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Welcome!

Hi! My name’s Grace and I’m studying a Cert IV in Custom Made Footwear at RMIT.

This blog is going to be a look inside my year, as I learn how to make shoes from scratch. As we go along, there’ll be more and more things to learn, and I’ll do frequent updates on what it is I’m getting a handle on. Check out my ‘about’ page if you want to know more about me, and check back every few weeks for updates on the blog.

Enjoy!

–G

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So I’m baaaack

Well, hey there. Been a while.

Since we last spoke, I’ve managed to get myself a job at the local (well, sort of local) Cobblers – fixing shoes. It’s been a whirlwind couple of months of intense training before being thrown into the deep end managing stores on my own every weekend. I really love it though.

In terms of shoe making – classes are still progressing, and we are now getting terrifyingly close to the end. I’m going to miss this place SO much next year, and all the wonderful people I’ve met. I am really really going to miss making shoes four days a week. Like, really, really miss it. But I’ve got this job lined up, and am going to do everything possible to get myself open for business in the next year. I’ve already bought 6 pairs of lasts, plus my custom made ones, and I’m looking to rent space and buy some machines as soon as I can afford it.

So I’ll give you some updates and photos over the next couple weeks, and try to get back into a rhythm on here, writing more often and keeping y’all updated – also, just a warning, might be rebranding soon

–G

Updates

A Retroactive Reflection

So, the last week of term. What a ride I’ve been on since February!

Coming from a background of casual dressmaking and not much else, I’ve grown so much as a creator, a student and a person. I’ve really met some incredible people in this course, that I can’t believe I’ve already known for five months, and hope to know for many more. I’ve learned how to make a pair of shoes from the ground up (and gathered a lot of new material for making puns about it), from patternmaking to polishing, I knew none of it in February, and now I’m the proud owner of three pairs of handmade shoes!

It’s been an awesome experience, and I can’t wait to make a pair that fit me next semester!

I’ll most likely go a little bit quiet on this front for the next month or so, but I’ll be back next semester (beginning of July) to share some of my own original designs!

 

–G

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Finishing up hand-drawing!

This past week, I’ve handed in my final shoe drawing – done by hand and rendered in watercolour pencils, along with all the previous drawings I’ve done this semester. This marks the end of my folio for semester 1 – we’re really getting down to the end of the semester here, with only a couple weeks to go! Can’t wait to get started on the more design-y aspects of the course, and really get down into the nitty-gritty of custom shoemaking specifics after the break!

Here’s a bit of a progression of the final shoe drawing (my ‘Hero Shoe’) which is of one of my favourite pairs of heels, some Naturalizer Loafer/faux Oxford ones! It was super fun to draw and I feel like a real culmination of the skills I’ve been developing in drawing over the last 4 months since February!

 

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–G

soapboxing

Adidas x Parley – Green-washing I still want to support (kind of)

Recently, shoe giant Adidas collaborated with Parley, a not-for-profit who are working mainly on cleaning up our oceans. Ocean biodiversity is something we are set to lose as a planet if we continue on our current trajectory of pollution and over-fishing our oceans, and that’s not good for anyone. The oceans are part of how our planet breathes, heals itself and, honestly, who doesn’t love a good trip to the beach? The deep ocean is one of the only places on our planet we still haven’t been able to physically study. We still haven’t built anything that can withstand the pressure of the deepest parts of the ocean, and thus, not even robotic submersibles have been able to get down far enough to see what’s down there. We know more about deep space than we do about the deepest parts of our oceans, and if we don’t know what there purpose is, how can we possibly know that it won’t be catastrophic to lose it? Falling down the rabbit hole of what kind of creatures there are deep in the ocean is enough to keep most of us awake at night, but honestly, I’m more concerned by what we DO know is down there: Plastic.

Scientists estimate that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050, and that’s because of both over-fishing and plain ol’ pollution. Where does garbage go after the truck takes it away? Dumps, and then, a lot of it, into the ocean.

Even that plastic you put into your recycling bin – it goes off to be hand sorted into categories and sent off further – but you’d better be careful what you put in there, because one mostly empty jar of peanut butter and they might have to throw a whole truckload into regular landfill. 

So where does this leave us? Paralyzed by fear of your garbage ending up inside a sea turtle, or wrapped around it’s shell, causing it to warp painfully and deform it for life? A little bit, yeah. But Parley is one organisation (of many) doing amazing work pulling plastic out of the sea and creating and fostering an environment where innovators can come in and come up with crazy ideas about how to recycle ocean plastic, and Parley works with them to actually accomplish that.

