School in Florence Italy

A view of the Duomo

When It was suggested to me that I attend a Masters program in Europe for footwear design I had a few choices to chose from.  When I thought of high fashion luxury footwear my thoughts were immediately of Italy. Brands like Prada and Gucci are made in Tuscany.  I looked into different schools and Polimoda offered an International accelerated program and it was in Florence which was the birth place of the Italian Renaissance. Polimoda Fashion Institute is ranked in the top ten for best fashion schools in the world. I knew that this was the school for me. I was very happy when they accepted me.

I couldn't have chosen a better city to study in. I was surrounded by both incredible art history but also cutting edge fashion. Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, and Dante all worked and lived there. Their influence is seen throughout the city. Michelangelo, Dante, and Galileo are all entombed at the church of Santa Croce. There is an event held in the Piazza in front of the church called Calcio Storico or gladiator football. It's an old tradition for rival neighborhoods to compete against each other. The game probably started in the 15th century .Tradition holds that soccer and rugby were derived from this game. I will talk more about it in another post because it's a unique event. Calcio Storico is usually held in June. 

 

Florence had its beginnings in a small Etruscan settlement around 200 b.c. known as Fiesole. Fiesole is still there and a quick city bus ride up one of the hills. Etruscan and Roman ruins still there like remnants of a Roman bath as well a Roman amphitheater . The amphitheater is still used. Their is an old monastery at the top of a very steep street with incredible views of all of Florence. The monastery has a great museum and really shows how the monks lived in their spartan cells. The little town has some great restaurants but it's also great for a picnic lunch. Below are pictures from Fiesole.

I will be posting a lot about Florence. It's an amazing city. Lots to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

André Perugia (1893-1977) the original celebrity Shoe Designer

      

     I posted on my Facebook page about the engineering of the recent no-heel Saint Laurent shoe . I wanted to follow up with a story about André Perugia. Heel-less shoes are not a new concept. Perugia was considered one of the 1st celebrity shoe designers. He was born in Nice France in 1893 and opened his 1st shop at 16!! Perugia designed for many famous people. The stars of the Folies Bergère,Josephine Baker, and Gloria Swanson were clients of his. For more information you can read a great book, Shoes by Linda O'keeffe. It has photo's galore of the history of shoes. I actually used this book to get better at drawing shoes. 

Below are some of the groundbreaking designs of Perugia.

All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion Exibition at Rhode Island School of Design

Todd Oldham was born in Texas and made his first dress at the age of 15 by sewing together pillowcases. Mr. Oldham's first job was doing alterations at the Polo Ralph Lauren store in Dallas Texas. 

Borrowing 100 dollars from his parents he bought 41 yards of white cotton jersey, dyed it and put together a small collection. Mr. Oldham sold it to Neiman Marcus. Todd Oldham has been inspired by potholders, wallpaper, toasters, paint by number paintings, and garage sale treasures to name a few. His style is fun, colorful and exuberant. These are pictures I took at the RISD exhibition of his work.

The first outfit above is a salmon colored quilted coat from the front and back over an intricate beaded dress. The second is a beaded and embroidered dress with a huge train.

Below a dress inspired by Todd Oldham's childhood game Lite-Brite. The second is a suit completely made of ribbon.

Below....how do you make tie-dye evening? you cover it in sequins. The next dresses shows what a master he is with textiles and embellisment.

Examples of his shoes, jewelry and findings.

I want to thank the Rhode Island School Of Design Museum for putting on such an amazing exhibition of Todd Oldham's designs. Mr Oldham is a real inspiration.

Salvatore Ferragamo

 I was 16 and sitting in humanities class at my Catholic school when I saw one of the girls walked in with the highest platforms. I was totally fascinated by the possibilities of what shoes could be. I immediately starting reading anything I could get my hands on about shoes. The name that came up over and over again was Salvatore Ferragamo. Ferragamo was born in 1898 in Bonito Italy. A small village with still only about 2500 residents. He was number 11 of 14 children. At a very young age he knew he wanted to make shoes. The profession was frowned upon as being lowly but Ferragamo followed his dream. He immigrated to the United States in 1914 at the age of 16 to Boston. He ended up moving to L.A. and making shoes for the movies. Celebrities started wearing his original designs and he was known as "Shoemaker to the Stars". Ferragamo was not satisfied with the notoriety. He wanted his shoes to be comfortable as well as beautiful. This leads Ferragamo to inventing and patenting 350 ideas many of which we still use today.

