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Interview With Pioneering British Shoe Designer Julian Hakes

Julian Hakes

Julian Hakes and the Mojito Shoe

Innovative British architect come footwear designer, Julian Hakes, is most famous for creating the pioneering Mojito shoe with its revolutionary form, which helped him to secure the prestigious Drapers’ Shoe Designer of the Year award in 2012. Since then, he’s proceeded to grow his shoe design career even further, stocking in an array of international stores, and even secured a collaboration with Disney.

We caught up with the man himself to find out a bit more about his iconic Mojito shoe and talk future plans. Here’s what he had to say!  

theFashionSpot: What inspired you to start designing shoes?

Julian Hakes: I had a strong feeling that fashion shoes looked the way they do (or did) more because of style and inherited tradition rather than through a strong design process or functional reassessment of how the foot works. The whole point about tradition is that it evolves and the designs today become tomorrow’s classics. I felt that many of the shoes I had seen had stopped evolving and were simply redressed shoes designed many years ago. 

tFS: What inspired the Mojito shoe?

JH: I was the last one in my London studio and was thinking about the earlier question of shoes and footwear and how they were designed and made. I had a thought that there was something missing, I had the beginnings of an idea and started to sketch out some ideas. Then I stopped sketching and started making. I took my own foot and wrapped it in tracing paper and then scotch tape and started to draw shapes around my foot. 

tFS: Do you design with a specific type of customer in mind?

JH: I was originally setting out to design a sandal, however, when I added the heel, the shoe suddenly had a totally different dynamic, and I knew that I had to launch it as a high heel (to start with). My customer spans many different kinds of people.

 tFS: What are your main inspirations behind your latest range?

JH: The current range of the 'Mojito shoe' — the launch shoe for Julian Hakes London, has a new construction and materials. We now adjust the stiffness and strength throughout the shoe to adapt to the foot. We also updated the forepart design, packaging and branding. We are also revealing our Mojito Bootie for Spring 2014, but you will have to wait and see as we are starting the shows this week!

Marvel Shoe

Marvel Shoe

tFS: Where are your shoes stocked?

JH: Julian Hakes is distributed globally with showrooms in London, Paris, Munich, New York, LA and Hong Kong. We have more stores and regions coming online. Most recently, we have entered into the Asia Pacific markets where we have a strong following. 

tFS: How did you approach your designs for your Disney collaboration? 

JH: Disney found me at London Fashion Week as they were looking for someone/something different to work on shoes for exciting movie franchises. Our brief was: "If Tony Stark designed a shoe for Pepper Potts, how would he design it, make it and how would it look?" The Tony Stark Character (played by Robert Downey Jr.) is a high tech engineering genius, who embraces all the latest and most advanced technology throughout the films. The Mojito shoe is possibly the most advanced engineered shoe ever to have existed, so it was a perfect fit!

tFS: If you could choose anybody, who would you collaborate with? 

JH: I have no list. The Mojito to me is a great canvas for collaboration and changes its character and lines depending upon how it is dressed and what it is worn with. I am just as excited to collaborate with an individual as an excellent factory with specialist fabrication techniques or even the latest 3D printed technologies. 

tFS: Do you create custom made shoes?

JH: Our concept development process used 3D laser scanning of a real foot then 3D printing, so in theory, we would be able to bespoke a shoe exactly for a person’s unique foot. In practice this is rather expensive but not impossible. 3D printing technology will allow the creation of much more bespoke footwear and whilst at the moment it is limited to accessories, it will not be long before we can make a solid, reliable, wearable shoe direct from 3D printing. The technology is available but costs are still prohibitive. 

tFS: How did it feel to win the Drapers’ Shoe Designer of the Year Award last year?

JH: It was very unexpected. I was on the shortlist with other people, who I saw as 'real' shoe designers, and not having been formally trained in this area, I thought that we were lucky enough just to get an honorable mention. So, to win was brilliant and it meant a great deal to me! It also came just at the right time, as it gave us such a boost. 

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