Finally, we get to the point (#sorrynotsorry for my tangent-filled existence). In 2016, Parley and Adidas joined forces to create the “Ultraboost Uncaged Parley”, and manufactured and sold 7000 pairs. This is a step in the right direction for Adidas, who have come under fire for numerous human rights abuses over the years (every word in that sentence is a link to a different article about their poor form on that front). But here’s where the green-washing comes in. They haven’t cleaned up their act in terms of human rights violations. They have updated their company policy on their website, but, that I know of, no steps have been taken to do anything other than cover up the fact that they still use sweatshops.

All that being said, there’s that whole ‘vote with your wallet’ thing as a conscious consumer, and using ocean plastic to create new things is REALLY important, and something I and many others want to support. One issue that comes with this though is that it becomes a  limited edition gimmick. The ethical fashion movement is really grabbing hold in a lot of places, and it’s moving up, hence Adidas’ jumping on board here. But is it a fad? It shouldn’t be, and I certainly hope it isn’t, but this whole ‘releasing a limited edition version of a shoe made from ocean plastic’ thing sort of tried to guarantee that it will be a limited time thing. Maybe they’re just gauging interest, seeing if its a worthwhile thing to invest their colossal influence and fortune into. If that’s the case, we need to tell them YES, a thousand times YES! But with that yes comes a caveat: We want you, Adidas, to clean up not just the ocean but your whole act. Stop exploiting women in south-east Asia to make your clothes. Source all your materials ethically, not just ocean plastic. Hell, why stop there? Make everything out of ocean plastic! There’s plenty of it! It can’t stay in our oceans!

There’s always a tension between wanting to support a company taking the right steps in one area while acknowledging that they’re flagrantly ignoring the ethical issues in another. But with big companies like this, that is always the tension you have to battle with as an ethical consumer, because at the end of the day, they’re that big because they’ve cut corners to make more money and gain more power. They all have.

I want to support what Adidas is doing with Parley, but when it comes down to it, I think I’d rather support Parley directly. Here’s their website so you can have a gander at what they’re doing aside from the adidas thing.

IMAGE BY ADIDAS

Assessment

Designer Spotlight: Sseko

Sseko (say-ko) was founded in 2009 by a young woman named Liz. After graduating from college with a degree in journalism, she felt that she wanted to see the world before writing about it. So she went to Uganda. Through spending time with the women she met along her way, Liz developed a passion for helping these women finish, or even get to college.

After a few false starts, she developed Sseko. It’s a brand which focuses on empowering young women in East Africa, and providing these women with an opportunity to work and save to pay their own way. They employ young women in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia to make their products -a mix of leather goods, including sandals (Their flagship product, interchangeable ribbon sandals that can be customized for any occasion.), boots, handbags, and more! After working with Sseko for one year after finishing high school, the women have earned enough money to go to college! This symbiotic partnership empowers young women in Africa, and supplies women across the globe with beautiful and functional footwear. Sseko also runs a program called the”Sseko Fellows” which partners women in the USA ‘one-to-one with a woman on our team in Uganda, and her sales directly contribute to earning an additional scholarship for her Sole Sister.’ (Sseko Designs, 2016)

If you’ll allow me a moment atop my soapbox…

What’s incredible about Sseko is that they walk the fine line between empowerment and charity, and they do it well. There’s often a perception that people in developing countries need ‘our help’ as white upper middle-class citizens of developed nations. This almost always comes in the form of faceless money given to charitable campaigns.Those campaigns are worthwhile to an extent, and in most cases are certainly better than selfishly hoarding most of the world’s resources for a select few of the world’s population. This is a great moment to point out that I haven’t studied global development and am in no way qualified to give any more than my personal, relatively uninformed opinion. But that opinion is that more than wads of cash, people in developing nations need support and opportunity. (I also don’t think that everyone should live the way that we in the West do, but that’s another story). Sseko does, in my opinion, an amazing job walking that line, and overall manages to simply provide opportunity and support, rather than stripping these young women of agency and forcing them to conform to Western standards of success.

From a design standpoint, Sseko’s shoes are very simple, with clean lines and a lot of opportunity to customize the look, especially in their main product, the Ribbon Sandal. These come in a kit of sorts with a flat sandal bed and three ribbons of your choice which can be tied in any number of ways around the foot. There’s many videos on their website showing options for tying, and there’s hundreds of ribbons available, with more added every season. The simplicity and elegance of the product itself allows the company’s ethos and social focus to really shine, allowing customers the opportunity to directly impact the lives of the makers.

