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This week I’m in my element – I’m a “boots” girl interviewing Karina Oikonomidou-Ikonomova, designer and creative director of luxury brand Karina IK who specialise in drop dead gorgeous knee high boots, uber trendy ankle boots and sky high heeled shoes. The boots make me go weak at the knees and it is a real pleasure to have Karina and her designs on the blog .. welcome Karina…
Hi! I’m Karina Ikonomova-Oikonomidou – most people call me Kaya. I love to talk about shoes and the quality of things. I like beauty, I am in love with leather, the process of leather tanning and shoe-making.
As a small girl did you always want to design footwear?
Not always, it all started during my foundation degree at Chelsea College of Art and Design (UAL). There I pursued my passion for leather and developed interest in working in 3D and the most relevant choice seemed to be footwear at that time. I have thought about it and came to realise that footwear is the key to how we look and feel wherever we go and whatever we do. Shoes are so important and can really tell a lot about the lifestyle, and personal traits of the person wearing the shoes. So I embarked on learning how to make the best shoes, and learn about construction and comfort.
What do you like best about the process of being a shoe designer?
The process of sourcing, product development – when the 2D idea turns into a 3d object. I love that my work required me to travel a lot and meet with different people for all over the world. I get inspired by the process of developing a new shoe/ range itself and its like a viscous circle. I realise that I’m lucky to have found the job that make me happy as its a day to day activity and even in my dreams I am always connected to the work I’m doing, I get a lot of inspirational dreams!
Your first collection for Autumn/Winter 2015/16 is entitled ‘The Opus Magnum Collection’ and consisting of 10 styles in 13 colours. What was the inspiration behind your shoe collection and collection title?
Opus Magnum in translation from Latin means the Great Work. It is usually referred to an art work. I called my first range The Opus Magnum Collection as it hasn’t been just another range of a new fashion brand. I have given a lot of thought to creating this range and building the brand’s philosophy. It has been years of study and research throughout my university degree and postgraduate study and finally I have come to bring it to light and share it with people. I hope people not only like and wear the shoes I have created but also get inspired by the idea behind the range and brand. The inspiration comes from geometry and sacred geometry- the principles of life. A lot of architectural references have inspired me a lot and the attention to detail that is key for all the architects is the core for Karina IK creations as well. I want to give this kind of exclusivity to my clients. Personal involvement and personal touch on every creation at Karina IK.
If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a shoe collection, which place would occupy your top spot (and why?)
I find inspiration in the most ordinary places, and to feel inspired I need to be relaxed. I like travelling in general, but to feel relaxed I need to be “in the zone”- that’s probably a warm country, better a small town by the sea. I like Italy so I would say a place like Portofino, or Marche area where the footwear district is with all the concentration of the leathers and newest technologies for shoe production – that would be my number one place for inspiration. I like discovering new places too, and I have never been to Asia yet, I have many friends there so I would love to see it for myself and I think that it could well be my next spot for finding inspiration! It’s a whole part of the world that I haven’t yet discovered and I have to go.
Personally I LOVE the look of the new collection. Have you got a favourite out of all the shoes you have designed?
Thank you! This is such a great feeling – to hear when people admire what I have created, to know it’s not just me, and my friends that like it haha! My favourite one is NIN the full alligator thigh high boots made from 3 alligators. How can you not like it? It is so classic and powerful. It is feminine but at the same time conveys such power that nobody will wanna mess with you!:)
Looking ahead to spring/summer2016, what colours and styles will you be featuring in your next collection?
The Spring/Summer 16 range will be more vibrant than the Fall/Winter16 and will consist of luxury skins as always, such as alligator and python but this time will be combined with contrasting nylon net and textile fabric. The range will be completed in earthy colours with some vibrant colour of a sea wave and apricot. The collection is inspired by geometry as a sequel to Opus Magnum, but this time the direction is more focused on simple geometry.
The Karina IK woman need exclusivity in her life, as she has seen the world and appreciates quality and rarity. Hypothetically speaking, which female lady do you feel would be the ideal ‘face’ of your brand?
Your luxury leather and reptile skin shoes are handcrafted by artisans in Italy and I adore your attention to detail. They are extremely stylish and covetable as your brand is exclusive and not commercially oriented. Although based in London, are you able to ship overseas?
Thank you, yes indeed we ship worldwide as we have customers all around the world. Women need exclusivity, as each woman is unique. Karina IK creates products but also offers service for its customers. We can ship overseas and the customers can also give us their shoes back if anything needs to be fixed – we offer a service to rejuvenate the shoes in other words to fix anything that needs to be fixed, we offer a guarantee for lifetime.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I am a moody person and it all depends on my state of mind. To work I like to be well dressed, I usually wear the custom made IK flats that I have designed few years ago but these days I like to wear YER pumps from the AW16 collection, as wearing heels is very stimulating – makes me more focused.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ? (apart from your own!)
I love to go Dover St Market, as I find many great new designers and its very open atmosphere there, I like the people in the shop, both the sales assistants and the customers. I also love Matches, I think they always have great selections. For online, I guess it would be Moda Operandi and Net-a-Porter.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
The Opus Magnum Spring 16 (OMS16) sandals are on top of my list!! you will know what I mean when you see them:) But aside from my obsession- I need to get one of Olympia Le-Tan clutches with the Disney film posters. I love them!
Boots or Shoes?
Can’t choose!! But if I have to – shoes. If the shoes are good you can have one pair that will go with everything!
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that my readers can learn more about Karina IK Shoes.
