Research into Felt…

Andrea Myers – Echo

Felt is an old material we associated with warmth, cosy comfort.  I came across this artist from Ohio (my home state) and there is something with her work I connected with. I definately connected with colour but also the encasement and trapping of the soft inners, a peeling away of layers – very organic and natural to me.

Andrea Myers

But this is just the start… How to translate into footwear for God’s sake!

I could…

A. Create a ski boot plastic vac form shell and fill it with little layers of multi coloured felt.

B. Mold felt around a last – but they already do this with slippers.

Need to look at other felt products and techniques…

My tutor made a very clever idea – she suggested using the properties of felt to add the feature of customization to the food bed.

I had originally envisioned a topographic map of colour contouring the foot but upon research I could make…

A. knit the bed ( with big wool as Beyral scarves)

2. attach to veg tan leather and lazer cut pattern to give space and decoration for comfort.

C. piles of daisies or grass leaves on the bead

I need to get to work playing…

SABA FELT CARPET Designed by Stephanie Odegard

Designed by Christien Meindertsma Manufactured by Flocks The Netherlands, 2007


Designed by Studio Tørd Boontje (est. 1996) Manufactured by Nanimarquina Spain, 2006Designed by Jean Nouvel (French, b. 1945) Manufactured by Molteni & C. Italy, 2008 Wool felt, stainless steel

Prince Chair Designed by Louise Campbell (Danish, b. 1970) Manufactured by Hay Denmark, designed 2001, launched 2005 Powder-coated steel, neoprene rubber, wool felt

not to forget traditional Russian felt shoes!

For anyone interested in further felt references by designers/artist please look up…

I stumbled upon this site when I was looking for felt shoes by Joseph Beuys which another tutor suggested, haven’t found it yet – I’ll check again tomorrow with my tutor!

Process, materials and people…


Marcel Wanders changed things…

The first time I say and understood the Rope I knew it was genius! The rope is dipped in resin and dried in a designed rack to create the final shape. Process and form are one…

Marcel Wanders Knotted chair

Footwear is so complicated Then I discovered Marloes Ten Bhomer.

Did they come from the same school of tought? It was such a simple approach – molded veg tan leather and carbon fiber. Again process and form are one.

Marloes ten Bhomer - leather and carbon fiber

Marloes ten Bhomer - leather and stainless steel


Marloes ten Bhomer – rotational moulded


What struck me about both these pieces is the reduction of components.  In my limited work and exploration of footwear there seems so many processes and components.  In adjacent design disciples such as furniture design which deals with materials and structures the form drivers have been
materials and processes
reduction in parts
exposure of structure
structures as form
context of enviroment and use as part of outcome
To me it seems in footwear recent drivers are more related to cultural historical references put on top of a very mature production industry where low initial investment drives changes.


Mass customization and Rapid manufacturing/ prototyping…

Mass customization seems to be a bit of a buzz phrase in progressive business thinking. It has been around for awhile now but has not seem to permeate into our consumer culture. It is still relate early days and mass production is very mature business model.  We are talking about altering physical product not programing software only.

I personally really “got” mass production as a socialist movement in the early 20th century. Although there were many shortcomings and controversies the overriding “ideal” of a more equal society where craftmanship was available to the mass is something which connects with me.

Move to today mass production is a far cry from those ideals. Many sustainable, ethical, economic issues generally associated to mass production today. The hope of rapid manufacturing, reduction of components, local materials and services generally higher quality goods is where I would like to be a part of as a designer.

Visualizing concepts and designs for Mass customization

Might as as well start at the cutting edge…

First Rapid Manufactured Shoe 2006


‘Head over Heels’, is the first application of rapid (digital) manufacturing technologies to an entire product in the footwear industry, developed by Marc van der Zande from TNO Science and Industry (a Dutch research institute) and independent designer Sjors Bergmans of Sjors Bergmans Concept Design.

The Melonia shoe - wearable 3D printed footwear


In Stockholm  two design schools have collaborated to make fashion footwear in 3D printed in polyamid.

“Naim Josefi and Souzan Youssouf, of Beckmans & Konstfack respectively, designed and modelled the shoes for Selective Laser Sintering (the one with all the powder and the lasers) and produced five pairs for Naim’s “Melonia” collection, shown during Stockholm Fashion Show earlier this month.”

To me this footwear has a fresh approach, with the material and process dictating the visual outcome.  The use of one material reinforces the objects elegance. The waste in producing the piece is recycled so sustainability is a by-product of the process (we like good by-products!).

Stockholm Footwear are  not the only people experimenting with RPT

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec - growing a chair


The French furniture design duo Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec explored structure and form for their Vegetal chair back in 2005 using stereolithography. The outcome predates the Melonia shoe but the form mimics the method or process used to create it.

Mass Customization initial research…

First delve into research available in the Library and online…

Reading through “Mass Customization and Footwear: Myth, Salvation or Reality?” by Claudio R. Boer and Sergio Dulio.  All very technical and intense for a visual person like me!  This is a long term study and applied research testing mass customization systems in footwear focus being on European factories.  Reason being most production is now in Far East where labour cost are low therefore solutions need to be addressed in premium factories which tend to be in Europe and other western countries. The thing is almost 80% of production is in Far East but when we look at GNP or profits European (mainly Italy) jumps up to at the time of publishing in 2007 second place.

So in my opinion, by using technology to produce a better product with more customer appeal we can give market appeal to “vernacular” or even more local production and design. That is what I am interested in!

Most of the test cases are sports or performance footwear customizing performance features and graphics mostly such as Reebok custom, Converse, Timberlands but also Steve Madden.

The Project and book divides customization into…

a. Soft customization – match to order, locate to order, bundle to order

b. Hard customization – assemble to order

c. Development to order – in which the customer co-designs

On a practical level, style/aesthetics are easier to put into practice followed by function/performance with fit and comfort being the more complex.

One of the more successful companies is Nikeid where you can customize colours and some finishes

And on the other end of the spectrum is Lodger in London providing a bespoke fit using digital scanners and softwear

Lodger - bespoke customer foot scanner

Lodger - 3D image of scanned customer foot overlaid with last to achieve bespoke fit.

Finnish based footwear company - LeftFoot

I find it interesting such bespoke classic design footwear companies are using such high tech systems.  I also find it interesting if there are bespoke woman’s footwear using the same digital scanning systems.

The interesting information on Left foot’s website is how the company educates the customer on the way footwear last have evolved and why a scanning is valuable.

“Today’s technology does not guarantee perfect fit Originally, shoemakers crafted shoes for customers, as and when required, using lasts that had been manufactured according to the customer’s foot measurements. Industrialisation brought mass production in which lasts were manufactured in sizes corresponding to various number systems. No exhaustive standards were created for shoemaking with the result that numbering varies form one manufacturer to next, and the ‘size’ only refers to the length of the foot.”

initial work…

Having learned a small bit about making shoes from the wonderful Paul Thomas, worked in accessory handbag design, product and furniture I decided to embark on an MA in Fashion Footwear design at the excellent Cordwainers London College of Fashion.

Knowing the limitations of design choices/options due to suppliers, volumes, timescales and “fast fashion” I thought there must be another way. With my product design hat on I turned to advances in technologies and from my experience of furniture I thought there must be new materials and processes which can help change a westerner’s reliance on Far East manufacturing.

How to keep it local, how to bring down volumes and how to design for western woman of today.

That is where I started….

made 2010 using traditional bespoke

The spat was a happy accident. With an alternative buckle/fastening a better heel making sense of the spat.