A few months ago, I was asked by Whoopi Goldberg to design some custom shoes. She asked me to make “four pair as rich looking and feeling as you can with your choices of fabric.” So I set to work sketching out some “over the top” footwear, based on our available lasts and heels, inspired by shoes from history.
Running the designs by Whoopi, she chose five and we set to work making them. I spent quite a lot of time sourcing the right fabrics and antique trims, and a lot of back-and-forth with the workshop to get each design *just* right.
Well here’s the result, with a little about each shoe:
One of the designs I was most excited to try was a pair inspired by Martha Washington’s 1759 wedding shoes, with influence Lady Mary Stanhope’s 1660 shoes.
|Martha Washington’s wedding shoes, 1759 – via|
|Lady Mary Stanhope’s shoes, c. 1660 – via|
Martha Washington’s shoes were made of purple silk, embroidered and spangled all over in silver. They’re utterly splendid. My version is much more sedate, but I’m really pleased with how they turned out.
The trim around the edges is antique French metal trim I found on Etsy. It really makes this pair totally unique, as that’s not a touch that could be repeated.
Below, Whoopi wore the “Washington” shoes on her talk show The View, and also posted a picture of them on her Facebook fan page. Some people loved them, some people hated them, and some even got the 18th century reference! I was floored when I saw this, because it really helps to put American Duchess out there, particularly to others in the entertainment industry that may be needing some historical shoes for a movie, tv show, or stage production.
A totally different design from the 18th c. shoes, the “Chicago” t-straps were inspired by a pair of 1920s Andre Perugia pumps that had this gorgeous red and black combination, with the gold design beaded.
|Kyoto Costume Institute, 1920s|
We went for gold embroidery and did them in suede, with the buckle instead of buttons. They’re really fun, and pay homage to one of the greatest shoe designers of all time.
Whoopi loved these so much she wore them on The View the day after she wore the Washingtons, and was tickled that we put her name on the insole.
“Lamballe,” “Versailles,” and “Royale”
The last three were all 18th century designs again made on the Pompadour running gear. Each of the designs was inspired by original 18th century shoes, or a combination of elements from different antiques.
|The Met, early 18th c. – one of the inspiration shoes for “Lamballe”|
“Lamballe” used the iconic red leather heel, in combination with a subtle silk brocade pattern, and bright binding. These were my least favorite at first, but the compliment of red and subtle green is really growing on me. Now I think they’re really quite stupendous!
Whoopi liked them too – she wore “Lamballe” on The View on June 12th, with some craaaazy socks:
|Shoe-Icons, c. 1690-1720|
The “Versailles” mule again used the red heel, like the original mule from Shoe-Icons. We did our version in dove grey suede, with silver embroidery and tiny spangles.
And finally “Royale,” my absolute favorite pair. These were inspired by the heavily laced early 18th century shoes that are just glowing with ornamentation. We used silk brocade from India, antique French metal trims, and a two-color metallic embroidery design on the vamp. Here’s one of the inspiration pieces:
|The Met, early 18th century|
I’m really proud of the work we did for Whoopi, and very glad that she was happy with them. It was a wonderful project that really just came out of the blue, but could mean some really wonderful future projects for American Duchess.
Now I know you’re wondering about custom shoes, so I’m going to explain a little about this whole process. It’s not something we can offer regularly (at this time), because it is immensely expensive and time consuming for both the customer and us. Whoopi’s shoes took months to designs, work out the embroidery, source materials for, make, and ship. It was a great experiment for us, because I now know what kind of work we’re capable of, and my hope is that our tiny little company profile might get a boost in the entertainment world, and we can attract more theater and film clientele.
So will we make shoes like this in the future? Quite possibly! Right now we’re still small and we still have to do production runs of 200, but if these wacky antique-style shoes catch on a bit, and our customer base grows to where we can sell 200 really unique shoes, then I would love to do some blingin’ “signature collection” styles, you bet!