Interview: I CAN Make Shoes

by Vahni on June 9, 2010

You CAN make shoes, did you know that?

If you didn’t, Amanda Luisa of I CAN Make Shoes wants you to know it’s true. And she should know—she’s the one who can teach you.

I CAN Make Shoes Shoe Sketches

You know how we worship shoes over here at InTheirCloset; well, what better than to design—and manufacture—your very own bespoke pair? In Amanda’s three-day, London-based workshop, she takes you from pattern to finished product, no experience necessary. Classes are small (just four students) so you get plenty of dedicated one-on-one instruction from Amanda herself.

When we heard about I CAN Make Shoes, we were instantly intrigued. And while we were immediately infatuated with the idea of producing our own pair, that little ocean between the US and the UK sadly prevented us from giving you a first-hand account of the experience. But Amanda graciously agreed to allow us to pick her brain about the class and how she came to be a cordwaining queen.

Hi Amanda! Could you tell our readers a few things about yourself and what you do?

A: I trained in the craft of cordwaining in Australia and developed my own method of shoe making which incorporates the same quality and strength of more traditionally made shoes only without the use of heavy machinery. This approach to shoe making gave me the freedom to start making shoes from home which then prompted me to develop my method into a London based shoe making workshop. I hold the workshops in a shared studio space in Dalston, East London. There is also a screen printing studio, a t-shirt brand and a digital design agency, so there are always creative juices flowing.

Which shoe designers inspire you, and why?

A: I am really inspired by students, they think outside the box and do not design with commercial sales in mind. The one big name I will give you is Salvatore Ferragamo, he was a creative forward thinker and actually INVENTED the wedge!

How does your method of shoemaking differ from the more traditional way?

A: In many ways my method of shoe making is like the traditional method, only I do not use any heavy machinery, everything is done by hand. My method is designed for making one off custom shoes, it gives students the opportunity to learn every asset of the shoe making process themselves.

Interview with Amanda Luisa from I CAN Make Shoes

Tell us about the most treasured pair of shoes in your closet.

A: Ooooh…not fair! I can’t play favorites like that! OK, seriously, I have come back to this question about four times… I guess it’s my…um…nope can’t do it!

Why did you decide to offer a shoemaking workshop—how did the idea come about?

A: I did a load of different types of training and picked up various techniques along the way, I developed this into my own method of shoe making which is ALL done by hand. There are not really any options available for people to be taught this method, so I held a few trial workshops with some friends, launched the website and got started!

Do people often come to your workshop with a picture of Louboutins in-hand, wanting to create their own designer-inspired shoes? Is that even attainable or maybe too complicated for a three-day workshop?

A: Yes, all the time! It’s not a problem, but I try to encourage the students to come up with a simple design for making their first pair of shoes and to bring along any ideas they have for a more complicated pair. We cover a lot in the three days, so I like to give students a solid knowledge of what goes into making a “basic” shoe (heel or flat) and then I can advise them on what they will need to expand on to make their more complicated pair. Students are given step-by-step notes when they leave the workshop, and often email or call me with little questions here and there. It is important to me that I build up strong relationships with students so they feel they can contact me any time for advice.

Are you a sky-high stilettos girl, or more the comfy flats-type?

A: I am a COMFY sky-high stilettos type!

What does it take to become a real shoe designer? Can you tell us about schooling or training that would be helpful for someone dreaming about doing what you do?

A: The I CAN make shoes workshop is a good place to start. I teach the components that go into making a pair of shoes. But for someone who is looking to get an extended learning: the cordwainers course at the London College of Fashion is the most well known for producing incredible shoe designers; they have the best facilities and most modern technology.

Like all things, practice makes perfect, it could be worth applying for a short internship with a professional shoemaker to pick up some on the job experience.

What inspires your designs, and what do you find most challenging about turning sketches into functional footwear?

A: My designs are really varied, a lot of the shoes that I make are for other people so are based on their designs with my spin on it. I try to keep my sketches as realistic as possible; it helps to visualize them as a finished product so that you have something to work towards.

Tell us about the most challenging design you were ever asked to create. Why was it so difficult? How did it turn out?

A: My own designs are always the most challenging to create; it’s something about wanting your idea to look in reality exactly as it looks in your head. I guess I can be quite pedantic when it comes to my own work, but it is important for them to turn out properly.

SPECIAL OFFER: Amanda offers an exclusive 10% discount for readers. Save £50 on the £500 workshop fee! Just tell Amanda we’ve sent you.

A big thank you to Amanda for not only taking the time to chat with us, but for the discount she is offering exclusively to ITC readers. Makes us wish we were in London town so we could crank out the footwear of our fantasies! Londoners (or any of you lucky readers who are considering making Amanda’s shoemaking workshop a “working” vacay), more details are available on the I CAN Make Shoes website. You can also follow her on Twitter @ICANmakeshoes.