Interview: Lauren from American Duchess

Kensington red (3)

“Kensington”, 18th Century shoe, by American Duchess


Laura flashing her red footwear, and clocked silk stockings: “Kensington”, 18th Century shoe, by American Duchess

When I commenced my studies in footwear design I realised how limited my knowledge was when it came to the history of the world. Shoes were the perfect way for me to discover the past in an accessible way. I became drawn to history through fashion – why were people wearing what they were wearing?

What did footwear reflect about the period?

How could footwear tell me a story of the life of the person who wore them?

It was during this ‘history of the world told through shoes’ obsession that I came across American Duchess: a wonderful company that has created many shoe styles which resemble footwear worn from eras since past. For many historical costumers the launch of footwear styles from American Duchess has been warmly welcomed, a niche brand that celebrates the past in the present.

What I love about American Duchess is that I truly feel that these footwear styles are carefully created. It is so apparent that Lauren has a true  respect to the era in which they were conceived. It was a pleasure reading her responses to my questions below. I dream that one day we are in the same place to drink tea and eat cake together – perhaps one day they will build a time machine and we can meet someplace in the past!

Can you begin by describing the world of the historical costume community?

The historical costuming community is an amazing, virtual place where anyone can learn an immense amount nearly instantly. There is so much information and experience being shared through blogs and social groups, like on Facebook, all you have to do is follow along, ask questions, read posts. The community has grown so much in the past few years, too, and has connected people all over the world.


“Astoria”, Edwardian Shoe, by American Duchess

Kensington red (3)

You started your blog: American Duchess in 2009, to chronicle your sewing adventures. This site has quickly become a popular resource for other costumers. How has this blog developed over time?

Originally my blog was called “The Barn Owl Gown” – I know, the worst name ever, haha! – and was meant to just chronicle a single project I was working on. That name, and that project, only lasted so long, so of course I renamed it and carried on from there. The blog has always had the mission to share information and help other costumers. I didn’t know anything about the 18th century when I started it, so I set to figuring stuff out, like how to make wigs, patterning out jackets and gowns, etc., and then I shared everything I learned along the way, whether I was successful or not. A couple years after starting the blog, I came up with the idea of making shoes for other costumers, and because I already had a bit of a readership, I was able to work out the design of that first shoe style, with the input of other costumers. It was and still is a great way to make sure we’re getting in right with the design we produce – a “miss” is bad for business, sure, but it’s even worse for the community, because it’s not filling the footwear needs of other costumers.

In 2011 American Duchess released the first footwear style referenced from the 18th Century called “Georgiana”, a silk low heeled shoe to accompany a colonial costume. What led you to launch this business and begin with this style specifically?

I touched on this a bit in the last question, but it needs more explanation. Initially, I myself was frustrated, as a hobbyist costumer, in the lack of choice with shoes for historical gowns. I felt like there was a big hole in what was on offer, and this lead to the idea that maybe I could fill it. I didn’t want American Duchess shoes to look like anything else, but I wanted to make sure the community and I were on the same page. I set up a survey and asked all sorts of questions – heel height, materials, etc. – and took all the feedback and created the “Georgiana,” which was an 18th century latchet shoe with a french heel. The dyeable satin idea actually came from my mother – go Mom! – and was popular with those who took the survey too, so that’s what we made them out of. There wasn’t anything else like Georgiana in the marketplace, so when we launched it for pre-ordering (essentially, we did our own crowd-funding campaign), they were a big hit, and we were off and running.


“Georgiana”, 18th Century silk shoes, by American Duchess


How close to the historical footwear styles are the replicas you create at American Duchess?

I try to get as close as possible, but there are always compromises. For instance, the size and especially width of modern feet has changed, and the expectations of the wearer have changed. In the past, shoes were constructed without any arch support, no left and right, some without any toe boxes, most custom-made, all with hand-carved heels, some in materials that don’t exist or aren’t being manufactured in the same way anymore. I have to balance all of these things with modern comfort needs, and modern construction methods. We’re not bespoke shoemakers – we run in small batches, but even though we’re not making thousands of shoes at a time, they’re still “mass produced,” so I’m constrained by some of those processes. In each design I strive to get the hallmarks of the period correct. I’ll take a hard look at where the side seams are, the shapes of the lasts, closures, how the heels are balanced and attached, all of these things, and anywhere that I can hold true to those design points, I will, without making the shoe uncomfortable for the user.


“Renoir”, Civil War Button Boots, by American Duchess


American Duchess recently joined forces with renowned cordwainer: Francis Classe to create the Elizabethan shoe, the “Stratford”. How did you come to work with Francis? How would you describe this collaboration?

I met Francis at Costume College in LA last year, and watched him put together one of his famous “Stratford” style shoes, from scratch. After Costume College, he emailed me rather out of the blue, and suggested the collaboration. He knew that we’d been developing an Elizabethan style – we’d had requests for Elizabethan shoes from the get-go, but with factory changes and other businessy stuff, it had been sortof on the back-burner – and he proposed that we work together to get that project done.


“Stratford”, Elizabethan shoe, designed in collaboration between renowned cordwainer Francis Classe and American Duchess

I couldn’t be happier with the whole arrangement. Francis made the patterning sample by hand, and our workshop produced a version of it that I feel was very true to the original. It’s one of the best shoes we’ve ever done, and it’s our first “Signature Collection” shoe. I love the “Signature” shoes because they’re all about helping other people in our community. Francis receives a commission every time a pair of Stratfords sells, and future “Signature” shoes will act in the same way – we’re working on our second Signature style, called “Seabury,” with the Newport Historical Society, so the sale of those will help fund them, too.