Thanks for the chat Karina… I’m so looking forward to seeing the Spring collection too – the colours sound as though it’ll be an amazing collection. As far as those alligator thigh high boots go…
All photos have been published with kind permission from Karina IK
It’s that time of year – I’m still loving the sandals, pumps and espadrilles …but I have now got my beady eye on boots for when it gets colder! There’s some great colours out at the moment that are “all season” and navy is one of them. Looking to trend this Autumn/Winter in a big way, navy looks set to vie black and burgundy as the colour to be seen in. So here’s a selection of my 10 favourite navy blue footwear that I have seen recently on the High Street and online:
H & M Blue Satin Loafers
ASOS Embellished Heeled Sandals
Toms Classic Lace Espadrilles
Schutz Ankle Boots
MM6 By Maison Martin Margiela Ankle Boots
Jil Sander Navy Blue Court Shoe
Paul Smith Dark Navy Polka Dot Silk “Lori” Shoe
Charlotte Olympia “Debbie” Navy Blue Suede Shoe
Chiara Ferragni Flirting Glitter Slippers
Jeffrey Campbell Delaisy Wedge Pump In Navy Suede
Go on, add a touch of navy to your shoe collection this Autumn… All shoes available via Lyst (USA & UK) as well as via shoe stockists and the individual brand websites.
Photo Credits: All photographs have been published with kind permission from Lyst.
This week I’m so excited to be talking to Canadian journalist & foreign correspondent, Heidi Kingstone… about her work, life, shoe passion and her fab book about her encounters when based in Kabul in 2007/2008 – “Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe”. Hi Heidi…
Hi! My name is Heidi, and I’ve been a journalist all my life. I have finally written my first book, Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, which is about expat life in Kabul, a place known as the ‘Kabubble’. I like to think of it as the Afghan version of the TV series Indian Summers. I spent 18-months living and working there and discovered an amazing world. The country is fantastically beautiful, and life is complex and difficult, a place where so many people have felt drawn in order to help, and Dispatches is about the adrenalin-fuelled excitement of living on the edge of someone else’s war. You don’t have to like politics, be interested in war or even Afghanistan. Dispatches is a series of stories, based fairly accurately on real-life, on things that happened to me or my friends, where you can find answers to questions like: Where can you buy 913 Kalashnikovs? How do you tell a friend her expat love is never coming back?What’s it like to date a mercenary?
Your book, Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe, published by Advance Editions, was launched in May 2015. It is based on your encounters and interviews with idealists, gunrunners, warlords, generals, power-brokers, fashionistas and ordinary women over a period of 4 years from 2007 when you lived and worked in Afghanistan. Described by many to be a travel book written in the style of traditional 19th/20th travel writers like Fielding, Sterne, Morris, Thesiger and Kinglake – and I agree, it is an armchair traveller’s literature delight! What or who inspired you to write your experiences in this way?
As usual, it was a series of events, triggered by my father, a psychiatrist, who suggested I write about daily life in Afghanistan. By this point, the world was suffering from information overload on the military and political front and on the tragedy of women’s lives, but there were still other aspects that I felt hadn’t been covered. Daily life in the ‘Kabubble’ fascinated me and rounded out the picture. As a result, the book grew organically into what it is, which is a series of vignettes based fairly accurately on real life. I wanted to write something atmospheric that gave the reader a sense of what it was like to be in this adrenalin-fuelled world where truth is stranger than fiction. Even though my book is nothing like his, I loved Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, which was about Vietnam during the French Indochina War in the 50s. It was a turbulent and historic period, and the louche expat scene of foreign correspondents, women, drugs and diplomacy was my inspiration. In The Karen Woo Story, you get some sense of that.
During those years, you have witnessed women as heroines, as victims, as freeloaders, as rivals. The cast of characters in the book include Hasina, the revolutionary in Gucci sunglasses; and Ariana, who was desperate to leave Kabul and had high hopes that Brian could help her! I loved meeting these people via your book and didn’t envy your role at times (especially in Ariana’s case). Which person or incident proved most challenging or disturbed you the most?
It’s a tough call, but on balance I would say, Hasina, the girl with Gucci glasses. I liked her from the moment I met her, and she never ceased to impress me. I loved her unbound spirit and her intelligence, her openness, fearlessness, passion and honesty, her love of life and her commitment to making her country a better place, particularly for women. Violence against women is endemic in Afghanistan, and women lead tough lives and challenging the system is a Herculean task. But she confounded all the stereotypes we have of Afghan women or certainly the view I had that all women were meek and mild and victimised. I loved the stories Hasina would share with me about her family and experiences, she opened a window onto another Afghanistan. She is part of that exciting new generation of Afghans who are educated, modern and worldly, who are impressive people, and would be wherever they were. I was sorry to lose touch with her, and I think of her often, especially the times we would sit at Flower Street Cafe together drinking coffee, which we both loved. We also talked under the pomegranate tree in the garden of the house I rented about life and love and curtains, and, of course, her Gucci glasses.
One reviewer said “only Heidi would wander around Kabul in stilettos and lip-gloss”. I like your style but I’m sure it was a case of head covering and baggy clothes for most of the time. Despite the hardships, rules and nature of Afghanistan – what are your fondest memories of the place?
That was a quote from my brilliant friend Kate Fox, who wrote Watching the English, and she’s right. I did wear baggy clothes and cover my head, wear lip-gloss and stilettos. Another friend nicknamed me Heidi High Heels because of my steely determination to wear nice shoes despite the mud and potholes and the virtually impossible task of walking in anything but flat, sturdy shoes. I have so many fantastic memories, and it was one of the reasons I wrote the book, to preserve and share them. Like most women, I covered my head, but the scarf was almost always loosely wrapped, and luckily there were beautiful scarves made by Afghan women, which I still have and cherish. I went to the north of the country and saw women, who were involved in a silk project, do everything from nurturing the worms to spinning the silk.
I was blown away by how beautiful Afghanistan is, it is incredible, and one of the most breath-taking places I have ever seen was Lake Band-e-Amir, the blue colour of the water, the jagged landscape, and walking through the ice-cold water which froze my bare feet. Particularly in the spring and summer, I would love to hear the sound of the ice cream man as he rang the bell and pushed his cart through the streets. And just like everywhere else, little kids would run out to buy ice lollies. I also loved to see the balloon sellers walking the streets. On one of the many times I went to Chicken Street, the main shopping drag in the capital, I sat with a carpet seller, who brought out a jar of raisins and nuts that had been marinated in a jar. He dug a spoon into the mixture and fed me a mouthful, it was delicious, unexpected, and I have to say, a little unnerving.