Ferragamo took anatomy classes and discovered that the weight of the body falls onto the arch of the foot. He developed the idea of a shank. A metal bar that ran under the arch. It supported the weight of the body and in the case of high heel sandals kept the foot from sliding down off the heel. Virtually all shoes today have a shank. As you can see in the last picture, he designed for some of the most famous and powerful women of his time. 

Ferragamo moved back to Italy in 1927 to make his shoes there.During World War II shortages in materials were common. He used this to create some amazing designs. Metal was in short supply so instead of shanks he created the wedge heel for support. I always thought wedges were always around but the very 1st wedge was designed by him in 1936! This pair below not only has the wedge but also invisible fishing line for the vamp. Leather was also in short supply and one day as Ferragamo was watching men fish in the Arno river that runs through Florence he got the idea to use the fishing line for his shoes.

Ferragamo was the father of the modern platform. Platforms had not been seen since chopines during the 1500's thru 1700's. Chopines are another whole blog post. Ferragamo brought back high shoes by utilizing cork which was easily accessible even during the war. Below are pics of a pair of chopines. Yes...someone actually wore these and needed two servants to steady themselves when they left the house. And you complain about high heels. The next three are creations of Ferragamo.

These next shoes are an iconic pump he made for Marylin Monroe and lasts that he custom made for the perfect fit for her. The next are a pair of solid gold shoes made with gold chains. The last are a pair with a prominent toe possibly inspired by a Turkish toe or Poulaine toe.

I was very lucky to attend the Polimoda Fashion Institute in Florence Italy. The president of the school is the oldest son of Salvatore Ferragamo, Ferruccio Ferragamo. I was in the city that Ferragamo created some of his most amazing designs. His flagship store is in the Medieval palace Palazzo Spini Feroni that he used as his factory. There is a museum there which is a must see if your in Florence and a shoe lover. 

Ferragamo's flagship store and museum and Mr.Ferragamo himself with a glass soled shoe.

Killer Heels at the Currier Museum of Art Manchester N.H.

I got together with some great friends and did a road trip to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester N.H to see the exhibit Killer Heels . As you can imagine this was like being on sacred ground for me. I was surrounded by the amazing creations of some really outstanding designers. I took plenty of pics and want to share them with you.

The 1st 2 pictures are of me with a shoe designed by René van den Berg. If you remember, he was the master craftsman that made my design  for a client of mine in Paris. René's work is amazing. The next 2 designs are from Iris van Herpen. Iris does many of her designs with 3d printing. There is a video of that last shoe being printed.

Black pump with Lucite and steel by Chau Har Lee. Some of her all lucite shoes are incredible. Christian Louboutin ballet (not flats). Extreme but so cool. Finsk Shoes by Julia lundsten a talented Finnish designer. The last shoe was designed by the legendary Salvatore Ferragamo. Ferragamo was the 1st designer to make shoes with a wedge heel. Ferragamo had many innovations with shoes. These were designed probably in the 1940's with a wedge and a cool Turkish toe.

Click on the above picture and look through some of the other shoes. The exhibit Killer Heels will be at the Currier museum til May 15th

Draping

One of the many ways I get ideas is the process of Draping. Just like clothing designers drape their dress forms with fabric I drape my shoe lasts with anything that catches my interest. It will give me ideas for shapes, colors, and styles. In the pictures above you can see some of the items I use. Seashells have amazing shapes and you can see how they can easily work with shoe design. A box of drink parisols made a fun exercise as well as a tie dye scarf with a silk cord. 

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We have a shed on the other side of the yard that has a small window box. Since there isn't a water source I put some brightly colored silk flowers in the box. Over a couple years the silk flowers aged and frayed. I liked them so much that way I used them for this draping.

 The heel is made from rubber fiber optic conduits that I found. Pieced together they make a beautiful lacey heel. 

Critique with Tim Gunn

Have I seen this before? No. Does the world need it?
Yes!
— Tim Gunn

     These are some pics from the contest“Win a critique with Tim Gunn” . I had the amazing experience to meet Tim Gunn who gave me excellent advice on my career and designs. Tim is exactly who he is on TV. He is kind and real and very sincere. He is an amazing mentor. Tim’s advice gave me more courage and confidence to continue chasing this dream of starting my own line of shoes.  Thank you Tim, all the people at Project Runway, and AARP who sponsored this contest.