THE FINE PRINT: What has lured you to footwear design over fabric or garment design?
CAROLIN HOLZUBER: I always wanted to do something in my life where I could draw two-dimensional, but at the same time create something three-dimensional. During high school I did sketches of clothes in all of my books, once my parents realized that, they gave me books about fashion illustration. So I started copying them and that was how I practiced in my free time.
When I applied for my BA in Fashion, in Vienna, I was sure I wanted to be a fashion designer. At that point, I didn’t even think about designing shoes. But in our first term we had to try out four different workshops; shoemaking, cloth making, millinery, and knit wear. I was fascinated by the handcrafting work entailed in making footwear, all the little steps and details that make a shoe complete. This is also the reason why I still produce all shoes by myself in my little workshop in London. It simply fascinates me.
TFP: You now live between Vienna, where you were born, and London. How does splitting your life between both cities and culture impact your work?
CH: I love both cities. London is a vibrant city and I could say it is the motor for my work. There is so much energy in the air, that it pushes me to keep on working on my brand and create new designs. It is a city of change. Nearly everyday new shops, new restaurants and new exhibitions are opening. People are coming and leaving London. Sometimes nothing seems persistent. But these changes have an important impact on my creative work. Maybe they are the fuel.
Vienna is my quiet zone. If I need a break from London I love to go back home and spend time with my friends and family. There is nothing better than having a wonderful dinner with deep conversations. I also really enjoy to go to the theatre in Vienna, and there are always great exhibitions; which I am sure also influence my creative process.
TFP: Please extrapolate on your creative concept and process for your latest SS16 collection “Symbiosis”.
CH: I didn’t see SYMBIOSIS only as a biological phenomenon, but also as a metaphor that everyone needs another one to support each other, to be able to live.
My aim was to show this in my new designs. I tried to create a merged harmony of shapes and sizes. For example one of the pairs, actually it is not an even a pair, each shoe is the contrary of the other one but still they need each other to be able to stand. No matter how different we are we should always love, help, respect, and support each other. For my SS16 collection I made one sculptural footwear piece that expresses that concept, and five pairs that are wearable pieces of handcrafted art.
TFP: What are your preferred materials to use in the production of footwear? Do they vary from one collection to the other?
CH: First of all there is no better materialthan leather for footwear. I love the smell of the skins, the longevity and what you are able to create with all the different kind of leathers. Other materials I use are wood, cork and metal wire in silver or copper. For the shoe soles I am using carbon fibre. Carbon fibre is a fabulous material that is light and steadfast at the same time. Therefore it is perfect for my sculptural, conceptual footwear. Some materials vary from one collection to another. For example I used a lot of copper for my SS16 SYMBIOSIS collection. It was my first time working with this metal. What I really like about copper is that it oxidates and this natural process gives the material somehow its own life.
TFP: How do you obtain a balance between how eclectic are your designs, and yet the comfort/useful components?
CH: I always try to create new structures or to develop unusual forms and shapes. But at the same time the connection between shapes, forms and details is important in order to find a balance. I start with little hand sketches. Paper is patient. For drawing, I like to use this phrase in a positive way. When designing I let my mind and creativity free and everything seems possible. And if the opposite has not been proven the sketch becomes a real object. There are shoes that are sculptural pieces and not wearable at all, but in my latest collection are definitely wearable shoes and so far everyone who tried them is surprised about their comfort.
TFP: What do you think is the most important detail in a shoe?
CH: Details are very important for me. They turn an object into a luxury product and make it special.
All inner soles also called socks have a metal wire hand stitching detail that is also my brand mark. But the most important detail lies in the design it self. For me it is essential detail to create a concinnity between space and empty space.
TFP: Victoria Beckham once stated that she simply “cannot concentrate in flats”. Would you agree?
CH: cannot agree to that. But I do believe that our shoes can influence our concentration. I spent most of the time in my workshop and I can only work if am wearing flat shoes. Nevertheless in my pleasure time I like wearing heels. Every shoe, flat or heel, effects your posture and therefore your behaviour.
TFP: Who is your dream client?
CH: My dream client is a satisfied customer who appreciates handcrafted footwear and understands my work.
TFP: If you had to pick, with which designer would you like to create a collaboration?
CH: Iris van Herpen would be very interesting for me.