You have written for Britain’s leading publications covering assignments to do with disease & poverty from Mali to Sierra Leone; life in Darfur; and water wars between Palestine and Israel. You have written extensively about your travels in Iraq & Kurdistan, and you were commissioned by Canada’s National Post to write a 4 post series on the “Worst Places In The World”. Out of all the places you’ve visited, where was the worst place? And what place really surprised you and was better/ nicer than you had previously thought?
I only spent a few days in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it was magnificent. They say about the country that God gave it everything, diamonds, beauty, water, natural resources and more, but never peace.I fell in love with African masks in Rwanda and the DRC. DRC has a long and bloody history, yet it is such a beautiful country, with so much potential, which always seems to be the case – beauty and brutality. I remember wanting to photograph a woman who balanced a plastic container of odd shoes on her head. Her face had a hardness to it, and she turned away, making it clear she wanted me to stop. I understood her reaction, I would feel the same. Life is hard in places like Goma, and people are ingenious in finding ways to survive. I never forget how lucky I am to live in the UK and come from Canada. Certainly, our countries are far from perfect, but easier in terms of health care, education, standard of living, freedom, equality, tolerance – and peace and security.
Growing up had you always had in mind to be a journalist/author/foreign correspondent or did you fantasise about being somebody completely different?
I started off wanting to be an archeologist as I have always been fascinated by different people and far off lands. Being a journalist combined my passion for telling stories about people and places, but it happened by pure serendipity. I went to see the editor of a magazine in Toronto about something totally unrelated and she asked me to write an article – on accessories – and I knew from the first word I wrote that I had found what I wanted to do. Over time, my career moved in the direction I had hoped it would.
What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?
So many! Except for science fiction of which I am not a fan, I have fairly catholic tastes. I love novels because you can just get lost in them, but also read a lot of non-fiction. In both Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, I have finished the books wanting more and feeling as if I had made new friends. In a Suitable Boy I felt like I could just knock on the door of one of those houses and join in the with family. That was the effect I wanted with Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, that when you read it, you would feel as if you were living those experiences. I have been going through a long Indian writers phase, the books are incredibly powerful. It started with Indian-born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, and subsequently Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. They are tragic, profound, and beautiful, and show how corrupt and evil people and governments can be.I also read a lot of books about Afghanistan – some of my favourites have been Frank Ledwidge’s Losing Small Wars, Rodric Braithwaite’s Afghansty and Sherard Cowper-Coles Cables from Kabul. I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein too. I can thank my mother who is excellent at recommending books for me to read.
Although you’ve been to quite a few places in the world – what place/country holds the top position on your bucket list now as the place you most would like to visit, either for work or pleasure? What has been your favourite destination visited so far?
I would hop on a plane to travel just about anywhere. I have always wanted to go to Antartica. I find its serene beauty compelling – and I love penguins. And the South Pacific, inspired by Paul Gaugin’s paintings. When I was growing up I always wanted to visit Burkino Faso, and attend the Ouagadougou film festival. Oscar Niemeyer is one of my favourite architects so Brasilia is on my list, too. Every time I go to a new country, I think I need to move there immediately. But Africa as a continent is where my heart is and southern Africa in particular. Out in the bush in Botswana, Namibia or South Africa would come top of my list. Being immersed in the landscape and watching the animals makes me happy and is possibly where I am most at peace. I’m not a very spiritual person but I feel something profound when I am there. My first trip was a remarkable five-day bush walk with my then boyfriend, who was South African, through the Umfolozi, led by Ian Player. He was a great conservationist who helped save the white rhino, and his trekker Mqubo.
What are your 5 beauty, fashion or footwear essentials that you always pack with you from the UK when travelling to your assignments?
Flip flops are an essential, I never go anywhere without them. I am addicted to Havaianas. A pair of sunglasses because you never know when you are going to need to add that air of mystery or hide behind shades. They are always glamorous – and useful. I have learned to travel with jeans just in case the weather suddenly shifted. You can dress they up or down. I also bought a silk sleeping bag case in Vietnam that rolls up into a small ball. It’s light and came in very handy when I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Either a pashmina or large cotton scarf.
One reviewer quoted that you had “an eye for beauty and fashion in the most unlikely places”. In your travels, what has surprised you most in beauty and fashion terms when compared to the UK/Canada?
In India, it is of course the colours, the jewellery and the architecture, which are extraordinary. The legendary editor of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, said ‘pink is the navy blue of India’, and when you are there your eyes drown in colour and you get lost in the vibrancy and the mixture of patterns that surround you….and there is no black. In southern Africa, it’s just the opposite. The earth tones calm me. I love the mud cloths and colours that blend into the landscape, and the geometric designs.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I absolutely love the fashion this year, and amongst other things I am addicted to are jumpsuits – I have three – one in denim by Diesel, which I think is quite sexy as it’s fitted, a silk one by Joie that I bought in Dubai that is casual and elegant, and a more sophisticated one also by Joie, which is more grown up and good for day or evening. This winter I lived in Stuart Weiztman’s over the knee suede boots and McQueen’s high heeled ankle boots. My nude colour Louboutins see me through just about everything.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
I love mixing and matching from high-end to high street, which means that there are endless and enormous opportunities! I seem to go in phases and I love Joie, they seem to cut for my shape, which makes all the difference. There are a couple of shops locally that I go to, and then of course Selfridge’s as it’s sadly not too far from where I live. And so many more!
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Every day I make the same vow: No more shopping. But it doesn’t last, and London is possibly the best place in the world to shop, good if you have discipline, not so good if you are a shopaholic. I bought a pair of mukluks a few years ago back in Toronto to wear in the winter and navigate the ice and snow. When I put them on I remember the sensation of such cosiness and luxury, I never realised shoes could be comfortable! There was a pair of black shoes that I saw a few times on celebrities in various magazines this season. They had an elegant high heel, a pointy toe, and three sexy straps that wrapped around the foot and ankle, and I absolutely loved them. As I was determined, with dubious success, to curtail my footwear intake I didn’t seek them out but I did make a mental pact with myself: If I ever saw them I would buy them. Like so many promises that we make to ourselves, it was hardly written In stone. So there I was in Vienna in June, taking in the sites between stops for Sacher Torte, Wiener Schnitzel and coffee with whipped cream, when I decided I needed some respite and I detoured into a side street near the famous Viennese landmark, St Stephen’s cathedral, where lo and behold there was a pretty unprepossessing shoe shop. With temperatures soaring above 30C degrees, and unable to resist temptation, I opened the shop door to a blast of cool air, and there, displayed on a plinth right in front of me, were the Gianvito Rossi shoes that I had lusted after. And, of course, not someone to break a promise, even if it was to myself, I tried them on. They were a perfect fit, possibly even comfortable, more fabulous in real life than on the pages of a glossy magazine, and in a moment Cinderella transformed into a princess.
