Marla Marchant was thinking deeply about the lost art of craftsmanship when she began her MA thesis project at the London College of Fashion. It started off conventionally enough, until her advisor encouraged her to branch out, to build evermore daring concepts on her practical foundation. Suddenly the heels she was working on got higher – as high as 11 inches – leaving more room for the woven patterns Marchant was intent on creating. Marchant’s search for the most suitable materials to construct her woven heels started with soldered steel wires, later advancing to carbon fiber, and finally incorporating titanium rapid prototyping – 3D printing – successfully bridging traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology.
You wanted to focus on the lost art of craftsmanship, but how did you decide to bring the high heel into the mix?
In my opinion, a lot of things made nowadays look fake and generic...I wanted a more personal approach. Working with handmade shoes and incorporating the concept of high heels enabled me to return to the originality and individuality of traditional craftsmanship.
Some of the designs are reminiscent of the architect Calatrava - was he an influence?
Calatrava was one of the influences, although not the main one. My first inspiration by architecture came from Buckminster Fuller and his principle of tension and compression of the structures. However, my main influence was Gaudi's experimental method in designing the surfaces of La Sagrada Familia.
You say that "Craftsmanship embodies the hand and mind of the people who create it." Why do you think this is?
Craftsmanship requires passion to sacrifice time and effort and dedication to the mastering of technical skills, by which it becomes something very personal. It used to be a source of pride, a skill passed from one generation to another…forming a family tradition, even a ritual. And now it means coming back to the origins of the craft, giving the maker flexibility of expression and high degree of involvement in the process.
How high is the highest of these heels? The lowest?
The highest heel is 11 inches, and the lowest is 6 inches.
Do you have a personal relationship with fine craftsmanship?
One of my grandfathers was a shoemaker while another was a furniture builder. Also, one of my grandmothers worked in a textile workshop. Thus, craftsmanship has always felt like something natural to me. I really enjoy the process of creating something special and original. Using my own hands to transfer my ideas into real objects makes my relationship with craftsmanship something very rewarding.