When we began thinking about the place of contemporary fashion design in the Melbourne Now story it struck us that this was the perfect opportunity to highlight the work of local shoemakers who exemplify the current resurgence in traditional bespoke shoemaking practices. Over the last few years, a growing number of makers have begun working in small studios around Melbourne, from the Nicholas Building on Swanston Street to warehouses in Brunswick and Prahran. In doing so, they have revived a creative practice in decline and brought it to a new audience that values the handmade.
What followed was a series of studio visits and an intense selection process to come up with a shortlist of six shoemakers to feature in a focused display within the exhibition. The shoemakers – Claire Best, Phong Chi Lai, Brendan Dwyer, Theo Hassett, Preston Zly and Jess Wooten – come from a range of backgrounds and are largely self-taught or trained via old-school apprenticeship-style tutorage.
Melbourne Now will showcase both men’s and women’s shoes, and encompass modern interpretations of classics, such as the lace-up brogue and ankle boot, alongside innovative hybrid shoes that incorporate unexpected materials or sculptural approaches to designing footwear.
We hope that final installation will enable people to better appreciate the extraordinary craftsmanship involved in creating shoes from scratch, and draw attention to the dynamic Melbourne-based revival of the art of shoemaking.
This project is supported by MECCA Cosmetica.