Boots or Shoes?
As I look in my cupboard and see all the boots and shoes that I love, it’s a tough choice. Boots can be incredibly sexy but if I had to choose I think it would have to be shoes. I’m a sucker for stilettos.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.
my Facebook page is Heidi Kingstone
Thanks Heidi and I so love those new Gianvito Rossi shoes! Don’t know if I’d brave heels along pot holed streets but I certainly would rock the sunglasses and lipgloss look! Readers, where’s the strangest/unusual place you’ve worn heels? Do tell!
Photo Credits: Heidi Kingstone; Mina Sharif
Ladies, if you work in an office or a similar environment where smart clothing is de rigeur, finding suitable work clothes is fairly easy. If you work in an industry where your work clothes need to be tough, waterproof and safety orientated, your choice is limited – often resulting in wearing menswear or unisex that isn’t always flattering or comfortable. Mad4Tools – a shop renowned for its quality tools and workwear, has just expanded into womenswear launching a new range of high quality workwear that is not only stylish and feminine, but has paid attention to the cut of the garment as well as featuring safety requirements of the highest standard. I spoke to Mad4Tools director, Paul Swain, to find out more … welcome Paul…
Hi! I am Paul Swain, director of Mad4tools.com; passionate about providing an online one stop shop for quality tools, equipment and workwear for all.
Mad4Tools are an online tools and equipment store launched in 2012. What gave you the idea to expand into women’s workwear for 2015?
When we first launched our website we did offer some standard workwear and safety boots for women although it was largely just men’s clothing described as womens (not by us, I’d hasten to add). Though we did receive interest in the womenswear we felt that, after having had several conversations with regular customers and contacts in the industry, there is a gap in the market place for more stylish and fitting workwear much like what is available for men. After speaking with our suppliers about this last year, it was confirmed that for winter 2014/15, Scruffs would launch a brand new stylish and fitted range of safety boots and clothing as a starter into the womens market.
Your womenswear collection is supplied & designed by Scruffs who are known for providing innovative safety footwear & clothing for tradesmen. What did you feel was so special about adding their ladieswear collection to your repertoire?
We already supply Scruffs safety boots and clothing and since 2003, it has become the largest workwear brand in this industry. This is because the clothes are generally of high quality, very well thought out from a functionality point of view and look great as well with some bold designs and styles. The range that has been released is the tip of the iceberg also as this is just an initial range to see what works and is popular. On top of this Scruffs are known for doing things properly by not cutting corners and providing good details on what makes each garment or boot better or different from the next.
I must admit I do love the Goliath Cleo Pink Ladies Waterproof Safety Boots – very trendy & fine looking yet exude high safety requirements including being oil and slip resistant. What ladieswear or footwear seems to be going down well with your lady customers?
Yes, the Cleo safety boots have always been popular. They were with us from our initial range of womens workwear and safety boots. These have been supplied to customers all over the world. Of the new Scruffs range, the Edens have been significantly more popular. Two of our most popular items of womens clothing currently are the Scruffs Women’s Executive Jacket and the Scruffs Women’s Worker Plus Black Trousers.
When it comes to workwear – what item seems to be most popular bought by your male customers?
Safety boots always out sell work clothing. For us, the most popular currently being the Switch Back Safety Boots available in brown, tan and black finish and second to safety boots are our Trade Work Trousers. Currently the standard trade trousers are being phased out for a new breed of trousers regarded as a 3D Trade trousers as the trousers are cleverly made so that the trousers better fits the shape of your leg and that pockets and knee pads are off set so that when the user is wearing them, the pockets are angled in such a way that things do not fall out of them or dig into the side of your leg; also the knee pad area is at a slightly different angle also so that it stays in position when in the crouched/kneeling position. That on top of the standard high quality reinforced stitching in high pressure areas and other great rip resistant materials, it makes for a great new type of trouser.
Scruffs design their workwear to provide fashion inspired trousers, tops, base layers, shirts and rain suits made from active performance materials. Have you had any unusual stock requests from customers though?
We had a customer in Singapore that wanted the Cleo safety boots to confirm that the ones we were selling were legitimate Goliath safety boots as there were some counterfeit ones on the market in Singapore and they did not meet the high safety standards that are delivered in the Goliath safety boot range. Obviously we reassured her that we only deal with the manufacturers so all our products are legitimate.
You offer worldwide delivery. What work safety clothing/footwear is most popular overseas?
We have a customer in the Philippines who buys a lot of Acid Safety wellington boots from us as well as chemical safety suits – these are arguably the most popular products for us internationally currently.
What work clothing/footwear can we look forward to seeing online for Summer 2015?
We have a range of professional trade work shorts coming out in the Summer and a new range of men’s Scruffs safety boots. We also have a new Active Wear T-Shirt with 50+ SPF protection as well as being light weight and moisture wicking.
Hypothetically speaking, what famous person would you love to have as the “face” of Mad4Tools/Scruffs?
Lee Evans, because he is the sort of guy you could imagine running on stage with a chainsaw in his hand much like our mascot Madly. However, we wouldn’t want Madly to feel second best, so we might have to have Lee Evans in a Madly suit. 😉
Being in the tools/equipment industry for over 30 years, what was the best piece of business advice you ever received? And dare I say it, the worst (in respect that you followed the advice but it didn’t work out as you hoped)?