 I noticed you have names for each of the footwear styles at American Duchess. What has been the inspiration behind these names?

Each of the names ties in somehow with the period. Most of them are place names – Devonshire, Kensington, Pemberley, Highbury, Hartfield, Tavistock. Some of them are also the names of influential figures from the periods they represent – Astoria, Pompadour, Georgiana, Renoir, Tissot. The names are meant to evoke a feeling of each era.


“Gibson”, Edwardian shoe, tan, by American Duchess


What is your opinion towards modern footwear styles?

Some are great, some aren’t. It was that way in the past too! I really love a lot of the vintage-inspired lines, like b.a.i.t, and Miss L Fire, but I’m not adverse to a super-high-heeled modern stiletto too. A part of me wants to see the return of properly engineered, well-designed footwear, because so much of modern shoe design is influenced by machining and mass-production capability, not by human elements. Then again, if shoes were being made to those standards these days, I wouldn’t have much of a business! Part of our mission is to fill that gap, and bring some grace and comfort back to shoes.

I am in love with the fantasy of time travel. Is there a specific period / place / historical figure you would meet if you had the chance?

I don’t know if I could choose just one! I would visit lots of times and places, maybe just for a day, to see what it was *really* like, and maybe (probably) to do some shopping, haha. I’d like to meet, or maybe just observe, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Marie Antoinette. I guess I kindof want to see if they really look like their portraits. I’d like to meet Charles Frederick Worth, Paul Poiret, the Callot sisters, Chanel. I don’t know what they’d think of me! I’d probably be paralysed by celebrity and not be able to say a word, just stand there grinning like a goofball.


“Antoinette” 18th Century Mules, with metallic silver embroidery, by American Duchess

Learn more about American Duchess ~ click here to visit the website / blog or ‘like’ on Facebook



A shout out from my nest

For the past couple of months I have been under the weather (baby on the way, making waves)  this temporary but debilitating  state has led me to find ways that I can work while resting. I now refer to my bed as ” my nest”. This space holds most of what I need: phone, pen, paper, laptop, books, and snacks.

It was here in my nest that I recently completed the text for an upcoming publication due later this year to accompany a series of shoes. I honestly cannot wait to see this fully realised ~ so exciting.

I have also been using this time to be inspired, mostly visiting blogs and sites which lead to other sites, and new names, designers, artists and things. The internet is indeed a vast space, and since I need to be a part of my practice in order to feel like I am ‘me’, this time for discovery has been enjoyable considering the circumstances.


 The Art of Ikebana

I am not one of those people that swoon over a bunch of flowers in a vase. I like flowers outside, where they grow and reach sunlight. However I do have a reoccurring fascination with the Japanese art of Ikebana. Nowness is a great site with excellent contributors, this little film which shows the progression of a piece is lovely. Watch it here

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Still from the short film: The Art of Ikebana is Showcased at Tokyo’s Sogetsu School to Launch Modern Design Review


Mitch Alfus is a “Leather King”

In a café in Berlin late last year I came across a great book The Selby is in Your Placeby Todd Selby. Selby is a photographer of personal spaces, and the view point he takes is so interesting. Every detail he chooses to magnify is so telling of who these people are. I also loved the even playing field between very famous individuals and close friends of his.

Just the other week I remembered this book and searched for Selby online, to my delight he has expanded his photography practice to film. This is where I found this video of Mitch Alfus AKA “Leather King”. He captured all sides of this man who was responsible for the importation of fine leathers to the USA.   Watch this video here


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Still from the Selby film: Mitch Alfus AKA “Leather King”


DIY Design: Mathery

Melbourne based duo Erika Zorzi and Matteo Sangalli are the founders of design studio: ‘Mathery‘ . I have fallen in love with a project they completed back in 2010…which I have only come across very recently. Mathery created an object a day for 100 days. Each object had the objective of   satisfying a need. looking through these objects delighted me! I highly recommend checking it out here

CMYK base





I forgot all about Rookie

Tavi Gevinson, is the creator of her current blog Rookie. I actually hadn’t checked in with her for years it seems, when her blog was predominately fashion focused: Style Rookie. Tavi began this blog when she was only 11. I thought she was the cutest, most stylish, young lady who knew what she liked and could voice her opinions in her own way. Her honesty moves me and I think I could listen to her speak for hours on end. I have so much respect for her, and have made the vow to visit her blog on a regular basis again!

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shoes belonging to Tavi Gevinson

Watch an interview for Stylelikeu here

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Tavi Gevinson, stil frame from the interview for Stylelikeu


Discovered on FFFFound

This site was introduced to be years ago when I was in Montréal, I haven’t visited it in a long time probably since it is addictive. This site is an enjoyable feast for the eyes. I enjoy the escapism and opportunity for discovery it presents. visit FFFFound here

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Photograph discovered on FFFFound: Invisible by Laura Williams 2013


Streaming Tunes from France

Late last year it seemed that during my visit to paris, if I was in a home they were streaming this radio station. I like listening to this station, it offers me the kind of surprise my iTunes shuffle can not. Steam le player here 

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until next time


Interview: Leather embossed with nature ~ Carina Sohl

When I met leather artist Carina Sohl last year in Paris I had a suspicion she might live in the country side. I have myself moved to a little costal village a few years ago. The sea change has allowed me to be calmer, & more focused. The effect nature has on us is undeniable. Carina is so genuine, when I spoke she listened, in a way that you can when you are not overstimulated from living full-time in city life.

