Class of 2016: BA (Hons) Cordwainers Footwear: Product Design and Innovation
LCF continues with the second Class of 2016 for BA (Hons) Cordwainers Footwear: Product Design and Innovation, a course renowned for producing some of the world’s footwear innovators including Nicholas Kirkwood, Jimmy Choo, Charlotte Olympia and Sophia Webster.
Three bright designers gave up some of their time during our LCFBA16 season to talk about their time at Golden Lane, their final pieces, and producing work for the exhibition and catwalk. Caroline Klemp worked with Zaiga Brutane and Tsun Cheung Lai for their catwalk collaboration, Min Heo is showed her work at this year’s exhibition, while Laura Thomas tackled generation and social inequality with her footwear collection. Read the full interview below.
Give us one interesting fact about yourself…
Laura: I attempt a very good Dolly Parton impression, and I can clap with one hand…
Caroline: My favourite shoemaking tools are actually my honing sticks that I use to sharpen my knives. They were a present from my brother.
Min: People say I look sweet but very hard core inside, probably because I use strong words. I’m almost a vegan (although I am a pesco vegetarian), and never hesitate in making big decisions in life.
Talk us through your final collection…
Laura: Based on the idea of the equality of a generation, the concept derives inspiration from places around the UK, which see both hardships and growths. With the collection being called “Everything Must Go”, the research consists of exploring a number of factors including, architecture, community decay and the juxtaposition of these places as they ‘regenerate’.
Caroline: My group worked collectively on a number of themes. I found detail inspiration from the maritime industry, cold water surf and sail, and deep water dive sport. My intention was to design a collection of specific maritime sport inspired flats. Because the LCFBA catwalk show isn’t season specific, I designed sandals and sport boots. Colour inspiration produced a palette of whites and grey tonalities with pops of colour.
￼Min: My final project is inspired by the Gisaeng women of 16C – 18C in Korea. They were raised in an institution since their childhood to be brought up as highly skilled performing artists – singers, dancer, musicians, even poets. They were the only women who were allowed to sing or dance back then. I wanted to create a modern contour shoe collection that represented them, and used traditional Korean shoemaking craft with modern/western lingerie.
What is the story behind your final piece of work?
Laura: Gentrification is the underlying story of my project. It’s always been important to me that this collection sets itself apart with each piece in the range designed to communicate the concept as powerfully as the full collection itself. In order to tell the same story each design is created to convey this message – otherwise what is the point?
Min: When I went back to Korea last summer after an internship in New York – I rented a workspace and started to take a look at things that I like, and traced those paths to form a body of research. It led me back to Korean traditional art & crafts . So I started to gather information, visit museums and draw, draw, and draw. I even visited an artisan who has been making Korean traditional shoes for generations. I ended up having tea with him for hours in his workshop. I was deeply touched by how strongly he believes in what he does, while still being open to the new generation of shoe making. This project is very much about me, my origins, and my interests. My final project involves lots of technical experiments with quilting to achieve the traditional toe shape.
What techniques or theories did you use to create your final piece of work?
Laura: Since the start of the year, I’ve been wanting to create a wearable ‘well-made’ collection that the ‘everyday’ consumer would enjoy wearing. With this in mind, I concentrated on traditional styles and techniques but added more modern twists.
Caroline: The shoes are cement construction with an EVA platform buildup.
Min: The upper is made out of soft materials such as sheepskin and fabric. The designs involve a lot of quilting, and details such as lacing and taping, inspired by Korean traditional craft and modern lingerie. For the heels and platforms, I used 3D printed nylon and highly compressed paper blocks cut by CNC milling.
Have you won any prizes?
Laura: Yes! During my second year I was lucky enough to win the Tommy Hilfiger live industry brief, which lead to a 7-month internship with them in Amsterdam. Also during the same year I was chosen as a finalist for the Saks Fifth Avenue live industry brief, where I was fortunate enough to have them purchase the rights to a number of my own designs. The same year, I was awarded the Kurt Geiger Scholarship award to aid me to take a year in industry the following year.
Caroline: I have! My work has been included in the LCFBA16 catwalk show! Recently I was shortlisted for the Cordwainers Footwear Student of the Year Award. I’m also a Two Ten Scholarship award winner. Also, I won a mentorship competition last year through Marie Claire magazine with London footwear designer Atalanta Weller.
