The uppers are lasted and ready for a heel...I just need to find one! It's been difficult finding a heel because it has to be not only the right height and silhouette, but also the inclination at the top must match with the inclination of the last/insole. I'm going today to a tacchificio (heel factory) to try and find a good match. I have only a few days left and I still need to hand-stitch on the rhinestone trim...it's crunch time!
I'm finally back! I spent three weeks of vacation at home and the past three weeks getting settled back into the swing of things in Italy and at work, and despite my best intentions, I managed to write nothing! But that doesn't mean I haven't been working on new things. The wedding-shoe-making has officially begun...
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The lasts - I covered the external half of one of the lasts with masking tape and then drew the design straight onto the tape.
Then I took off the tape and pressed it down flat onto a piece of paper, corrected the curves, and created the internal lines (lasts, and feet for that matter, are not symmetrical and there are certain adjustments that need to be made the "external" line to make it fit correctly on the "internal" side). This base is called the camicia.
The final camicia - external lines in black, internal lines in red. This base is used to make the pattern pieces.
All the pattern pieces to make the shoe: including the upper (tomaia), lining (fodera), and reinforcements (rinforzi).
Gluing together the pieces cut out in leather
The finished upper (glued for the test run, but it will be stitched for the final shoe)
The lasted sample with the lining yet to be trimmed away
Sorry for the long delay in writing. I finished up my last few days of work last week (140+ samples finished...or nearly finished!) and am officially chiusa per ferie (closed for the holidays). I'm back home in the states and hope to be sharing with you all some updates on the shoe scene here in the US, new American designers, and much more. In the meantime, take a look at my latest dream shoes...
If you haven't already, take a look at this article from the New York Times: "Is Italy Too Italian?" It discusses the economic situation in the textile industry, but it's pretty much the same for the footwear industry, except that, in my opinion, quality has been compromised and the integrity of the "Made In Italy" label is fading.
Today is August 1st, which in Italy means the start of August vacations. For the entire month of August, most of Italy is chiuso per ferie -meaning that almost everyone closes up and heads to the beach. I, unfortunately, have to work the first week of August because of the 100+ samples that need to be finished before the holiday in order to deliver all the shoes in time for fashion week runway shows - we've been making lots of 39s, 40s, and 41s! So my postings, as I'm sure you've noticed, have been infrequent in the past weeks because of the work overload. This week will surely be no different and I try to wrap up everything I'm working on and get ready to head home (where hopefully I'll have lots to share about the shoe scene stateside). In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you all to a new project I'm working on...
One of my closest friends, Jenna, is getting married in October, and I'll be designing and making her shoes for the big day (and time willing, perhaps even a pair for myself). (As a side note, Matt, if you're reading this...STOP! You can't see the shoes until the wedding!) I can't give any specifics on the dress, but let's just say that some dramatic shoes are in order. I've just started sketching this week and wanted to share with you all my initial ideas. Over the next months leading up to the wedding, I'll be posting pictures and drawings and material swatches to document the whole process from sketch to finished shoe. I'd love to hear your feedback!
I visited the luxury leather tannery Stefania a while back, here are some pictures from that visit:
Even if it says the leather comes from Italy, it usually means that the skins come from another country (Eastern Europe, India, Asia, etc.), where the hides go through the first tanning process, then they are shipped to Italy for the other half of the tanning and finishing process. So in reality it's not the skins themselves of "Italian leather" that make them special, it's the high-quality tanning process. The hides, after they have undergone the first tanning and are ready to be shipped, are called wet blue hides because of their pale blue color (see above).
The hides are dyed in drums that spin like a washing machine. The smaller drum (above) is for sample-making, while the larger drums (below) are for large production orders. Once dyed, the leather goes through many steps to apply the finish, whether it be suede, patent, or laminated.
Above, black suede is sorted for quality. Most black suede is grey in color because it is difficult to get the dye to adhere and achieve a saturated black.
Before moving to Italy I interned as a designer with an Oakland, California-based footwear company, Twenty Two Shoes. Unfortunately they have since closed their doors, but I still admire the co-owners/co-designers' refined rustic aesthetic and use of earthy, worn-looking leathers that make you want to touch them. I also appreciate their focus on casual leather shoes (an often overlooked, but necessary, shoe sector). I stumbled up on some photos of the Rag & Bone shoe collection in Footwear News and was immediately struck by how similar their approach and look is to that of my old company. Take a look...
My favorite - a simply beautiful oxford for women in beige leather and natural linen:
Now that you know which factory I visited, here are a few more pictures...
Socks (more commonly known as insoles in the US) with their adhesive backing applied and ready to be put inside the finished shoe
Gluing on the sole
The leather upper is attached to the last by affixing a rope with nails to the lining that is left sticking out above the upper. Doing this ensures that the shoe doesn't slip down too far on the last when it is lasted.
I have been posting a lot about shoes recently (obviously), but I realize that Italy and my life here is such an important part of my shoemaking experience that I think it's relevant to share it with you all. So over the next weeks I'll be introducing you a bit to Italy, my town, and my stories of living here.
I thought I'd get started with some of the things that I love about living in Italy (the abbreviated list):
1. Eating an entire pizza on my own (this took some getting used to, but now when I go back home and have to share a pizza it always leaves me feeling a bit robbed)
2. Little old ladies who sit at their windows all day and watch the town pass by
3. Taking a passeggiata on Sundays
4. How almost everyone stops to give my dog some of their gelato when we walk through the piazza (sometimes they even stop to give my dog my gelato, though maybe that belongs on my list of things I do not like about living in Italy)
5. My coworkers who, after returning to work in the afternoon, are genuinely interested in hearing about every single thing I ate for lunch (oh, and did I mention hour-and-a-half lunch breaks?)
6. Waiters who act insulted if I don't clean my plate and dinner dates who never let me choose what I want to eat or how much (annoying, but also endearing in a strange Italian kind of way)
7. Being called "Little one," "Joy," "Star," "Treasure," and all manner of over-the-top names by people I barely know
8. And lastly, for now at least, driving with a stick-shift and speeding around roundabouts
I'm an American girl working as a modellista (pattern maker) in a luxury shoe factory in northern Italy. I have a passion for fabulous shoes, handmade details, and exotic leathers. I hope you'll check in every so often for my insider's look at the world of footwear.