All the leather is produced by Carina at her studio using natural elements she collects in the Swedish countryside. Her pieces truly have a presence, they all glow with sharp and subtle outlines of leaves, twigs, grasses, and flowers. During the embossing process all of the natural materials used to create the print are destroyed. This makes every piece so special, every element becomes a ‘ghost’ of something that has been and is now gone. Carina embraces the natural world, an ever changing, ephemeral place into become a permanent surface.

Hallon natural

What inspired you to begin to work with leather professionally?

As long as I can remember I have been creative in different ways but it was when I began a leather course that I found a material that really appealed to me. I started to think about how I could develop the craft in relation to my own creativity.

One autumn day in October 2006, I was on my daily walk by the sea and found a beautiful half-decayed leaf on the ground. I studied it closely, delighted by its small delicate veins that intertwined into a beautiful pattern – nature’s own art. This feeling gave birth to a new idea. I wanted to somehow create patterns by transferring the fine leaf details onto leather. The leaf I found became the key to an entirely new type of decorative pattern on leather. My personal journey as a designer and craftswoman has been long, and processing my idea has taken time. In my studio, I experimented to find the right type of technique, leather and plant material.

1 Handembossed leather using plants.Pattern timotej

How would you describe the process of hand embossed leather?

The plant and leaves that I use for the patterns grow wild in the forest and during summer I hand pick as many as I need according to the customers specific order. Before the design process a carefully selected hide is cut to shape, then I begin designing the pattern by hand, using the natural leaves we have hand-picked and gathered. I base my designs on the different shapes and select leaves that together create a harmonious pattern. The plants are pressed into the leather before being removed and discarded and now the leather has a pattern. Instead of painting with a brush and paint, I design with natural leaves instead. The result is a beautifully detailed and intricate pattern on leather, where each pattern has it’s own unique artistic expression. The organic, fragile leaves are destroyed in the press process which means that you acquire a pattern that no one else has.

I use to search for leaves with folded corners or wormholes so everyone can see and understand that we use natural, authentic leaves and plants from the nature.

If you look very closely you will see the small fine veins and shapes of the different leaves,

Hand picked plants

Nature is central to your leather work, Would you say the natural world is a part of your everyday life as well?

Yes, I create patterns using the finest raw material in the world – Nature´s own. I live on the country-side close to the forest and the plants that I use for my patterns, some of them grow just outside my kitchen window. In Sweden we have a unique public right, where everyone has the right to be in nature and the common right of access to private land. Almost each day during the summer, I have the lucky freedom to roam the Swedish countryside where I search for and hand-pick the wild plants according to a specific order or to experiment and develop new patterns.

The cycle of the seasons are directly linked to your studio practice, can you describe this?

Here in Scandinavia, we have four different beautiful seasons spring, summer, autumn and winter with snow. Our hand-picking season is from june to October. The plants we use are native to the Swedish countryside and are harvested only in the Swedish summer-autumn time, some of them blooming only some weeks and others the whole season. I have my secret places in the forest where the specific plants growing. With a special method we can also keep a large store of different leaves and plants over the winter months.

In our modern day heavy duty machinery is the most common method employed to emboss leather, what makes hand embossed leather superior do you think?

Our artistic designs cannot be compared with machine-embossed leather, as creating patterns with natural plants requires a completely different kind of artistic and slow craft process, allowing only for one-of-a-kind-pieces. The organic materials form irregular, vibrant and beautiful pattern which are impossible to reproduce with modern printing plates and no two are same. This artistic and handcrafting process is complicated, demands time and love, and only allows limited editions. I think that These days true luxury is finding something real, authentic and natural, something made with love, passion and skilled hands and the knowledge that you will not see your purchase anywhere else.

We also use high quality and natural, vegetable tanned  rare breed cattle hides from selected Swedish farms and Reindeer hides from the Sami people who are the indigenous people in Sweden. Reindeer herding is legally reserved only for the Sami people which lives in the north of Sweden where they work traditionally with reindeer-herding and I growed up and lived in a small village in this area close to the Sami people and the Reindeer animals.

When I met you we were speaking about your work in terms of ‘freezing a moment’ can you elaborate on this?

Nature creates perfect works of art, and I want to convey the sense of humbleness that I feel before nature and living plants. I want to freeze a moment of this beauty, and when I design my patterns with leaves that I have picked in the Swedish countryside and press them into the leather, an exact detailed embossment is formed, which will become integrated in the leather forever.

The overall message is that the beauty of nature can be preserved. I am capturing a piece of nature and preserving its beauty forever.

3.hand emossed leather using Birch plants

You offer a bespoke service with your unique leather, what applications have your clients used your leather?

Most of our clients are interested of a bespoke service, creating and implementing designs using my handicraft process. Applications can be made for interior, fashion and accessories. Our pattern leather can be applied in a numerous way and we are always open to new and interesting ideas for applications. We have worked directly with fashion designers, architects and luxury companies.

