We just returned from our AWESOME trip to Portland, Oregon meeting Mike Friton and attending a 3 day Footwear Workshop with him. We shared with you previously that Mike used to work for Nike in the past and is now focusing on giving footwear workshops and offering consulting services to people in the shoe industry, sharing his extensive footwear knowledge.
What’s so lovely about Mike is that he puts great emphasis on the “comfort” of shoes and he uses “out of the box” techniques like braiding, pleating (creating wrinkles on fabric), cyping (directional slicing of fabric), weaving and Origami inspired techniques to give a shoe the fashionable and trendy look.
He shared with us the importance of making sure the shoe supports the foot and doesn’t cause extra damage to the body. A lot of shoes these days are designed just for fashion rather than actually to support the foot and most shoes add more strain to the body rather than give it support. Think of high heels where the toe of the shoe is really tight and squeezes your toes.
We learnt that Gaishas even used to cut off one of their toes to look better in shoes. Hearing those stories made us realise that we too like to put the emphasis on comfort, health AND fashion along with other aspects like using recyclable materials and creating a community of people that contribute to our patterns, helping us create trendy fabrics for uppers.
Mike asked us on the first day whether our slipper last looks anything like a real foot, which to be fair, it didn’t. The last that we recently had created has contours that end in sharp edges, with the shape of the toe being quite unnatural. It doesn’t have the curves of a natural foot shape. Mike gave us his lasts as a great reference point for us to go away and create a new set of lasts.
We also learnt how to make our own pattern by firstly drawing a lateral view (outside of the shoe) and medial (inside of the shoe), deciding on what designs our shoe will have and drawing those onto the pattern. Then we had to mirror the design as well as the front (vamp) and back quarter of the shoe and cut out a sole to sew it all together. Mike did all the sewing of patterns for us, you can see here our final results. True masterpieces. Steph unintentionally created a slipper for Superheros, we’re not sure whether it’s for the A-Team, for the Avengers or for any other unknown Superhero that’s currently still in need of a pair of fashionable slippers. (Steph’s slipper is the second from the right)
Mike also showed us a one fold technique where you only have one fold on the slipper, giving the slipper a really neat look. Usually when you have lots of folds, there will be lots of stitches visible. We learnt that extra material can be used to cover up stitches and we can also hide them behind logos. However this one fold technique avoids any of that, making the slipper also potentially lighter in materials. The trick is to find out how to best fold the fabric so it only requires one stitch and one cut. It was an easy job for our Master Crafter Katie.
Mike then went on and shared with us his unique Origami & Braiding skills and explained how we can use those techniques to create different designs for our slippers. Iain was our Master Braider, he was able to use his braiding skills from back in the days when working on a yacht.
We also learnt how to pleat and slice material by laying a soft stretchy material over the last and play with the fabric, seeing where the material wants to go and where we like to create pleats (wrinkles).
Another technique is called slicing, where you slice the top layer material and place another material underneath the fabric. This allows you to have a different fabric and color look through the top layer material, giving it more color and a unique design.
Stretchy materials help make a shoe more dynamic rather than static, this helps the shoe adapt to the foot so the shoe can move with the foot rather than restrict the foot.
What we love about Mike Friton is that he uses a non judgmental approach to teaching footwear skills, with him there are never any mistakes, just opportunities. It was very easy to relax in his presence not having any knowledge of footwear design and the creative process involved. Thank you Mike for your patience, we will be back to tap into more of your shoe wisdom.
Whilst it sounds like those 3 days were all hard work, we made sure to fill them with lots of social and fun activities. There was lots of shopping and eating involved. Kaye and Katie even joined an Acro Yoga class and we all gave into our sugar cravings when ordering a doughnut (or more) at Voodoo Doughnuts.
Having come back from Portland, we’re now focusing on applying the techniques we’ve learnt to our next slipper prototypes, make our own lasts, source some lovely materials, get some Origami & Braiding skills under our belt and get clear on our concept going forward.
The slogan in Portland is called “Keep Portland Weird”…we like to think that we’ve added our own weirdness to Portland during our trip. We let you be the judge of that.
You can go to our Facebook Page to see more pictures from our trip.