This advice is not necessarily just business, but the best piece of advice I had was to not give up, you don’t get anything worth having without hard work. Worst advice, this is a hard one for me, even something that goes badly based on a suggestion I don’t necessarily believe it was bad as I always take something away from the situation, though one was that we should get a large stock of one particular heater into stock this winter as they sold out last winter and we still have a lot of them now!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
It’s fair to say that I don’t go shopping enough or as much as I would like. I tend to wear Diesel brown leather shoes, jeans, a polo shirt and a thin but warm coloured jumper. I have been know to wear the odd floral shirt also.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
I don’t necessarily favour any particular sites, in fact I’d prefer to shop somewhere a bit off the beaten track so sometimes you can get some great different stuff through eBay and Amazon from international retailers. Delivery times are somewhat extended although you do end up with something you don’t see on the high street every day. I do, however, buy a few things from ASOS.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I could really do with some casual trainers and a gilet.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots. I’m not sure if it’s because I played a lot of basketball when I was younger or what, but I prefer the feel of a boot. Although saying that, for the office, where I spend most of my days, a shoe.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Mad 4 Tools and Scruffs.
You can find us on Facebook by searching for Mad4Tools.com and you can follow us @mad4toolscom. Our website is mad4tools.com.
Thank you very much for speaking with us Paul. It’s an area of womenswear I never really considered before but there was definitely a gap in the market for decent workwear for women in industries that are not office based and I’m so pleased that Scruffs have stepped up to the challenge. What do you ladies think? Do let me know!
Photo Credits : Published with kind permission of Mad4Tools.com/ Scruffs Womenswear
Saturday 14th March 2015 sees the grand opening of not only London’s latest shopping centre but it is Europe’s first purpose-built boutique Asian shopping centre, East Shopping Centre, based in Green Street, London E7 – not far from West Ham’s football ground and Newham’s other recently built shopping centre, Westfield Stratford. Following its successful soft launch on January 24th 2015, East Shopping Centre has generated around 200 jobs for the local area as well as injecting much needed enthusiasm for shopping locally. Built on the one acre site of the former bus depot, the centre has retained its original facade but has incorporated the latest eco friendly touches such as solar panels, water flow restrictors, and carefully resourced building materials – protecting resources and saving money too. Green Street has always had an important trade and cultural heritage – my own mother bought her wedding dress from a Green Street dressmaker back in 1962 – and East Shopping Centre hope to build upon and become part of that heritage too.
So, what’s inside the shopping centre? Major Asian fashion outlets are represented including Zarkan of London, Andaaz Fashion, Memsaab, Imaani London…plus other non fashion companies including Urban Chocolatier and Coffee Republic too. There is a “souk” comprising of smaller, local stores selling everything from costume jewellery to mobile phones – menswear, shoes, bags…
Overlooking the shopping centre is a spectacular food court where you’ll find food delights such as Piri Piri Chicken from the Roosters chain, desserts and mocktails galore from Lost Asia, American-style burgers from Brioche Burgers… getting hungry?
Being indoors, the centre is ideal as an all year round shopping venue and with its late night closing time, your shopping pleasure is not hurried.
So, as I was saying, Saturday 14th March is the official opening day and from 12pm West Ham MP Lyn Brown will be cutting the ribbon. There will be lots going on – the centre will be creating a mela atmosphere with music, dhol players, face painting and much more. East Shopping Centre is also offering raffle tickets giving one lucky winner the chance to win a luxury weekend holiday for two in Dubai, £1000 gift voucher to spend at East Shopping Centre and two iPad Mini 3’s. The first 100 people to arrive on Saturday will receive vouchers to the food court worth £10. All proceeds raised from the raffle will be donated to Masoom, a locally based charity that supports vulnerable women and children around the world.
East Shopping Centre can be found at 232-236 Green Street, London E7 8LE.
For more information, you can follow East Shopping Centre via their website – www.eastshoppingcentre.com – or via Twitter @EastShopping; Facebook: East Shopping Centre; Instagram: EastShopping
Hope to see you all there! Happy Shopping!
All photos have been published with kind permission from Puja Vedi
A heady mix of aquatic blues, pastels, nautical trends and bursts of bright colours are about to hit the stores heralding the start of Spring and, I for one, am looking forward to freshening up my wardrobe with a few accessories! So I couldn’t ask for a better guide to what’s hot for Spring/Summer 2015 (and a sneaky preview into what’s new for next Autumn/Winter) than chatting to the mother and daughter team that head leading accessory brand, Pia Rossini,who supply from the UK fashion accessories to boutiques and stores around the world. A big warm welcome to you, Debbie and Kirsty:
Hi! We’re Debbie Shaw (Company Director. Resort Wear Collection) and Kirsty Shaw (Head of Range Development and Accessories Buyer). We are delighted to have the second generation in the company, Kirsty joined us 4 years ago as Head Accessories Buyer.
Pia Rossini, the brand, was launched in 1999, supplying fashion accessories to boutiques and stores throughout the world. What was the inspiration behind the brand launch?
We wanted to create a collection of fashionable accessories that co-ordinate so the consumer did not have to think about what matches, and the retailer would be able to merchandise with ease. It’s a concept that has worked and we continue to develop, our retailers can now buy a fully merchandised set of products ready to hang on the wall.
This Spring your fashion boards comprise of aquatic blues, pastel shades, nautical stripes and bursts of bright colours – namely, fuchsia,orange,violet, yellow, blue. Is there a marked difference between countries and their favourite fashion boards? Were certain Autumn/Winter 2014 items more popular in one country and not in another?
To be honest we have found that a great style is a great style globally and our ranges sell all over from the Caribbean to Australia. Our ranges are universal.
I gather that the Ultimate Pool Shoe Collection is a new feature for 2015. I am quite excited as the sandals look exquisite and makes me yearn for the warmer weather! Are you launching any other new collections in 2015 /2016?
We love all the faux fur that are on trend at the moment and we have really expanded this collection including some fantastic new faux fur gilets and two tone faux fur collars. . We have also added some easy to wear waistcoats in knitted fabrics, these look so casual but at the same time fashionable and easy to wear.
Personally, I love all your Spring/Summer 2015 colour boards and can see myself having items from all 4 in my wardrobe! Have you any personal favourites from the collection that may be included in your wardrobe?