To read more or contact Carina Sohl visit her website by clicking HERE

Interview: Thomasine Gloves

When I saw Thomasine gloves for the first time…

I felt so delighted, so surprised, & thrilled that leather gloves were being created right now in my lifetime that are so spectacular. Wearing gloves serve the function of protection against us from the cold ~ Thomasine gloves may just transform our hands into kinetic works of art.

Thomasine is a Swedish designer now living and working in Paris, France. She has collaborated with Walter van Beirendonck for multiple menswear collections; Tillmann Lauterbach; Gauchère; & photographer Adriane d’Ollone with art director Sofie Nielander. She has also taken part in  the prestigious ITS#SIX, International Talent Support in Trieste, Italy.

Thank you to the talented Thomasine Barnekow of Thomasine gloves for taking part in this interview.

Take a deep breath & witness some of the best gloves our universe has to offer:


Thomasine Gloves for Walter van Beirendonck SS2012

1. Can you tell me a bit about how and when you became interested in gloves?

Gloves came into my thoughts during design school, where I started to view them as soft wearable jewellery. I found an interest in an accessory that has a great traditional heritage and to try to find a modern way to look at them.

The first glove idea was inspired by shoes. The second – by jewellery hiding in under the skin: the collection called ‘peau précieuse’. This is still my brand identity, but often the jewellery part is more conceptual than direct today.


Thomasine Gloves: ‘Peau Precieuse’ Image By Barrie Hullegie


Thomasine Gloves Image by Coco Amardeil


Thomasine Gloves for Walter van Beirendonck AW2012

2. What is your process for developing a new glove design?

It is the search for making an idea that is yet not designed. I either have a fascination of a graphical image, a craft technique or a fashionable silhouette that I try to make 3D. I use paper and materials in my hands that I try to cut and fold into a new interesting shape as the base for the design. So I am very tactile and sculptural before I really start with the drawings.

TOKYO glove Marine

Thomasine Gloves: ‘TOKYO’ (Marine)

3. Your colour combinations are unexpected – so excellent. How do you arrive at these colour palettes?

The colours are a matter of taste. I don’t really follow trends, because I believe every story told can be the right ‘trend’ it is just up to oneself to tell it in a strong way. I see it like creating a painting.

But I do like shades of colours rather than prime ones.

MILAN mitaine Taupe

Thomasine Gloves ‘MILAN’ (Mitaine Taupe)

4. You have collaborated with some acclaimed designers and stylists on photo shoots, What is your process for a successful collaboration?

Personal chemistry – good energies are meant to come together and create successful work.Personally I try to listen and understand the core of the imagined product and then I translate it with my hand writing and perfection.


Thomasine Gloves for Walter van Beirendonck SS2014

dove glove

Thomasine Gloves ‘dove glove’ 


Thomasine Gloves Walter van Beirendonck SS2012

5. To me your gloves seem fresh & innovative. At the same time I can see that you value tradition in your craft & successfully relate this to your design. How do you combine the new with the old so well?

Gloves is a handcraft – by understanding the product and the heritage one can also start to change the shape to modernize it. By understanding the quality of leather one can create wonders that is not possible with textiles.

PARIS glove Fushia

Thomasine Gloves ‘PARIS’ glove (Fushia)

But the main point for me – I believe is that I am a product designer with speciality in jewellery and in textiles – gloves became the ultimate combination of the two directions.Gloves have become a bit of a forgotten accessory – by creating a new identity for the use of product one can play on nostalgia and elegance to create a modern product.

6. Hands are so personal and very integral on a functional level to our everyday lives as human beings. What do you think happens when we wear gloves?

NEW YORK gloveByAdrianeGrzadziel

Thomasine Gloves ‘NEW YORK’ glove Image By Adriane Grzadziel

If you are in love with your pair of gloves,  you will wear them all the time,  you will talk with them, you will stand up in the bus / metro to hold your hand up high. When you feel comfortable and beautiful – you will carry them with a pride. THOMASINE gloves are made to make you feel special.

7. What are you looking forward to in 2014 & beyond at Thomasine Gloves?

To make my brand reach further and make more people fall in love. 😉
To create a range that is both more simple but still make you feel less ordinary.
That women and men compliment their wardrobes with a special glove compartment.

HELSINKI glove Red

Thomasine Gloves ‘HELSINKI’ glove (Red)


Thomasine Gloves Coquillage De Main Galuchat


Thomasine Gloves Coquillage De Main Galuchat

If you would like to see and read more about Thomasine Gloves click HERE

Until Next Time

April Phillips Footwear at the Northampton Museums & Art Gallery UK + top ten footwear pieces from the collection

Back in October 2013 I exhibited a series of five boots at Gallery@OXO tower London UK ‘The Imaginary Happenings of Hospitalfield’ (to view these boots along with a short video click here) : A body of work created in response to an artist residency opportunity at Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, Scotland.

All five boots have recently been acquired by The Northampton Museums & Art Gallery UK permanent footwear collection. The museum has one of the worlds most outstanding footwear collections, with key pieces that represent makers, design, production, innovation, and the history of footwear. Together the collection stands to preserve footwear for the future ~ so for my series boots to be cared for amongst such an important crowd of footwear styles I am truly proud and honoured.

