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Claire Best Shoes

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Not for any particular reason - just for a change - I recently resolved to do something a bit different with Milly's Instagram and this blog. Month by month, we'll be choosing different themes to play with, beginning this month with the theme, SHOE.

... Somebody who knows quite a lot about the shoe is local maker Claire Best. I had seen Claire's work at the NGV - I think she has a pair of shoes in a permanent collection there, and was also featured during Melbourne Now... It's been good to subsequently come to know her a little - talking clothes, creative enterprises and TV - during her visits to Milly Sleeping. I asked Claire if I could drop by her workshop in Brunswick on Friday morning. She appeared at the building's entrance to usher me past Madge the dog; even though I had requested that she wear something from the shop, it was still a little thrill to see her looking lovely in blouse and trousers by Livia Arena and earrings by Elise Sheehan - plus a pair of her own beautiful shoes.

While I nosed around her space, we discussed current projects - Claire makes bespoke shoes as well as producing small seasonal collections, as well as teaching shoe-making workshops, as well as undertaking things that come up - such as the repair of thigh-high boots for giant galavanting theatre men. I asked Claire, 'why shoes..?', and this is what she said:

I've always loved fashion and clothing, and always envisaged being my own boss, working in some lovely little studio or workshop or shop (of course without really knowing the struggles of running a small business)! I actually studied Fine Art and animation, but kept my eye out for interesting shoes and clothing, and admired the drama and humour of costume design. When I was in high school, my fashion teacher took us to visit the studio of a designer friend of hers and seeing that space really excited me... Also looking out for independent local labels and retailers, like the early days of Alice Euphemia or the very first Fat 52 that used to be on Johnston St - focusing on just one or two garments by designers, it felt really experimental and refreshing... Not to get too nostalgic :)

I used to buy handmade shoes from Rocco's in Malvern (ages ago!) and I enjoyed the fact that I could see how they were made, or at least I thought I could begin to understand how they were put together. I did a shoe-making short course and LOVED it, and went on to do a course at RMIT. Since then it's been a long learning curve!

Shoe-making is something that takes a really long time to become proficient at; it takes a lot of patience and experience and so, ultimately, it's really satisfying when you achieve your goal. I love that I can produce something that is practical and necessary, but that also presents so much scope for experimentation and variation in design. There is a really great tension between imaginative, whimsical, sculptural form and the constraints and rules of construction which ensure that the shoes are, in the end, wearable and strong. I don't think that occurs in quite the same way in other ways of making, and so... shoes!

It's pretty funny that [after all the work] they go on your feet and get dirty and scuffed and loved to death! It really is a crazy profession/obsession!

To keep up with Claire's many and mixed doings, follow her on Instagram - she'll be making a couple of appearances at upcoming markets, where she anticipates being the one without the plywood showcase.

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As mentioned, Claire was wearing Livia Arena Quilt Pocket Pants (available in store) and Mohair Check Tee. She also wears new Birgitta Helmersson Blanket Stitch Top (in store), and brought along Timi Alaere Easy-fit Shift Dress.

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