High Heel Fashion

SkillsOne visits shoe designer Andrew McDonald to find out what's involved in being a bespoke shoe maker - making custom shoes for individuals. Andrew shows us around his workshop and shows us how he creates shoes from scratch. He shares how he got into the industry - and the surprising places shoe making can take you!

About Andrew McDonald:

Andrew McDonald Shoemakers was established in 1992. Started By Andrew in a small workshop in Sydney's Surry Hills designing handcrafted shoes to order for men and women.

His skill and artistry were quickly recognized and Andrew was soon to be awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 1996 to understudy Master Shoemaker, John Lobb of London and Paris.

On his return to Sydney, Andrew opened his current shop/workshop in Paddington founded on his impeccable craftsmanship and belief in excellence. The team comprises of a dedicated group of young shoemakers at the forefront of footwear design.

Andrew McDonald started his business 17 years ago, and has been on William Street for 9 years now. He went to TAFE Sydney (school of footwear) and also did a small business course. Andrew focuses on designing and making, the others focus on sewing and on assisting/ working on the finishing details. The way Andrew designs is basically as a response to market needs. He adjusts his shoe wear to the fashion of that moment. He has always keenly followed fashion, trends, designers and the tempo of it all.

He says it’s important to produce footwear that is relevant and speaks to the fashion. But then you also have to give it your own twist or trademark. He makes new designs every season. He also works on request for weddings or people with disabilities.

And he’s made the shoe wear for movies like Star Wars, Superman and Wolverine. They found him through Fox Studios here. He found it challenging to work for them – there’s a big budget involved, but it’s also a client that pushes you so you have to be resourceful at the same time.

Andrew has enjoyed high profile commissions for both film and fashion designers. Most notable are his footwear for Akira Asogawa and Zimmerman.

His film work includes local and international productions such as Candy, Superman Returns, The Star Wars Trilogy and Mission Impossible 2.

His celebrity clientele includes names such as Natalie Portman, Hayden Christiansen, Parker Posy, Brandon Routh and Linda Evangelista - to name a few.

What he finds most challenging about his job that you can come up with new and exciting designs every time and that every day is different. One day he’s making shoes for someone who has had polio and has 2 different size feet. The next day he makes shoes for the CEO from a bank. His future plan is to just become a better shoemaker – make better quality and better fitting. It takes time and tiny steps and he’s still just a baby in that respect.

He doesn’t want to expand or anything – he doesn’t want to miss out on the personal contact. The designing component he says is just 10 to 15% when it comes to making shoes. The rest is mainly problem solving with materials, the mechanics of footwear and the need of each person. His boutique / shop consists of so called skeleton shoes in a small range of sizes, and examples of shoes which people can choose from and are then custom made.

Only the sample shoes people can come in, buy and walk out with straight away. He hasn’t won any awards (but he’s not sure there are any shoe making awards in Australia). But making the shoes for the movies was certainly a milestone.

VJ Rodney Meier