We both love the 1 print 3 bags combo, I took the Riviera set with me on holiday to Miami and I did not require any other bag – it has a tote, a cross body bag and a purse – so useful, a bag for every occasion! Plus of course our shoes, I had 3 pairs with me on holiday this year!
You have 5 distinct collections in a year: Autumn/Winter Accessories; Spring Accessories; Resortwear; Summer Accessories; and The Ultimate Pool Shoe Collection. Where does the inspiration come from that inspires each collection?
We are passionate about what we do, so we are always working and seeking out new ideas. We gather ideas when we travel, whether on holiday or with the job. It’s important to be aware of what is going on around you and often good to adapt and develop ideas you spot when travelling.
Which famous lady would you love to see as the “face” of Pia Rossini?
We would love to see Olivia Palermo wearing our product. We think she has an effortless sense of glamorous style, something we try to exhibit in our ranges.
Our Autumn/Leaves palette is all about papaya orange mixed with essential navy and deep red tones. We also have forest fruits mood board which exhibits a blend of deep plum and mulberry hues. This year we expanded our styles, silhouettes and designs in various genres to suit every buyer – our latest collection includes faux fur gilets and pattern waist coats. We are really excited about this year’s collection. Our collections continue to evolve and this year is no different but we believe this is our best collection to date and can’t wait to show it.
Apart from supplying boutiques/stores, you also offer a “private label” service offering a company/boutique the opportunity to create their own collection using the expertise of your own inhouse design & production team. I think this is a fab idea. Have you had any that have took up the service that create vastly different designs to what you would class as typical “Pia Rossini” or are the designs pretty much on the same wave length?
We have produced some specific requests for companies such as Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Phase Eight in the UK, and also some group stores in Scandinavia, but our main focus is to continue to develop and expand our own brand, Pia Rossini. We are passionate about Pia Rossini and still have a lot we want to achieve.
Personal now, what clothes/shoes dominate your wardrobe? Any favourite retailers?
My wardrobe is built around great staples – jeans, shirts, cardigans – casual clothes that I can dress up with our accessories. There is nothing more chic than a blazer and jeans teamed with a scarf and a Fedora hat, it’s effortless..
To view the fabulous Pia Rossini accessory range:
Thank you Debbie and Kirsty! I am really quite looking forward to Autumn too now – I just love the thought of the Forest Fruits colour theme…and papaya orange! So, dear reader, what do you think? What colours will tickle your fancy in 2015? I’d love to know!
All photos have been published with kind permission of Pia Rossini
Buying smart, well made, comfortable and trendy shoes is a nightmare if you are a lady with an uncommon shoe size. Designer Monica Kusinska for years squeezed her feet into shoes that were too small because her size wasn’t available, resulting in foot problems that required surgery – so being a US size 12 shoe size wearer herself and as part of her search to find comfortable, well made shoes that fit, Monica created Autograf New York. Without further ado, please welcome onto the blog this lovely, bubbly lady …Hi Monica!
Hi, I am Monika Kusinska, a New York Shoe Designer. I devoted my life to fashion ever since I graduated from Middlesex University in 1998. Shoes is my passion.
As a small girl, did you always want to design footwear?
My fashion dreams started at the age of 7. I adored Barbie dolls and endlessly made clothes. Then over the years I taught myself how to stitch and make my own clothes. By 18 I wanted to be a professional designer. My passion for shoes grew over the years because of my experience with shoes and not finding my size and eventually moving to the shoe industry.
Your latest shoe range is looking to cater for women who wear uncommon large shoe sizes – from US sizes 10 through to 15 (UK 8 – 15; European 41 to 49; Japanese 27-34). You yourself are a size US12 so that must have been the inspiration for starting your own brand! How difficult was it for you to find shoes to fit and how difficult is it to produce a shoe for the larger foot?
When I turned 17 my foot grew to size 41. The biggest size available in Poland in late 1980s was size 40. I tested my body and wore high heel pointy shoes for 2 or more years. This fraction of time was long enough to injure my bones permanently. I guess this painful event led my career into the footwear industry and in 2000 I attended Parson School of Design in New York to learn about shoe making.
You graduated from Middlesex University in London with a BA in fashion and first class honours. In 1998 you won Best Women’s collection at the BHS Graduate Fashion Week, selling your entire collection within a week of launching. How did you feel being awarded that accolade in front of around 2000 London Fashion editors?
It felt incredible and fulfilling. My education was sky-high expensive for my parents working in Poland to support me. It made all the hard efforts so worth it. I wish my father could have seen it. Unfortunately he passed away 6 weeks before I graduated and I was not able to see his face happy with pride. It was a very difficult time for me and I dedicated my graduate collection and the award to him. This also sealed my commitment to my profession. I knew from that point on that no matter what, I am married to my so dreamed-about occupation. Today even when I struggle as a mature designer, mother and a talented individual – I remember my own private vows from 1998. That surreal moment of me walking down the catwalk in front of 2000+ people, cameras, photographers cheering and clapping hands was the biggest crowning I could have received at the age of 26.
In 2000, you moved to the USA doing couture beading and then in the embellishment division at Ann Taylor until 2004. You also attended the Parsons School of Design concentrating on footwear. Was it a difficult transition from fashionwear to designing shoes?
It was a natural transition for me. When you dream deeply about something and have been trained to draw and paint since the age of 16, and all your life revolved around art, composition, colors and design – you can then apply your passion into any creative venue. Education helps, but persistence and personal believe that this is our own path are the keys of a successful journey. In a way you need to train yourself, dream big then relax if you can and immerse yourself in a trade of a kind. I did that in 2004 when I accepted a lower position of Associate Designer just to break in the industry. But it has been such a fascinating journey and I am so fortunate to be able to walk my chosen path and I am acutely aware of my luck. Luck of knowing what I want to do, knowing my talents, knowing my mission. But it took all my life to be comfortable about it and to be able to call myself today a New York Designer. I earned it dearly. I worked over 10 years in a corporate environment from New York, Dallas and all the way to El Paso, Texas. I worked in a huge office overseeing Bryant Park off Times Square, then in the middle of a factory in El Paso in a windowless office shaking from all the machines and heavy duty equipment making 700+ western boots! Ask me which one made me happy?! El Paso of course! I mean if you could just see the happy faces of the Mexican workers who after 30-40 years in the industry are artisans in their own trade.