To celebrate the new acquisition I requested the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery put forward ten footwear styles from the permanent collection that are considered to be of special significance.  I imagine it must have been very difficult to compile this list, Thank you to the team at the museum for assisting me to put together this post.

no. 1: Queen Victoria’s Wedding Shoes


Queen Victoria wedding shoes

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Queen Victoria & Prince Albert on their wedding day 1840

Maker / Brand: Gundry & Son, 1 Soho Square, London. Boot and Shoemakers to the Queen

Dated: 1840

Date of acquisition: January 1949

Origin: Donation

Materials: Silk, Satin and Leather

Significance: unique, worn by Queen Victoria on her wedding day

Key Detail: Long ribbon ties fastened round the ankles to hold the shoes in place.                                                                                                                                                                                                            

These shoes…were worn by Queen Victoria on her wedding day 10th February 1840. Queen Victoria married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the Chapel Royal, St. James, London. To compliment her white satin dress trimmed with Honiton lace she wore these flat soled shoes trimmed with ribbon. They show the typical style worn by women of the time – simple flat soled square toed slip on shoes.

no. 2: Moira Shearer’s pointe ballet shoes


Freed pointe shoes made for the film ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)

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Moira Shearer in the film ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)

Maker / Brand: Freed

Dated: 1948

Date of acquisition: 1966

Origin: Donation

Materials: Satin and Leather

Significance: Evocative pointe shoes made for Moira Shearer to wear in the film ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)

Key Detail:  This pair was prepared to be worn, the toes have been darned and the ribbons attached, but they remained unused.

These pointe ballet shoes… were one of twenty five pairs  of pointe shoes made by Freed to be worn by Moira Shearer to take her through all rehearsals and filming.

no. 3 Cloud and Rainbow Heels


Maker / Brand: Shoemaker and designer Thea Cadabra

Dated: 1979

Date of acquisition: 1979

Origin: Purchased from Thea Cadabra

Materials: Suede, Leather, Synthetic materials and beads

Significance: An eye catching seminal design by Thea Cadabra

Key Detail: Floating cloud and lightning motifs, mixed material combination

These heels… were made for the Arts Council exhibition called The Shoe Show: British Shoes Since 1790. It took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall London, 5 December 1979 to 6 January 1980.

no. 4: 1851 Exhibition boot

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John Nelson Hefford boots 1851

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Interior sketch for media of the great Exhibition london – ‘The Crystal Palace’, UK 1851,

Maker / Brand:  John Nelson Hefford, shoemaker from Derby

Dated: 1851

Date of acquisition: 2006

Origin: Donation

Materials: Leather

Significance: A showcase of skills for the great exhibition UK. Came with label stating  the pair won a prize medal at the Great Exhibition 1851.

Key Details: Pair of beige and black leather dress Wellington boots. They have a wide flat square toe with a low stacked heel. Galosh in black leather with shaped top edge. Leg in beige leather with side seams piped in red. Front of leg decorated with appliqué design in black leather and coloured silk (now missing) of crown, national emblems, crosses, stars and scalloped border. Back of leg decorated with scrolling pattern. Beige leather boot top band. Wide ribbon loop sewn to inside of top at sides. Its leather sole has a domed waist.

This pair of boots… are a wonderful example of exhibition craftsmanship. Shoemakers were craftsmen. They had served an apprenticeship to learn their trade and were proud of their skills. They often made special shoes for exhibitions, beginning with the Great Exhibition of 1851.  These are full size shoes and could be worn if you could get them on your feet. They show a very high standard of workmanship.

no 5: Kinky Boots


kinky boots from the film made in 2005

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Transition from making mens formal shoes to over the knee boots, from the film ‘Kinky boots’ 2005

Maker / Brand: Unknown

Dated: 2005

Date of acquisition: 2006

Origin: Loan and then donation

Materials: Leather and printed pony

Significance: Appeared as set dressing / props in the film Kinky Boots (2005).

Key Detail: Dramatic metallic red over the knee boot

These boots… were used in the film Kinky Boots. The film was based on the true story of a shoemaker from Earls Barton, Northamptonshire who diversified into making large size Kinky Boots for men and women.

no 6: Silver Platforms

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silver platforms made by John Fluevog Shoes for Sacha, 1970s

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Disco dance floor, 1970s

Maker / Brand: John Fluevog Shoes for Sacha

Dated: 1970s

Date of acquisition: 2006

Origin: Purchased

Materials: Leather and synthetic

Significance: A wonderful example of 1970s platform shoes

Key Detail: Metallic leather with a dynamic square toe & high flared heels

This pair of woman’s silver leather buckle shoes with platform sole…examine the transition of footwear styles from the 60s to the 70s and capture the spirit of the 1970s dance floor

no 7: Confetti Shoe


single shoe covered in confetti made as made by ‘the girls’ sears factory as a wedding gift

Maker / Brand: Made by ‘the girls’, the closers, at Sears Factory, Northampton in 1925. This was a common practice at the factory to make a confetti shoe to give to a bride working at the same shoe factory.

Dated: 1925

Date of acquisition: 1987

Origin: Donation

Materials: paper, ribbon, adhesive

Significance: A great example of how shoes can pervade all aspects of life and be associated with rites of passage

Key Detail: Women’s single shoe covered with confetti, ribbon tied on vamp

This single shoe… was given to Edith Crouch at her wedding to Frederick Arthur Amos at St Michael’s Church, Northampton on August 2 1925. Edith was a closer at Sears shoe factory and Fred was a clicker at Oakeshott & Finnemore shoe factory.

no 8: Super Elevated Ghillie Platforms


Vivienne Westwood commissioned platforms for the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

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Super model Naomi Campbell falls during a Vivienne Westwood catwalk show in Paris 1993

Maker / Brand: Designed by Vivienne Westwood

Dated: 1998

Date of acquisition: 1999

Origin: Commissioned and purchased

Materials: Leather, synthetic material, and cotton laces

Significance: The blue moc croc Super Elevated Ghillie shoes were made famous when the super model Naomi Campbell was filmed falling to the ground in them as she walked down the catwalk for the Vivienne Westwood Autumn/Winter 1993-4 collection.

