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showcasing the best of the south west

Sculptures for the Feet....


Admittedly these extraordinarily beautiful, cool and, people tell me, inordinately comfortable shoes are the stuff of fantasy. Handmade and the product of a minimum 8 weeks' work they are also well out of financial reach for most of us. But this is where art, fashion and dreams come together.

Caroline Groves’  couture shoes – from £1800 a pop but quite often more like £3000 – are works of art. The softest leather, handstitched, hand-embroidered, hand everything.

She meets clients in Jermyn Street at Foster & Son, one of the oldest shoemakers in Britain and then creates their dream shoe painstakingly over days, weeks and months from her Cotswolds workshop (watch Caroline at work here).

These are shoes for the discerning jet set. Many of her clients fly in from Russia or the States and order at least three pairs at a time. How nice.

One client, the artist Susie Thomson said: “All shop bought shoes, regardless of provenance, have gone to the charity shop. They cannot compare with (her) wonderful works of art."

The process begins with a consultation where Caroline will assess and measure your feet, show materials and designs and talk at length about your passions and inspirations.

A bespoke shoe might reflect someone’s love of ornithology perhaps or literature like these wonderful, almost gothic shoes which were inspired by a client’s love of Ted Hughes’s poem The Crow. Caroline used black embroidery and lacquered rooks’ feathers to create a shoe reminiscent of the bird.

 

There is no sticking and pasting here like many well known designer shoemakers. Caroline is a purist with a horror of anything machine made.

She says: “I like to say that the shoes themselves are decorations; they are not decorated shoes. Every stitch is embroidered onto leather and every shoe is made on moulded wood using old traditional techniques. I can't bear any rogue manmade components.’

This vibrant showstopper – the parakeet – is a case in point. Those incredible colours, chosen to reflect a client’s love of parakeets, are embroidered, stitch by stitch onto the shoe.

The word shoe, with its everyday connotations, seems almost inappropriate. With feet like these you could silence a room.

Perfectionism and art combine in this hydrangea shoe. The client wanted an embellishment, Caroline’s embroiderer came up with the idea of a hydrangea, pulled the flower apart, drew out each individual petal shape and recreated them in material.

Then Caroline must construct intricate wiring to hold the hydrangea in place. This extraordinary, obsessional attention to detail is what you pay for. It must be like wearing sculpture on your feet, shoes that have their own story.

And then there’s these rock n rollers (below), my personal favourites, made out of crocodile skin and named The Holbein after the renaissance artist. These are take no hostages, Chrissie Hynde kind of shoes  - you'd feel brilliant wearing them.

On a first visit most customers begin with something like a fairly classic court shoe or boot. The most important thing, says Caroline, is to get the fit exactly right that time before than trying anything too avante-garde.

The best shoes, she says, are a collaboration. The client's dream, her artistry and skill combining in a shoe that will be quite unlike anything else ever made.

You can have your wardrobe stuffed full of Jimmys, Manolos and Ginas. But a blow your mind couture shoe like this is something else. Better start saving, I guess...

 

 

 

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