VFG long time member, Jonathan Walford of Kickshaw Productions joined us for an interview on his upcoming book "Fashion Footwear, a History From 1600 to Today".
Welcome and thank you for taking the time to talk with us, please tell us about your upcoming book.
My book is due to be released for Christmas of this year although it might not make it out until the spring of 2007. It is titled "Fashion Footwear, a History From 1600 to Today". I had originally suggested the title "Well Heeled" but the publisher (Thames and Hudson) felt it should have a title that reflected the broader history of fashion footwear. Although the book covers the history of women's fashion footwear from when heels were first introduced around the year 1600, it isn’t just about heels so their suggestion is better.
How did you get involved in collecting shoes?
I started collecting shoes as well as antique and vintage clothing in the late 1970's. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember what the first pair was that I collected, however, I do remember buying lots of stiletto-heeled shoes from the late 1950s and early 1960s in the early 1980s at garage and church sales when the New Wavers were buying them as well, so there was a bit of a rush at the door for those! Quite early in my collecting career I was given two pairs of shoes from the 1780s by the descendent of an aristocratic English family that was selling off the family home in Yorkshire. She had received some of the historic clothing from the household and gave them to me. I treasured those shoes but have since given them to the Bata Shoe Museum, where I was curator for eleven years.
What"s your favorite or most coveted shoe in your collection?
It’s so difficult to pick one favourite shoe from my collection because I have several that I would never willingly part with. I suppose my oldest shoe always holds a lot of interest. I acquired it from an American collection and although the shoe was probably made in Holland, it might have been worn in the American Dutch Colonies in the 1670's, site of present day New York State. This would make it one of the oldest existant shoes from European settled America. It’s a brown ooze (the old name for suede) latchet shoe with an elongated toe and stacked leather heel. I also adore a pair of 1920's custom made shoes that sport a receptacle for lipsticks on the quarters (back part of the upper). This was obviously custom made for a client and one can't help but think that she must have been very vain and silly – perhaps her "occupation" required a constant "sprucing up", if you know what I mean… Both these shoes are in my book and the 1920s pair even graced the November page of the Costume Society of America's 2005 calendar.
What are some of the best shoes to collect?
I always think that you should collect what you love, regardless of what is trendy. Sneakers don't have any appeal for me and I don’t have any in my collection, however there are collectors of them out there and that is great because they should be kept for posterity. After all, athletic footwear was the biggest seller in the last quarter of the 20th century. I don’t necessarily collect designer shoes because designers don't necessarily hit a home run with every one of their styles. I have seen some Ferragamo and Vivier shoes that really aren’t that attractive. The mid 20th century (1930 – 1970) was a golden age of American shoe design but American shoes are often overlooked. Specifically, Seymour Troy, David Evins, and Beth Levine came out with some really fantastic styles in the 1940s – 1960s and just because these were mass-manufactured doesn’t mean they weren’t good shoe designs. Perugia is my favorite French shoe designer and his shoes are hard to come by but I haven’t seen one pair of Perugia shoes I didn’t like.
How will your book be different from other books on the market?
Books on shoe history are plentiful but they tend to specialize on designer footwear, act as market guides for collecting, or are too broad a history and too brief in content to really learn much. My book focuses on women's footwear and the true hits from fashion footwear history. Okay, I do have a few silly styles thrown in to keep the reader awake, but the focus of the book is on what women really wore and what was available in the stores, as well as a few of the "Edsels" of shoe history that made a loud thunk when they hit the shoe stores. The book is sumptuously illustrated with over 400 colour illustrations of shoes so for anyone interested in footwear fashion history from 1600 to today, this will be a perfect addition to their libraries.
Come by and see Jonathan at the VFG Public Forums. Or check out his amazing vintage for sale in his eBay Store "Kickshaw Productions".