These platforms… were made famous when Naomi tumbled during a catwalk show in Paris in 1993. The innovative adaptation of  a traditional footwear style is typical to many shoes Vivienne Westwood has designed during her career.

no 9: Wheel Heels


wheel heels, Designed by Maurice Kurdash for Mexico shoes Ltd

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Maker / Brand: Designed by Maurice Kurdash for Mexico shoes Ltd (now Gina Shoes Ltd)

Dated: Circa 1965

Date of acquisition:  2001                                                                                                                                                                                     

Origin: Donation

Materials: Leather and brass

Significance: A very interesting design from the 1960s.

Key Detail: Wheel in place of top piece on heel

This Pair of pumps… features a wheel is set at a critical angle, so that as the wearer puts weight on it a brake action is achieved. It was said to prevent the pitting problems in floors as well as problems of the heel breaking. Quite a novelty but do you think you can wear them safely?

no 10: George Boots

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Mens Boot with a print of lead singer of the Northampton band: Bauhaus Pete Murphy Designed by Guy West for Jeffery-West

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Northampton band : Bauhaus. Lead singer Pete Murphy (third from left)

Maker / Brand: Designed by Guy West for Jeffery-West

Dated: 1998-1999

Date of acquisition: 2002

Origin: Donation

Materials: Leather

Significance: These boots take Northampton’s long standing tradition of making classic English men’s shoes and with the Jeffery-West own twist.

Key Detail: The leather has been digitally printed with a repeated image of Pete Murphy who was the lead singer of Northampton band Bauhaus

These mens boots… are made through Jeffery-West, a well-known and successful shoe company located in Northampton and with outlets in Piccadilly, London City, Leeds, Manchester, New York and Taipei.  We are always interested in expanding our collection and are keen to collect locally made shoes as well as shoes from across the world.

I highly recommend having a look at the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery blog which you can find by clicking: HERE

Until next time,


Footwear styles for the season: Sun or Snow

Christmas time causes me to reflect on the vast difference in weather conditions between hemispheres. Where I am in Australia the holiday season is about beach time, BBQs and cold drinks. Images of ‘Christmas’ we are surrounded with here portray a different climate all together.

For the final post for 2013 I decided to feature footwear that makes the most of the heat of summer or the chill of winter. I added the challenge of only selecting images that feature these seasonal footwear styles in paintings, illustrations, sculptures or prints.

I hope you are making the most of the season where ever you may be.

Until Next Year


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Ice Queen skating on a frozen lake, Illustration from a children’s book approx. 1950

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Painting of Geta during winter by Ito Shinsui date unknown (1898-1972)

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untitled by Hollie Chastain, Mixed Media, 2013

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‘Indian Hunter on Snowshoes’ by Cornelius Krieghoff date unknown

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Sculpture detail of winged sandals, Stone sculpture Getty Villa – Outer Peristyle Los Angeles

Agenda escolar (Junta de Castilla y León, 2007) By Violeta Lópiz

Agenda escolar (Junta de Castilla y León, 2007) By Violeta Lópiz

'The Bystander' By Wilton Williams 1925

‘The Bystander’ By Wilton Williams 1925

Ar Deco Christmas Card, Artist and exact date unknown

Ar Deco Christmas Card, Artist and exact date unknown

French magazine page, Artist Unknown, 1936

French magazine page, Artist Unknown, 1936

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Childrens book illustration, Artist Unknown, 1951

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Lora Lamm Illustration 2 “Summer and Sea”. Poster for summertime sales at La Rinascente department store, Milan. From Graphis Annual 60/61

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‘The Skating Girl’ by Ruth Eastman, 1916

MAKE SPACE ~ The story behind the project & why we need your help ♡

The Story:

When I was on holiday earlier this year I had what I can only describe as a ‘calling’. I have always been ambitious, often looking and dreaming up projects I felt the need to see realised. This was different somehow,  it wasn’t about just me and my practice. It was about moving outside of my own creative space and placing myself in a group to support and nourish the creativity of others. How did it happen? It was like the idea popped into my head and began to grow, sinking roots in my thoughts in a way I knew this idea was here to stay. I became consumed by it, and felt such an urge – that I knew I had to do it.

I think part of the reason why I felt so compelled to do something to help humanitarian refugees was that I felt a little lost as to what I could do. I knew it was important to begin to educate myself on the FACTS – because there are a lot of misled statements that have been put forward as the truth.

Refugees are forced to leave their country because they are at risk of, or have experienced, persecution. There is grave concern for the human rights and safety of these individuals – not to be mistaken for economic advantage. They leave behind their homes & more often than not all of their belongings –  family members & friends. Some are forced to flee with no warning and many have experienced significant trauma or been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. The journey to safety is fraught with hazard and many refugees risk their lives in search of protection. They cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves.

