Never do things by halves.
Words to live by. Words also to build your curated wardrobe by. As such many of us are always on the lookout for the ‘full’ fashion experience. Sadly, fast fashion has bastardised the full experience into being little more than purchasing lots and lots of average quality fashion. Except in one area. While low-quality designer collaborations might have had people forming not-so-orderly queues, it still takes a lot to turn a person’s head with a low quality shoe. Sure, every now and then something overly-embellished catches us off guard, but well made shoes are obvious. They turn heads. They radiate.
It’s for that reason we went in search of quality, women’s shoes for the autumn / fall 2011 fashion season. The task was to find a shoe that didn’t do things by halves. It had to make a statement. But, taking a leaf out of the rules for men’s footwear, we didn’t want that statement to be solely the result of loud embellishments. Instead we wanted a shoe that paired embellishment with quality. A shoe that was perfect for this season, but would be equally as wearable for seasons to come. In short, we wanted a shoe worthy of your wardrobe.
We came up with the Camy and Afina boots from British cordwainer Mark Charles.
With their blend of 70s and buckles, the Mark Charles Camy boots, photographed above, are undoubtedly very now. With their contrast sole and trademark Mark Charles cross-stitch on the heel they are also very head turning. And it’s with good reason that there are so many details to catch your eye: each pair of boots produced by the Mark Charles Boot Company is the work of 6 craftsmen. In much the same way that a bespoke suit is given life, these craftsmen create everything from the pattern used to shape the calf leather to the closing done to provide a sharp stitch to the sheep skin lining, leather outer, and custom-made brass buckles alike. Assuringly, in these times of mass production, each of the craftsmen do their work by hand (though at times with the assistance of specialist machines such as the ‘post-bed, lockstitch’ machine), with even the often machine-done process of affixing the boot’s upper around the last (shoe mould) done by hand. As Charles says of the process, “we prefer to do this by hand. Lasting the boot correctly is a fine art in itself and involves a very steady hand, a perfectly balanced last and a brilliantly constructed upper. This is a delicate process that requires a lot of experience to produce a perfectly constructed shape.”
Statement – check. Quality – check. What then is the other most important detail? It’s the one that sadly goes unexperienced by most, but whose praises are sung by those who do. It’s comfort.
Ask any woman who has ever donned a pair of Acne’s Pistol Boots about them and it’s likely that the first thing she’ll mention is the word comfort. I’m told they are so comfortable that other boots should be outlawed. While I can’t personally vouch for the comfort of Mark Charles’ boots, the designer certainly can.
It transpires that the boot’s insole has been especially constructed from a double layer cushion latex foam with due concern and extra cushion applied to the key pressure points. “There is a lot that can be done to make heeled shoes more comfortable whilst at the same keeping them sexy and stylish – I think it comes down to your overall objective.”
“Luxury is equally about comfort as it is about style and exclusivity,” adds Mark. “Ultimately good design always focuses on the end user, or wearer in this instance.”
Available as part of a limited edition of 500 pairs, shipped in a handmade wooden box and with a complimentary cleaning kit that includes everything from a horsehair wax brush to gloves, the Mark Charles Camy boots are available from MarkCharlesBoots.com. Pictured in two colours here, similar styles are available in suede and without buckles from the site.