I simply love the smell and feel of handcrafted authentic footwear.
Since 2004 you have worked in the footwear industry, travelling to places like India, China, Brazil and Italy. Where was the most unusual place you’ve visited? Which country inspired you the most?
I think I already answered that. Definitely El Paso in Texas. I had a secret crush on Western Boots. Don’t ask me how I got it. I just wanted to design western boots ever since I can remember. My dream came true in 2009 when I was at the time working in Fossil, launching a new women’s footwear line. I was approached by a New York headhunter to move to the legendary Boot Company in El Paso. At first I was not interested but after flying in for an interview I was totally sold. For the next 3 years I would commute by plane once a week to El Paso and work in the factory in the middle of the desert. I was also influenced by INDIA. I loved the colors and the deep heritage of the country. It is somewhat difficult to swallow the beauty surrounded by social divisions of the class system in India. It blows your mind to see homeless people wondering amongst dirt and holy cows on the streets of the big cities and then walking into 5 star hotels with food and luxury, dripping with wealth. I guess this is what is most dear to me, after working with the beading houses, knowing what goes into handcrafted beading or block-printing. It supports families and villages specializing in this rare craft. I would love to be involved in creating workshops which would provide income and education for young girls. I believe in education as the only way to change the world to be a better place. Women are also genetically equipped to protect, nurture and provide shelter. We need to get the power to protect this planet and secure a clean environment for future generations.
Personally, I LOVE all your shoes and boots from your winter range but I have a soft spot for the Regina Italian Handcrafted Denim Cashmere Suede Flats. Have you got a favourite out of all the shoes you’ve designed?
I love them all. I also wear all my collection to test and so far have not had one complaint in my head. I am very critical and having had foot surgery at age 23 it has made me acutely sensitive to shoe-related pain. I will rather take shoes off than suffer. My favorite right now is Massima and Cara. I love the SOLES. Unit soles made out of hi-tech PORON material makes these unbeatable in comfort. When you pick up the boot, your first impression is shocking. It is feather light! It looks heavy but it is super light. Comfort beyond belief! My hair stylist recently broke her ankle and can’t wear much fashion due to the pins still holding her ankle in place. I introduced her to Massima and she was literally shocked at how comfortable and light this construction was. She owns now a few pairs and is my advocate at Vidal Sassoon on 56St and 5th Avenue. I will try to win my consumers with comfort and reliability. Once your wear my shoes you will come back for more because I personally test each style and think about my consumer first before fashion. Fashion is only a tool to make an otherwise functional product more attractive.
What shoe or boot style was the most popular this winter with your clients?
Definitely SIMONA in Cognac. Immediately this classic riding boot has became a favorite. It is very simple and effortless. Well made and durable and will last many years. I found that women are happy that the boot is plain and classic – a few complained that the boots today are overdesigned and that they have been looking for a simple riding boot that will hold the look and value. Once they saw Simona they wanted it. ZARAH also blew everyone’s expectations. It is a fully stretchy shaft boot and the secret is in the Fit-All-Calf! It hugs a skinny calf and will stretch twice its width to accommodate a wider calf. I intend to carry this boot for a few seasons. Once on the foot there is no need to market, women will fall head over heels for this style.
Angelina Jolie. I appreciate her ultra classic and sublime chic style. Her effortless style enhances her natural stunning beauty. It would be such an honor to have her wear Autograf New York classic styles.
You’re launching new products for Holiday & Spring 2015 – what designs and colours look to dominate from your point of view?
I have been playing with masculine inspiration for years. I made a chukka boot in mirror GOLD – this is literally a show-stopper! I revealed a few pictures from the photo shoot via Instagram and was blown away with immediate requests and love. I think this style, SIENA and flat Mary Jane in the same Mirror metallic gold will be a hit. I also brought light turquoise and Laventini – a color I called after my favorite drink, Lavender Martini.
What are your goals for 2015? Any plans in the pipeline?
2015 is super important. I realized that over the past 90 + days since I launched my website that actually my 15+ years experience in fashion is golden but I need to think outside the box. I tried to apply everything I have learned but what is different in the market today is CONNECTIVE ECONOMY. I think few people realize how it will revolutionize the way we live and think. It is a positive shift in human mentality to open up and make friendships and business with people we can’t touch. But it connects us through our passion and common hobbies and dreams. Once I realized that, I decided to improve and push my social media presence. I can only reach a handful of women today but I have been growing steady followers on Instagram and FB and Twitter. Recently I left my SHOEBOX (literally a shoe closet turned into a tiny office) and started walking the streets of New York to get my product in front of consumers. I have been welcomed by Brooklyn boutiques and I realized the power of the Indie and fashion undercurrent. I belong in the underground. I have been always striving to provide unique, original and authentic footwear and the mass department stores do not support that ideology. Williamsburg is my next home. I have placed Autograf New York products in a few boutiques and we are working on the Summer 2015 collection. I realized this unique potential. In a way I will become their private designer manicuring mini collections for their needs. The beauty of working with Italian factories is that the orders can be super small compared with Asia. I will be able to target each venue differently offering unique colors and themes. I am thrilled about this perspective of 2015!
I am a mother of 2 young children so my life is constantly on the run. I get up early and do some work before they get up and then run all day between schools, daycare and Williamsburg or Soho boutiques. I am also 5ft10 so I wear flats and flat boots. I have a collection of boots dating back to my days at El Paso so most likely you will find me in BOOTS of all kinds, form western to riding to traditional rain boots (Aigle not Hunter). I respect legacy and what each brand offers. I do not like to wear brands without a story behind it. I like to think that there is or was a great idea behind each company making a statement.
A friend recently called me Bootress! I think that name fits me.