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I mage from the ‘Road To Refuge’ : an interactive site where you can take a journey through the eyes of another & make decisions which have consequences – (like choose your own adventure books) Click on image above to be directed there

I named The project : MAKE SPACE created for individuals who have recently arrived in Coffs harbour in the Mid North Coast of NSW from afar. Leaving their homes behind to take refuge in Australia. I like the name because it references the space as a place where making happens, but also addresses the concept of sharing what we have, to make space for those in need.


The MAKE SPACE ‘Poster Girl’ Bag

It was kind of like a Zap when I realised the way I should be assisting these individuals in the settlement process is to show them what i love, what I am passionate about, what I have devoted myself to ~ working with leather to make items that are beautiful, functional and express my own stories.

When I was in Melbourne I visited The Social Studio Smith Street, Collingwood. This amazing place is a fashion hub, shop, a cafe and an extension of RMIT Tafe all rolled into one. The Social Studio has been running for over Five years and has proven this model is meaningful and relevant to individuals who have experienced being a refugee as well engaging the broader community.

I called Youth Directions as a partnership because of their expertise and interest in facilitating local projects that make a difference to people’s lives.


We decided to run a nine week workshop to learn how to work with leather, use the tools and machinery with a strong focus on creativity in a safe and relaxed learning environment.

After meeting with Steve Miller at the North Coast TAFE who manages the ‘English as a Second Language’ service as well as settlement services  it became clear we should integrate this space to support English language skills through sharing, speaking, writing and  action packed making! What does this mean? We will be joined by an English as a second language teacher and students can bank hours spent in MAKE SPACE as part of the 500 hours of the ESL course.

Having the idea, the passion and the drive is only a portion of the necessary ingredients required to get a project like this off the ground. After submitting several grant applications for funding we got word we were successful from The Coffs Harbour city Council as part of the 2014 Small grants program. This funding will go towards materials, space hire as well as tools we will need to work with leather.

Why We Need Your Help:

After reading through many grant applications I realised we couldn’t raise the funds for machinery this way as this is not an eligible component to the budget. Thank goodness for Pozible! Pozible is an Australian Crowd funding campaign that allows creative projects to exchange “rewards” for “pledges”

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Our Page:

The truly wonderful reason why Pozible is so great is people are not asked to make ‘Donations’ as such – instead when you visit the site you can choose a ‘reward’ for your ‘pledge’ to MAKE SPACE:

What Can you do?

Have a read below about some of the ‘rewards’ you can exchange for ‘pledges’ made to our crowd funding campaign to purchase machinery for MAKE SPACE.

A big huge Thank you to these amazing individuals and groups who have agreed to donate their products to our MAKE SPACE pozible Campaign.


Who Gives A Crap Toilet Paper:

Who Gives A Crap Limited Edition Packaging

Who Gives A Crap Limited Edition Packaging

Flush Poverty Down the Loo
At present, 40% of the world’s population don’t have access to a toilet. Diarrhoea related illnesses fill over half sub-Saharan African hospital beds and kill over 2,000 children under 5 every day. We think that’s pretty crap. That’s why who gives a crap gives 50% of their profits to WaterAid to build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.

Make Every Wipe Count
WGAC believe that the need to wipe shouldn’t mean we wipe out the planet. That’s why they only use 100% post consumer waste recycled fibres in our toilet paper. It saves on trees, water and landfill which means you’re doing your bit while doing your bit to help keep our planet great.

Only test on bottoms
No use of any chlorine, inks, dyes or weird perfumes in our toilet paper. They  just pulp the clean fibres at super high temperatures to make WGAC biodegradable, safe in septic tanks and as strong as it is silky soft. And since it’s only tested on the finest human bottoms, our toilet paper is as good for your bum as it is for the planet.

Miss Chu ~ Queen Of The Rice Paper Roll

Vietnamese Tuck Shops Sydney and Melbourne

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MissChu Rice Paper Rolls

Nga Chu, known to everyone as Nahji or MissChu and to those who get in her way, as ‘The Queen of Rice Paper Rolls’ is the founder and creative director of MissChu.

Nga Chu, known to everyone as Nahji or MissChu and to those who get in her way, as ‘The Queen of Rice Paper Rolls’ is the founder and creative director of MissChu.

Born in Luang Prahbang, Laos, in 1970, Nahji and her family escaped the Pathet Laos Regime in 1975. They sustained themselves on the meagre living conditions afforded by the various Thai refugee camps they inhabited over a four year period before the Chu family’s number came up and the Australian government made them one of the first Vietnamese/Laotian refugees to settle in Australia.

A talented filmmaker, she produced a charcoal animation telling her story (click here to view this animation) and that of many other Vietnamese refugees. These skills are still part of the brand, with Nahji hand writing the menus on the blackboards found in the tuckshops. Nahji’s early desire for a career in the arts has been fully handed over to the creative life of MissChu – the high-design fast food chain.

The success of MissChu is based around Nahji’s instinct that Vietnamese food’s largely gluten free and highly tasty base ingredients would be a hit with contemporary diners.

MissChu tuckshops are the first of their kind anywhere in the world and can be described as a modern day hawker takeaway with high end food at a low price tag. Designed for the modern eater on the go, MissChu currently offers home or office delivery in Sydney and Melb CBD via electric bicycles.

gidget chu

Miss Chu ‘The Queen of the Rice Paper Roll

Klezinski: The Science Of Apparel Success

Klezinski is a Melbourne based label. Ultimate fabrications used in the creation of their products along with clever pattern cutting results in every piece made being distinctively unique and timeless.

