by Izzy Ruiz for The Cannon Media Group
As a boy growing up in Australia, you'd find him dancing to his own beat. He “never really fit in with the jocks,” but with a last name like Hockey, Michael has taken to task creating footwear that is tough—tough but refined by masterful artisans that hand-make each pair in sumptuous leathers, adorned with metal, steel, recycled tires and resin. As Michael puts it:
"It’s important to me to keep artisanal skills alive and fresh. Almost all aspects of our work are handmade. The lasts are hand carved, the shoe boxes, the printing is done by hand, the sole shaping is hand worked…it is amazing to look at the finished product and really feel the human touch of the entire work.”
And the finished products are shoes that can be defined by any man willing to bring his own verve and personality to each pair.
“The Michael Hockey man is everyman. I hope that the man in my shoes feels invincible.”
His mixed media approach proves that Michael keeps his eyes and ears open across all landscapes, presenting shoes for Spring 2013 reflecting indigenous influences in Navajo-style fabrics along with the grit of fast cars, invigorating a classic black loafer with steel nuts and bolts. He also tips his hat to fashion of centuries past, reinventing classic spats in contrast leathers, while keeping on-trend with Gatsby-style saddle shoes in colorful canvas. But regardless of what’s hot any season, Michael has created an approach to design that transcends trends, giving his label the gravitas to sustain itself as a business and as a brand. When you hear him put this approach into words, it almost sounds like a mantra come to life:
“Individualism and self expression. Quality and beauty. Always and forever.”
So the questions always is, where does someone come up with such exciting new ideas, especially in men’s footwear—a category with very little range outside the usual oxfords and tennis shoes.
“I started in fashion design because I couldn’t find things I wanted to wear that I could afford… I was mostly self-taught. My mother was a sewing teacher, so I learned to sew and draft patterns from her. When she taught me all she could, I did further study on garment construction and pattern making. But I'm a believer that design is within you. I've designed everything from sportswear to womenswear to equestrian clothing, fabric, menswear, shoes even swimwear, and to me, the principles are the same. It’s about balance, form and je ne sais quoi… It’s a dream come true to design handmade, beautiful shoes that are priced well.”
There’s something about becoming a self-taught, self-made artist that keeps your feet grounded in humility and appreciation for where you are in your career. But it’s also that freedom from the chains of big business that allows a boutique label like Michael Hockey to think bigger and bolder, infusing the fashion scene with his marvelous balance of form and fancy.
For more information and to order your very own pair from anywhere around the world please visit michaelhockeyfashion.com.au