I have respect for Net-a-Porter and AGL. I have been following Net-a-Porter for few years now and I like that they made luxury on-line shopping accessible. I like that they keep an unique fashion profile. AGL shoes is my favorite shoe brand apart from my own. I appreciate their flair and Italian dedication to modern design. The three sisters are also branding themselves now and it is good to see real faces behind a great fashion brand. This motivated me to expose my face behind Autograf New York. After talking to a few Brooklyn boutique owners it was clear that people want to see the face and hear the story. It will make the icebreaking purchase easier and it will motivate to stay loyal supporting a local New York designer. This is what I intend to do on branding going forward.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Nicolas Ghesquiere Spring 15 LV bag. I have not invested any pennies in a good bag recently and I admire Nicolas so it makes sense to own one of his pieces. I like the fact that fashion is turning the spotlight on designers again. What value is it to just buy a mass-produced LV handbag without a great brain and creator behind it? Fashion became polluted with famous names scoring license deals with big houses. Luckily on a street-mass level. Not on a serious designer level. But it did open the door of all kind of wannabe-followers to buy a name on a cheaply made accessible product. I can’t identify with this mentality and I want to invest in important pieces. This collection of LV Spring 15 is important.
Boots or Shoes?
BOOTS! Boots have an unique history. Two main categories of boots, English and Western are both Riding Boots. Both genres have a lot in common: to protect the rider, be well made and durable and have legacy of culture and lifestyle. By default it is lifestyle of privileged classes, those who own horses. But what a boot gives you that the high stiletto shoe does not, is the SWAGGER! When a woman wears boots, she walks like a man, she is the equal. When a woman tip-toes in high heels she is vulnerable, can’t run and becomes an object of admiration and fantasy. I like to own my life and feel equal. I am not an object. I respect when the high heel wearing becomes an asset of a wise woman in power. But I disagree with the otherwise sexual attachment to high heels and how it portrays a woman in a men’s world. I like to dress to manifest my personal beliefs and boots represent my life mantra.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that my readers can learn more about Autograf New York
FB >> https://www.facebook.com/monika.kusinskapaez
Twitter >> https://twitter.com/AutografNY
Instagram >> http://instagram.com/autografny/
Google+ >> http://goo.gl/GM200d
Pinterest >> http://www.pinterest.com/AUTOGRAFNY/
Fantastic to know that you are a fellow boot lover!! Thank you so much for chatting to us tonight and I wish you and your business continued success in 2015 and beyond. Now, dear readers, you have no excuse if your feet are on the large size – Monica has come to the rescue! Have you got a favourite style? Do tell!
All photos have been published with kind permission from Autograf New York (Monica Kusinska)
Talking shoes this week – but not just any shoe – oh no! I’m chatting to a shoemaker who makes shoes for re-enactors, films, theatres, TV and museums from Madame Thaussauds to Plimoth Plantation USA, amongst others. His skill, attention to detail and workmanship really is wow – and I bet most of us have seen on screen, at least, a pair of shoes lovingly recreated by Kevin. Without further ado, let’s meet the guy … welcome, Kevin ..
Hi! My name is Kevin Garlick, I am a shoemaker who specialises in making historic period shoes. My all time favourite period are the shoes from the 1920s – 1940s. The age of sensible footwear.
Have you always wanted to be a shoemaker?
I worked in Engineering as a fabricator for half my working life but as manufacturing in this country declined I realised that it was time to do something else, so that is why I turned what was a hobby into a business.
What do you like best about handmaking shoes for re-enactors, films, theatres & museums?
I suppose there is a certain sense of achievement in knowing that lots of people will see your work.
You have a background in re-enacting yourself – what characters have you portrayed? Who was your favourite?
I was once very interested in the Napoleonic period and spent many years as a re-enactor. I was never interested in being an officer and was happy to stay in the ranks as a French infantryman. I also took part in living history events as a shoemaker, teaching and demonstrating to school children different periods of shoemaking.
You have produced footwear for many famous institutions such as BBC Television, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Madame Taussauds, and Plimoth Plantation USA. What was the hardest or most unusual footwear you have had to make?
I have been involved in many productions for theatre companies, television, operas, and films. I would have to say that the most interesting work was for Shakespeare’s Globe as I was often making ladies shoes in men’s sizes and some of the shoes I was asked to make by the costume designer were often very unusual and not the everyday stuff that the re-enactors were ordering.
The measuring process includes asking for 2 outlines of the client’s foot. What’s the main differences between bespoke footwear and “on the shelf” shoes? What are the most important measurements or details you need when making a shoe?
The outlines and measurements of a customer’s feet are very important as a fit can only be as good as the information you are given. I ask my customers to draw around each foot with an upright pencil but you would be surprised how many of them get this wrong.
As I have said I love the shoes from the 1920s, I love the colour combinations and the different textures of leather and of course the styles.
You specialise in making pairs of ladies & men’s Swing Jive shoes. What is so special about these shoes?
Shoes for Swing Jive and Lindy Hop are normally higher in the back than normal, also the shoes have to be well balanced for ease of movement and comfort. Particular attention is paid to the pitch and heel height so that the shoe can rock to lift the heel quickly for faster steps.
What famous person would you like to see parading around in your designs?
I have made shoes for lots of famous names but I can honestly say that although it’s good these people don’t ever think about the shoes as they are just a prop and not something personal to them. I get a lot more satisfaction making a pair for somebody who loves their shoes and appreciates the work that went into them, you never get this with actors.
It would be nice to produce ready made shoes in stock sizes but then the shoes would all be the same just different sizes. By doing what I am doing I can offer customers a choice of colour and style and produce a shoe that is unique to them.
Normally I will be found in dirty old work clothes as I seem to be working long hours, but I still wear 1920’s shoes, although in desperate need of repair after five years of continuous wear. When I do get a chance to go out I usually wear 1930’s style clothes as I hate modern styles as everything is cheaply made and looks like a sack.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I plan to make a pair of 1940’s triple wedge sandals in red, white and blue. I have wanted to make these for some time but never had the time. It will happen soon as it has become a bit of an obsession.
Thank you Kevin … I adore the shoes and boots! I find it interesting that some of the shoes from yesteryear are not too dissimilar to the shoes available for general wear today. I have shown photographs of my favourites out of Kevin’s collection – what era of shoe making tickles your fancy? Do drop me a line and let me know!
Photo Credits: All photos have been published with kind permission of Kevin Garlick