Klezinski’s Mr Rabbit has four strong magnetic paws to attach to his matching scarf. He also has a hidden zip pocket to hold keys or other small objects

I own this scarf and it is one of most favourite things in the world. Gorgeous fabric, stunning attention to detail – a scarf and friend in one!

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Mr. Rabbit Hand Made Scarf by Klezinski Melbourne

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Mr. Rabbit Hand Made Scarf by Klezinski Melbourne


A handmade rabbit with a small internal pocket and
matching 3 meter scarf in wool marled jersey

Product details
• Wool jersey
• Rare earth magnets in the hands and feet
• YKK zip
• Dry clean only

UNEMPIRE – Melbourne Socks

Socks don’t get any better than this: fun, bold, well made, and detailed in design.

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Spaghetti, meatballs ‘N’ garlic Toast Socks, By UNEMPIRE Melbourne
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Prawny socks By UNEMPIRE Melbourne

Socks designed by the Unemperor, who also answers to the name Zoë Lea and is based in Melbourne, Australia.

Unempire sox are soft like fluffy clouds, but strong like a really strong thing so they last longer than your average sock.

They come in one size and shape, but are super stretchy, so they fit every foot- big and small. The Unemperor doesn’t discriminate.

Being the same size and shape means Unempire socks can also be mixed-up and mis-matched. So no sweat when one gets lost at laundry time or disappears in the bedroom vortex.

Collect them all or play swapsies with friends!

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Dippy eggs ‘N’ Soldiers socks by UNEMPIRE Melbourne

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Cheezzze Dreamzzz socks by UNEMPIRE Melbourne

Piccolo to Go Coffee

When a Melbourne girl moves to a coastal paradise she wonders: “where will I get my caffeine fix?”

Bailey Centre and City Centre Coffs Harbour

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flossy-p is an illustrator who sees the world in such a beautiful light! Her imagery makes me want to return to my childhood and turn 90 tomorrow all at once.

Since sea changing from a noisy city terrace, up the coast to a creekside house, nestled between the hills and the sea, her art has grown oodles of flora and attracted all nature of critters, birdlife and marine beasties. Prints of original illustrations are in editions of 100 signed by flossy-p. 8 x 10″ with a border (page size is A4) note:copyright watermark is not on actual print

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Never Never Creek: A lucky boy gets to snuggle up warm and cosy with a sleeping platypus, in a patch of reeds under soft yellow stars.

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Giant Wombat & Banjo Boy:A giant but gentle wombat meets a boy and his banjo beneath the night sky.

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All The Animals Know The Secret Of Life:A graceful, all-knowing swan, with detailed feather plumes.

Beci Orpin

A signed copy of Beci Orpin’s latest book ~ HOME: 25 Amazing Projects for Your Home. Beci is without a doubt one of our most talented living Australian artists. She has a playful style that seems to strike a chord within all of us. Her latest book is filled with gorgeous inspirational imagery along with projects you can make for your home.

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Catalogue Magazine:

A One Year 2014 Subscription to Catalogue Magazine Australia (Six issues)

A leading fashion magazine that has some of the most beautiful photo shoots I have ever seen! Relaxing with a magazine is my time to be inspired and keep up with local and international talent.

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Old Johns:

I originally stumbled upon Old Johns when I first relocated to Coffs Harbour to ask for directions. As soon as I walked in I felt like I was transported, awesome little spot with just the right balance of attention to detail and relaxed atmosphere. I love this little gem in Coffs. Visit here with a friend for the perfect combination of delicious food, great service, and good conversation. Dinner menu is perfect for shared plates between cold drinks xx

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Old Johns have given up five vouchers for Thursday Dinner + Drinks for two ($50 Voucher) at Old Johns 360 Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour.

April Phillips Footwear (that’s me!)

So usually I don’t ‘leak’ my own stories early but I couldn’t resist offering these shoes I am working on as a reward.

I will  be releasing a made to order range of women’s shoes in early 2014 which are set to go on tour in various retail spaces, and galleries around Australia and then Overseas. There will be thirty shoes in total each with a single hand illustrated, carved and painted object. Every object featured on a shoe pertains to the human being: exploring some of our desires, habits, superstitions, inventiveness and absolute absurdities. The mary jane style of shoe has a scolloped edge and is made from vegetable tanned leather, with pigskin lining. A very low (nearly flat) heel with a leather / rubber sole so there will be no slipping about. Completely repairable, wear these for a lifetime and then pass them along ♡

Hand illustrated, carved, and painted Mary jane Shoes April Phillips Footwear

Hand illustrated, carved, and painted Mary jane Shoes April Phillips Footwear

I will also be running a:

Sandal Making Class:

I will be teaching a sandal making class at the crafty hub Weave 42 hyde Street, Bellingen . The class will run over two Saturdays: 18th and 25th january 10.30am – 2.30pm All materials are included. Sandals will be made to makers foot and personalised with specialised leather paints and stains.

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‘Storm Cloud’ Sandals by April Phillips *Image Pictured is an example only

My eyes are set on next year, and the launch of this very important new project.

I look forward to sharing the success of our contributors and friends!

Please Pledge funds to receive rewards and help us to buy the machines we need! CLICK HERE

Also MAKE SPACE has a blog too here it is:

Until next time