They’re the shoes you just can’t take your eyes off. Worn by the two most experimental style icons of the moment – Daphne Guinness and Lady Gaga. Of course, we’re talking about the gravity-defying heel-less platforms that have become the edgy style statement of 2010.
Here is an exclusive interview Grazia Daily made with the woman behind the shoes, designer Natacha Marro, a designer that just recently launched a pop-up shop and exhibition, showcasing her fantastical pieces in East London…
How did you get into making shoes?
It was a long process! I grew up in Nice and St Tropez in France. I’ve always always known since I was a little girl that I wanted to do something creative. I was always the one reading Vogues and daydreaming. I studied fashion design and worked in womenswear at Nina Ricci in Paris. I enjoyed the job but always felt that anything I designed had already been done before in some way. Also I didn’t like living in Paris because it is so conservative there and you really aren’t free to wear whatever you like. People stare at you and accost you in public if you are dressed unusually and when you work in fashion you are expected to be dressed really smart, in that season’s clothes otherwise people are really shocked! I once wore my Jean Paul Gaultier catsuit to work at Nina Ricci and oh my God! I nearly lost my job. So I moved over here to London and began studying footwear and accessories at Cordwainers College. I’ve been much happier as a shoemaker and a Londoner ever since.
Well, you can wear whatever you like in London, no one bats an eye!
Yes, it’s wonderful. I’m 41 so I’ve been here nearly 20 years and I feel more English than an English person now!
Tell us about your most famous client, Daphne Guinness. How you get introduced to her?
I think people she knew, London designers and mutual friends of ours, had recommended, she come and see me for some shoes. She never called me though and then one Saturday she came in a taxi to the shop, when I wasn’t there and my friend who had been minding the shop said that someone had come and bought 10 pairs of shoes. I said – it’s not possible, because I don’t have 10 pairs in one size. I custom make every pair and don’t carry stock, really only samples. Well, she said, Daphne didn’t care. She bought everything! So I got in touch with Daphne myself and said – look, you’ve got to come in for an appointment. Bring those shoes back and I will make you some new ones in your size. She is the best client you could ever hope for. Not only does she know exactly what she wants but each time she buys something, she gets it in every colour!
And have you had the call from Lady Gaga yet, to make her some shoes?
Yes, I have made shoes for Gaga. They were like split-toe shoes, a bit like hooves! I make Alison Goldfrapp’s stage shoes, she comes in with her stylist Cathy Edwards and it takes us ages to get what she wants, but she is very cool. I also make [cross dressing Turner Prize winning artist] Grayson Perry’s shoes. He is so funny. He comes in with a sketch of exactly the shoes he wants then I make them for him. He always says “Natacha I fancy this or that or I fancy some clogs. (for example) Can you make them?” and I always say “Grayson, why not?” and then make him the clogs or whatever it is. In the past I’ve made shoes for David Bowie and Grace Jones. Ooh, and there’s a dance revue on at Sadler Wells called Shoes! I made quite a lot of the crazy shoes for that!
Your shoes are toweringly high and quite kinky looking! How comfortable would you say are?
Ha ha ha! A lot of work goes into making the shoes really wearable as well as beautiful. The stability of the shoe is really important. They have to be strong enough to be worn by a drunk person walking down stairs! I use screws inside the heel instead of nails. Next, I use a really soft leather to go around the foot. If I am making a glitter or a fabric shoe, I always make it just a tiny bit bigger than the person’s foot so there is room for the person’s foot to expand with the pressure of walking on high heels. Finally, I use an orthopedic insole with lots of cushioning. The inside can take as much work as the outside. The higher the shoe, the more padding there is inside. Daphne once said she can play tennis in my shoes which to me is the biggest compliment ever!
Yikes! (mental image of Daphne rushing around a tennis court in a diamond encrusted kit and 7″ platforms) Where are the shoes made?
I make every single pair by hand. I don’t have a factory. Everything is done bespoke to the customers specification and the measurements of their feet. The prices start at £300, so compared to other designer shoe brands, I really don’t make any money. But I do absolutely love my job.
Can you tell us about your latest project?
My friend and collaborator Meihui Liu and I are opening a Pop-up store 44 Red Church St in London. Her label is called Victim Fashion St. [She makes costumey full-skirted dresses in a mash up of different fabrics – think Marie Antoinette via East London] and I’ve made all the shoes for the collection. You can come down between 5th and 8th August to see the exhibition celebrating 10 years of the label!
To make an appointment for a pair of custom made shoes by Natacha, contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a look at her website for more details – natachamarro.com