Unpicking deeper trends into 3D ideas…

Trends are interesting, trends are like a collective expression of thoughts, words, actions and artefacts. Trends can be engineered and imposed or can emerge. The latter proves to be lasting or significant. I long ago stopped “seeing” things I liked and now see things which are “fresh”. Then I spend time trying to unpick the relevance…

manchu shoes Northampton Shoe Archive -photo Liz Ciokajlo

manchu shoes Northampton Shoe Archive -photo Liz Ciokajlo

Going back to May 2011 I visited the Northampton Shoe Museum Archive whilst researching primitive footwear.  The place is wonderful and Rebecca Shawcross the curator is a lovely woman with a real understanding and knowledge of what shoes mean to people. On that trip I became fascinated by the Chinese Manchu shoes.  When the shoes were worn in China, farmers had to pay a significant amount of taxes to the government on their crops. However the sewing/ embroidery work of the woman was not taxed so in my cynical mind it is no wonder the softer sex’s feet were bound rendering them stationary to keep stitching! But in the Manchu region foot binding was outlawed.  The Manchu woman were independent and even road horses however they still wanted their feet to appear small and delicate so shoes with smaller “pedestal” soled heels poking out under the long clothing evolved.  To me I see connections with modern woman and the Manchu ladies.  And to me when I see something like this it signifies a deeper trend that makes a statment about people and design and is worth exploring….   As woman we all know walking on heels is in direct contrast to comfort but are driven by the image and identity projected. The feeling of elevation for the generally shorter sex is empowering. Wedges are more comfortable but still don’t get us to the same place.  We have worn Uggs, Birkenstocks, DM’s and trainers and know how good a flatter step can be. A flatter step with elevation and elegance just what the felt shoes needed.  The material of the felt shoes signified comfort, it was subversive and unexpected to raise up the shoe and the narrow base would further refine the appearance. Also during this time we were seeing the rise of the flat platform or “flatforms”. So maybe there was something in the Manchu shape which related to my work…

Derek Lam Stacked Wedge Platform Pumps

Derek Lam Stacked Wedge Platform PumSo maybe there was something in this trend that related to what I was doing.

  • The wedge shape complemented my hollow heel structure.
  • The flatter sole was what inspired me to buy the last in Italy.
  • The undercut of the heel further refined the form.
  • The comfort of the felt was always in contrast to the shoe having height and the height was rather subversive, something I always like to play with as it produces the kind of questions worthy of artefacts.
  • And the overall feel was rather 1940’s giving rise to the ideas of peep toes construction.
  • Peep toe on a practical level helped to remove the extra material in this area.
  • In keeping with a seamless future the overlasting could heighten the shadows of the form.

So the cogs turned…

manchu sketch

manchu sketch

Always good that the felt material needs differing “fit” points on the foot than a court shoe.  So this creates a more unique look.

And this turned into this…

Steam… then…

then stitch in insole…

And Resin…

But there were problems with the Bio Resin and the felt as it is highly sensitive to any moisture. It bubbles even when degassed.  And the resin line was still too strong for Arena’s collection.

So in the end I learned the priority was the look for the catwalk and the collection photography. This project was not about developing the construction in industry.  So armed with pointe shoe shellac I coated the outside of the shoe where the heel structure and heel and the toe stiffening would be to create a semi structure and barrier to the inside coating of polyester resin and fiberglass! Well sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Things would be different in production!


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