If you’re interested in checking out some of Sseko’s awesome products (they do bags, boots and other leather goods, too), here’s some links you might want to check out.

Their website: https://ssekodesigns.com/

Their pinterest page: https://au.pinterest.com/ssekodesigns/

And my pinterest page compiling some of my favourites from their collections: https://au.pinterest.com/elisabethalice9/favourite-designers-sseko/

Reference list:

Sseko Designs, 2016, The Sseko Story, Sseko Designs, viewed 27 April 2017, <https://ssekodesigns.com/our-story&gt;

 header image: Sseko Designs, 2016, Design your Dream Sandals, viewed 27 April 2017, <https://ssekodesigns.com/design-your-dream-sandals&gt;
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Two totally different people: How do their needs for shoes differ?

Imagine, if you will, this man.

He’s 71 years old. He retired from his career as a construction worker 5 or so years ago. At his job, and for most of his life, he’s worn heavy work boots. These days, out of habit, he continues to wear heavy-soled boots most days. He’s worn them for years and they are comfortable and what he’s used to.  This man has never had a particular sense of his own style, at special occasions in previous years he’s worn whatever his wife told him to.

A total shift from this man is this professional woman running her own business at 23 – an internet-focused lifestyle blog. She’s got a huge following on various social media platforms, and works hard to maintain it. A large part of her brand is herself, and her style. She’s motivated by style, and loves putting together outfits for herself and sharing them on Instagram every morning.

Below you’ll find a table of sorts comparing their attitudes toward fashion generally, and shoes in particular.

Factor Young woman Old man
Gender Female – she’s expected by society at large to be well put together and present a beautiful and desirable face to the world. This is one of the main reasons that she gained her instagram following, which led her to where she is today. Her shoes and her clothes are a reflection on her, sometimes because a particular brand has paid her to feature their shoes, and sometimes just because she loves them!  Male- in the 1950’s, when this man grew up,  men were expected to be polished and well presented, but as time has gone on, caring about how you look as a man has become less important. This man, being a laborer for most of his life, has just worn uniforms at work and comfortable clothes and shoes on the weekend. When he worked, we wore steel toe caps, which he still wears most of the time out of habit.
Age group  23 – Growing up with access to the internet, this girl has been able to develop her style with reference to other people’s style – look up photos and work out what she likes from there. Magazines in full colour have been part of her life since she was a child, and this helped to foster her interest in fashion.  71 – born just after the end of WWII, he’s a part of the baby boomer generation, and as such, he embodies much of that generation’s values – being taught by his family the value of items that they didn’t have access to during the war, so he’s always worn his shoes and clothes until they have totally worn out. His wife, would often mend them to stretch them even further.
Nationality  Australian  Australian
Religious affiliation Fashion is her religion! She’s constantly researching and poring over the latest trends  Raised Catholic, lapsed for a while after his children left home, getting back in touch with it in the face of his own mortality. This hasn’t affected his fashion choices beyond his opinions on modesty – he’s always worn long pants and covered shoes, as soon as he wasn’t a small child.
Career  This woman’s career is based around her style, what she wears, when she wears it. She’s expected to go to fancy events every other week if not more, and people (and the media) care what she wears. Retired now, but he was a laborer. This forced him to mostly wear safety boots with steel caps, and uniform. Nowadays he wears comfortable clothes around the house, and has one pair of dress shoes and a suit that he wears for fancy occasions.
Social, economic and marital status She’s made a lot of money from her online presence, and shoes and clothes are also often gifted to her by brands to be featured. She began from an upper-middle class background, and hasn’t ever really experienced not being able to make ends meet. She’s had a serious boyfriend for a few years, but their finances are still totally separate.  Married for 50 years. His wife’s sensibilities have influenced his fashion choices since he was a young man. He never particularly had an interest, and so always wears what she tells him to.
Personal achievement She considers her online brand to be her greatest personal achievement.  He’s proud of his family, and that he’s earned enough money to support them. This is largely because he and his wife have been thrifty and spent their money on things more important to them than clothing and shoes.
Loyalties She has some brands that she works with often, promoting their products. This is a large part of her income stream, and as such, she tends to wear these items even when she’s not doing a particular promotion.  Has the same brands of clothing that he’s bought his whole life, and often knows the proprietors of the relevant stores, and has for years. He tends to be a creature of habit and buy from the same places when he buys new items.
Beliefs She believes that her clothes, shoes, and accessories reflect her personality to the world. She wants to present herself as cool, calm and collected, her style appearing effortless, even though she spends most of her time curating her wardrobe and staying ahead of the trends. His religious upbringing has affected the way he views clothes and shoes, which is that they are essentially functional and shouldn’t be showy or over the top in any way. He dresses simply and always has.
Family connections She loves to wear things that make her boyfriend happy. He loves her in sky high heels, and as such she has a wardrobe full of them.  His wife and daughter have tried more than once over the years to get him to wear fashionable clothes, or to take an interest. He cycles the clothes into his regular wardrobe and wears them, but only to make his girls happy. Family is most important to him.

