Materializing fashion: Designers, materials, ideas and the creation of designer shoes | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-4417
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4425



The article discusses the findings from an extensive ethnographic study of contemporary British women’s shoe designers that explored what creativity in shoe design entails. This study profiled 23 shoe designers who create shoes for the high fashion industry. The objective of the study was to tease out how these designers go about creating shoes while at the same time revealing how they perceive and experience their creativity in relation to the commercial world of fashion in which they are engaged. The designers presented in the article are celebrated by the fashion press and buyers internationally as creators of fashion. While the fashion industry enables these designers to create new collections each season, an acceptance that they were creating, or influenced by, fashion was absent from their narratives. Instead, for them, design was defined by creative freedom, expression and personal taste and through the materiality of their creations they were able to present their self-identities. This article presents shoe design as a creative process where materials are significant inspirational stimuli for each designer. Their selection of materials was often triggered by personal emotive reasons, as their sensory, tactile engagements with them would bring forth ideas for particular designs. They narrated creativity as a personal and emotional experience, distinct from fashion, yet each season their designs were commercialized as fashion and were proclaimed by fashion buyers, and other media agents, to be ‘on trend’ in terms of colours, materials and silhouettes. The article explores this paradox between the shoe designers’ desire to be creatively free and their necessary relationship to the commerciality of the fashion industry, examining how fashion works by drawing out the relationship between fashion’s different layers of design, materiality, creativity and commerciality.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): commerciality; creativity; design process; fashion; materiality; shoes
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