This week we were joined by another GSA Alumni turned visiting lecturer, Robert McCaffrey.
McCaffrey owns a high quality shoe brand designing men’s footwear that is inspired by bicycles and designed for the commute. They are beautiful. His shoes are wonderfully designed with a couple of very novel and yet practical additions and the highest quality materials. They have that wonderful new leather smell and ‘buttery’ feel of good quality, soft leather, and some of the softest suede I have ever felt. What makes them different from every other leather shoe out there was initially the cork sole and rubber pad on the arch of the sole to protect them from getting chewed up by the bike pedal and the stitching on the shoe which resembled old leather handlebars- later what made them really unique was the fold out reflective strip on the back of the shoes, and in some designs the reflective dots hidden in the shoes decorative perforations.
What I really love about his shoes is the practicality of the designs. These are shoes designed for wear, designed, very carefully, to last through everyday wear and the challenges which that can sometimes present. They are a brilliant marriage between aesthetic and functionality.
What was as equally interesting as his shoes, was the story of how they came to be.
Before setting out to design his own range of shoes he lived and worked in Milan designing shoes for somebody else. One day he was out cycling through the Italian hills and decided that he wanted to capture the feeling of that moment, and somehow try to replicate it through shoes. From that moment it took 8 years of design, development and perseverance to get him to a point where he was able to sell them.
It’s really your classic, light-bulb moment kind of deal, an ‘I was sitting under an apple tree when all of a sudden it hit me!’ moment. It’s surprising, in a way, how so many designs seem to begin in a similar a way with a sudden stroke of brilliant inspiration!
But then maybe they don’t… One thing Robert said that I found really interesting and which I never heard told so convincingly was the importance of a strong narrative when it comes to your design. Often it is the story you tell about your design and how it came to be that makes the difference between people believing in it and people passing it by.
We like to believe that as humans we are logical and that we make decisions based purely on fact but we don’t. We like a little bit more than the pure facts, we like books to have nice covers and reports to have a nice layout and an advert to tell a story- we, contrary to our believes, are not usually led by our logic alone.
So maybe a lot of these tales of sudden inspiration are not as truthful as we have assumed them to be.
If you would like have a wee nosy at some of Roberts, very snazzy, shoes here is his website!