images from shutterstock (all rights reserved by shutterstock, hence the watermarks)

woman legs red high heel shoes , n.d, Shutterstock, photograph, accessed  April 2017,<https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/woman-legs-red-high-heel-shoes-145396549?src=8JU8thApaL6Ms8cwSidIFQ-1-29&gt;

A well worn pair of classic Australian work boots, n.d, Shutterstock, photograph, accessed April 2017,<https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/well-worn-pair-classic-australian-work-67580515?src=wxRSA8Gu3OJ5E-ihrn-SGw-1-61&gt;

Updates

Court Shoes…

So, this past Thursday I finished my first pair of shoes! Very exciting stuff!

Here’s some pictures of me using my new favourite machine, the soling press. It’s very space-age-y and makes a very cool whooshy noise as it uses air to force the sole onto the base of the shoe. It’s almost the final step in the process, afterwards all I had to do was to apply the ‘sock’ into the base of the shoe, made from the same leather as the uppers, remove some of the glue from around the sole using a small bit of crepe rubber; and then polish it up!

So, that’s one pair down, 4 more pairs to go before June! I’d better get a bit faster!

–G

Assessment

2017 Trends – close focus

ANKLE STRAP PUMPS

For the upcoming Autumn/Winter season, simple pumps with an ankle strap are set to be popular, according to WGSN (Worth Global Style network), which forecasts upcoming trends.

ysl ankle strap
This red patent leather shoe from Yves Saint Laurent keeps the theme of thin straps made from the same leather. It also plays with embellishment, with the huge red bow being the focal point of an otherwise very understated and simple shoe.

 

Nina_Ricci_rcc_prs_aw17_128_hr
This pair of Nina Ricci pumps have a very odd closure, more often seen on functional but unfashionable vests or polar fleece jumpers. Ricci has, on more than one occasion, experimented with alternative closures for her ankle-strap pumps.  (see left)

The ankle-strap pump has remained largely unchanged in style from its first rise to popularity in the 1920’s. When hemlines rose in the Jazz Age, women’s shoes became a fashion statement. Most ankle strap pumps feature a thin strap made from the same leather as the body of the shoe. They are typically closed with a small metal buckle. This holds true from ballet flats to stilettos. The strap can be removable, and is sometimes made in a contrasting colour, but this is less common. Thicker straps are sometimes used, as are multi-layered wraparound straps. Ribbons are used occasionally.

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Nina Ricci is one designer who challenges the norm – This gorgeous gem-encrusted pair from autumn 2015 are another take on the classic sihouette.

 

 

 

Ankle–strap pumps have remained popular throughout the 20th century, and remain so today. The appeal of them is likely tied to the fact that they are beautiful as well as functional. The strap makes it easier to ensure that the shoe stays on the foot while walking, making them much more comfortable.

Ankle straps are distinct from a Mary-Jane style in that the strap encircles the whole ankle, and is not partially attached to the forepart of the shoe. The pictures below demonstrate this difference.

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This shoe from TopVintage is more of a Mary Jane style. The strap is higher than your average Mary Jane, but it is still not a true ankle-strap, because the strap is attached.
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This pair from ZooShoo is more of a classic ankle-strap silhouette where the strap encircles the whole ankle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In terms of construction, here is my interpretation of how the above ZooShoo Ankle strap would have been constructed.

annotated

Resource list

Images

https://topvintage.net/en/vintage-retro/50s-ashley-ankle-strap-pumps-in-red

http://speakeasy.discoverhurley.org/download/1920s_Women%27s_Shoes.pdf

http://vintagedancer.com/1940s/10-popular-1940s-shoes-styles/

https://www.wgsn.com/content/board_viewer/#/71405/page/9