The new millennium introduced a triumvirate of talent from the capital, including Rupert Sanderson, Nicholas Kirkwood and Sophia Webster, all educated at the prestigious Cordwainers College at the London College of Fashion. Now a new wave of talent is making strides in London’s footwear scene. Here’s the stitch on five new London soles to know.
An address in Mayfair mattered for Pennsylvanian-born shoe designer Mary Alice Malone and her American business partner Roy Luwolt, who based their Malone Souliers headquarters and made-to-measure service there in 2014. “It has the advantage of the culture of exquisite craftsmanship borne of the legacy men exclusively enjoyed from Savile Row and Jermyn Street,” says Cordwainers alumna Malone. Her ornate velvet and satin shoes routinely seduce showstoppers from Amal Clooney to Beyoncé. “We’re often told that our heels tend to be the most comfortable one finds,” says Malone, who takes twice-weekly trips to their Italian factory and is collaborating with fashion label Roksanda for a third season. “Part of the beauty of high heels is a woman in motion, so if she's walking like an unoiled rickshaw, then I don’t really care how pretty the shoes are. I consider that an unsuccessful design.”
Camilla Elphick’s rainbow-bright, decadently girly shoes are hits with Sienna Miller, Kendall Jenner and Chloë Grace Moretz. Elphick studied at Parsons School of Design in New York and Cordwainers College before training under Nicholas Kirkwood, Sophia Webster and Charlotte Olympia. She launched her eponymous London-based label in 2014 and flits between factories in Portugal and Milan. The best-selling style is the space age-y Silver Lining ankle boot. “They hadn’t even launched and Alexa Chung had already requested a pair, which was an amazing moment!” she enthuses.
Turkish-born designer Dora Teymur deals in decadent glam. His punkish mules, ritzy thigh-high boots and square-toe loafers - bedecked with flared heels, jaunty buckles and oversized regal rings - have lured in the likes of Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz and Alexa Chung. “The aesthetic I had was not what people were interested at the beginning,” says Teymur, who launched during his second year at Cordwainers in 2012. “I recall buyers saying, ‘Mules? Sorry, no one wears mules anymore.’ But then Browns was the first boutique to stock and they immediately placed a re-order two weeks later.” He is about to present his second show on schedule at London Fashion Week. “The brand evolved and got its place slowly and quietly,” says Teymur, who produces his shoes in Portugal. But now it’s pretty noisy. Solange Knowles wore his lacquer elephant-heeled ankle boots on tour this year as well as a blood-red patent pair.
Dear Frances’s Spirit boots have been uplifting soles across Hollywood from Selena Gomez to Bella Hadid. “Barely a day goes by without someone new stepping out in a pair,” says Sydney-born designer Jane Frances of her now-cult crushed velvet and nappa leather ankle boots, elevated on a hand-sculpted block-heel. Elsewhere, satin slides are spotted with pearls and loafers come with merino-wool penny straps. Frances studied pattern cutting at London College of Fashion and footwear design at ModaPelle Academy in Milan before launching in London for Autumn/Winter 2015. “This city’s thriving with start-ups and encourages you to be at the forefront of new digital technologies,” the designer says. Frances bounces back and forth from New York – “the States are my largest market” – but ultimately she prefers a European base. “I spend a lot of time at the factory in Northern Italy sourcing materials,” she explains.
Happenstance at Heathrow Airport in 2014 launched Alexander White’s namesake label. “I was travelling to Hong Kong and thought I saw [Jimmy Choo Creative Director] Sandra Choi but she was wearing Vans so decided I was mistaken,” says White, who was named a finalist in Vogue Italia’s new talent contest, Who Is On Next?, in 2015. “Then she pulls out a Jimmy Choo purse and I felt like it was a sign and ran to her.” A meeting was set up and she encouraged White – who had worked in fashion design at Erdem and Giles before enrolling at Cordwainer's – to start his own label. “A few days later I incorporated my brand.” Now based at his old Erdem office in East London, he counts Sharon Stone, Kylie Jenner and Alicia Vikander as fans. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau - wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - sold out his Baroque-inspired Brianna red mesh pumps on Canada Day last year. “I was so perplexed when we got so many orders. We even had a few special orders made straight from the factory in Italy as people were willing to pay extra to get a pair.”