Monday, July 26, 2010

Insider's Look V

A few stragglers...

An upper lasted by hand (nailed in the back, glued in the front)

Going through 'the oven' to heat and set the upper

Cork filling the empty space to create an even surface onto which to glue the sole

Pressing on the sole

Adhesive padding to cover the nails used to attach the heels

Sunday, July 25, 2010

California Dreaming

With the August holiday coming up and my trip back home fast approaching, I've got beaches, oceans, waves, and surfing on the brain...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Inside a Tannery

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.

Finished skins, stacked and ready for processing

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rag & Bone...Shoes

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:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Insider's Look IV

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.

Machine for lasting the toe

Machine for stretching and forming bootlegs

Friday, July 9, 2010

Introduction to Italy

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reinventing: Jil Sander

Sorry all for my laziness in posting, it's too hot here to do anything right now...except maybe for raiding the archives, where I found a detail shot of this great bulbous heel that wraps over the upper from Jil Sander.

It sent me straight to my sketchbook...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Insider's Look III

The automated stitching machine for quilting uppers. (Uppers are the leather/fabric part of the shoe that gets lasted and then finished with a sole. It's literally the upper part of the shoe. See last photo for an example.)

I promised that I'd tell you this week which factory I visited, but I think this picture does the job for me...

Yep, that's right!

An upper being accessorized before being lasted.