mule.

I’ll continue to share my journey and as a cobbler and shoe designer through both platforms in one place. I invite you to comment, submit an image or ask the cobbler (that’s me) a question. Just click on a post from the feed on the right to follow the tumblr and submit.

RoxAnneLava PopUp - the art of the mule
RoxAnneLava PopUp

South Philadelphia Stories

I’m loving my PopUp set up. It’s easy up and down, totally me and the brand. I found the suitcase on ebay and it is a Belber. Here’s why I had to have it: “The Belber company was established in 1891 when two school-age brothers, Aaron and Henry Belber, scraped together $200 and started making luggage in a South Philadelphia basement. The Belber brothers, ages 14 and 17, worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, hand-stitching luggage.” —Wikipedia, Belber.

So I spent a bit more than $200 to get started, I’m a bit older and I don’t work six days a week, but I do make hand made shoes in my South Philly basement studio. Here’s another fun fact. I checked the conversion of $200 in 1891 to 2017 and it’s equal to $5400 and change. Hmmm. That’s pretty close to my initial investment. Maybe I’m not that different from the Belber brothers after all.

RoxAnneLava PoppingUp All Over

I’ll be doing more live events in 2019 and I’m considering a traveling shoe tour kind of like Sisters of the Traveling Pants. Stay tuned and stay in the loop follow me on FaceBook and Instagram or sign up for my newsletter. It’s going to be an exciting year. Buckle your seat belts and join me for the ride.

The Art of the Mule

The Art of the Mule is my new tumblr blog dedicated to all things mule. It’s a hommage to my favorite ongoing online fashion project, Burberry’s Art of the Trench. I invite you to participate in the project.

Designed to investigate mules from ancient to modern time, I invite you to comment, submit an image or ask the cobbler (that’s me) a question. One of my colleagues, Art historian Vicki Pass will be posting some of her favorites too. She’s started us off with Boucher’s Madame Pompadour,  1756. I can’t wait till she pulls out Fragonard’s, The Swing.

art example cork floral with cork wrap strap
Cork floral with cork wrap strap

Unintended selfie featuring my vegan cork floral in classic style with an optional cork wrap strap for those who feel they may walk out of the mule. The straps double as wrap bracelets.



I’m looking forward to sharing the love of the mule with each of you.




Mistake leads to the Signature Cut Out

the mistake
The Mistake

A skiving mistake turned into a happy accident, leading to the Signature cut out design. As I was working on a Signature upper out of the hide I got at J. T. Batchelor in London last summer, I was too heavy handed with my skiving knife. As you can see from the image, I cut off a part of the “seam allowance” or the part that connects the upper to the insole and sole.


The Solution
The Solution

I was annoyed with myself because I hate wasting leather. I could have tried to glue a patch and continue on, but other tasks came up and I left the problem for awhile. After a few weeks, I had my great shower thought of the day! Could I use the mistake to lead me to another design? I got into the studio and took a look. Using the mistake as my starting point, I created three cut outs. With some slight alteration and a decision to recycle some metal studs from a cuff, the design started to take shape.

The Cut Out Prototype
The Cut Out Prototype

With some glue, assembly and finishing , the prototype emerged a few days later. I’m in the testing phase. As expected, some adjustments will have to be made.  It is critical that the “straps” hit  the toes in the right place. I’ll have to add a step to the order process to make sure that happens. It’s coming along and I’m on track to launch the style in May.


I will name the style Happy Accident and the prototype will serve as a reminder to me that a change in perspective can always turn a mistake into a solution.