What did you learn on your work experience/placement?
Laura: Taking a year in industry was incredibly valuable to my development, and I would recommend this to all students. Both were very different experiences for me. Moving to Amsterdam in general was amazing, and working with such an incredible team daily just made it better. They helped develop my weaknesses in my CAD work – and for this I will be eternally grateful. I’d never done PR before, and to tell you the truth I wasn’t really sure what it was, but being able to say at this point in my career that I’ve worked for Jimmy Choo is truly amazing. Days ranged from heading to the Bond Street store in a tinted window car to being stuck at my computer until 10pm. This experience really helped me understand different roles that I could achieve within footwear. I wouldn’t change any experience for the world, they were both well worth doing.
Caroline. Most recently I worked for Adele Clarke, who is a freelance footwear design consultant. I worked for her on projects for clients L.K. Bennett, Belstaff, and Italian factory brand Ballin. I did a lot of trend research, customer research, sketching, design conceptualisation, digital CADS and colour-ups, material sourcing, and prototype fitting. The course teaches the skills, the placement teaches how to implement those skills at the speed of industry. I’ve also learned that the industry attitude to “doing your time” in regards to unpaid internships is setting a precedent that will hurt it in the long run. It creates opportunities for people who can afford to work for free, which proliferates an entitled work force.
Have you met or been inspired by any speakers from the industry whilst at LCF?
Laura: Definitely. Nicholas Kirkwood in 2013. Hearing first hand about his experiences and how he made shoes at his mums kitchen table really inspired me. His determination is my inspiration!
Describe your work in five words…
Laura: Structured, textured, architectural, monochrome and minimalistic.
Caroline: Haiku requires five syllables, seven syllables and five syllables.
Min: Feminine, intelligent, nostalgic, craft and couture.
Do you have a muse? If so, who and why?
Laura: Caroline de Maigret! She’s beautiful, effortless and Parisian. Do I need to say more?
Caroline: I have spiritual teachers who teach that intuition is simply connecting to the collective unconscious, and truth and knowing is available if you ask the right questions and know how to hear. That way inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere.
What inspires you?
Laura: I’m a firm believer that inspiration is everywhere from London architecture to the natural Pembrokeshire landscape.
Caroline: Shoes! Biocentrism. Consciousness engineering. Bulletproof biohacking. Electro swing. Neo tango. JS Sargent paintings. Sculpture. Contraposto. Sailors. Franklin Booth. Edmund Dulac. Kay Nielsen. Beardsley. Meditation. Illustration. Stripes!
Where do you want to be in your career in five years’ time?
Laura: I would love to start my own business… but we’ll see!
Caroline: I want to be creating beautiful shoes. I know that the form affects the function and the physiology of the feet and the body. I want to be designing and manufacturing shoes with an excellent team of people who approach design responsibly, with integrity, with a passion for design and self expression. We have learned to be healthy and treat our bodies like temples! Our shoes are the pedestals upon which we stand and therefore ought to be the most amazing foundation possible.
Min: I can imagine myself delving into piles of drawings in my own studio, making stuff. I feel that I am beginning to find my theme, I want to see where it takes me, might even be a lifetime journey. Must be great if I can find a mentor or someone I would like to work for on the way, who knows? But in the end I think I will be pursuing my own work.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to study your course?
Laura: Take advantage of the facilities and appreciate the help available. Everyone is there to help you and don’t be afraid to ask. Plus bulk buy masking tape.
Caroline: This course is aimed at skills for industry, so know what aspect of the industry you want to specialise in and you will get the most out of your time during the course.
Min: Just go ahead! You will never find who you really are before you try, but I can promise you will come out of the course with a great satisfaction on yourself.
- Find out more about BA (Hons) Cordwainers Footwear: Product Design and Innovation
- Find out more about other undergraduate courses at LCF
- Find out more about postgraduate courses at LCF
- Find out more about all courses available at LCF
- LCF Open Days and Events
- More LCF News stories
- Course places available on UCAS Extra
- Follow LCFBA16 online
- More information on LCF Careers
- Follow Laura on Showtime and Instagram
- Follow Caroline on Showtime and Instagram
- Follow Min on Showtime, online and Instagram