It’s more than clear in this day and age that there are an uncountable number of possibilities for artists working in the world of footwear design; it’s a medium that is just waiting for a dash of creativity and inspiration. At So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins, we’ve interviewed footwear designers of all stripes, from those that defend artisanry and older manufacturing methods as a way of maintaining the authenticity of the tradition, think Elena Ferro, to others who work with 3D printing and treat it as a field of research, most recently Zoe Jia-Yu Dai, and even those whose seek out new and unusual materials. Carolin Holzhuber belongs to this last group.
Photo by Alexandra Bondi de Antoni
Carolin’s designs are interesting, sculpture-like and conceptual. She studied first in Vienna before attending the London College of Fashion and was a finalist at International Talent Support 2014 with a collection that is, you’ll be happy to know, also available on Not Just A Label.
We wanted to get to know her better and to find out the story behind her latest collection “Conjoined Illusion”, which started with a simple question: What is real and what is an illusion?
SO CATCHY!: When did you realize you wanted to be a fashion designer? Do you remember a specific moment in your life?
CAROLIN HOLZHUBER: Not really a specific moment, but I always wanted to do something in my life where I can draw two-dimensional but at the same time create something three-dimensional.
During high school I was always sketching clothes in all of my books, my parents realized that and gave me books about fashion illustration. So I started copying them and that was how I practiced in my free time.
When I applied for my BA in Fashion in Vienna is was sure I want to be a fashion designer. At that point I did not even thought about shoes. But in our first term we had to try out four different workshops shoemaking, cloth making, millinery and knit wear. I was fascinated by the handcraft of making footwear, all the little steps and detailed works that makes a shoe complete.
Also I fall in love with the wonderful material leather, the smell, the touch and what you are able to create with this material.
SC!: Why did you decide to focus your collection Conjoined Illusions on mirroring, reflection and conjoined twins? What was the main challenge to create those pair of shoes?
CH: When I started researching for my collection I saw mirroring surfaces everywhere. I was fascinated by the fact of the illusion. That you can see objects and peoples more than just once at the same time, the real one and the mirroring. I question myself then if the reflection itself is as real as the object. What is real and what is illusive? Because the human body fascinates me I was looking into the medical area where I can find a double effect. I did research about conjoined twins, what kind of different types exist and how they are connected to each other.
The main challenge was to create something new and innovative but at the same time not to overdesign. For me it is enormous important that the designs of my shoes have a concinnity.
SC!: And, you said you used handcraft techniques and some innovative materials. We have been witnessing the growth of 3D printers and the possibilities for shoes. Do you think this is where the future of footwear is going?
CH: For my collection I used carbon fiber for the soles. This material is innovative, because it is light and at the same time steadfast. The soles were produced in the Austrian factory Peak Technology. The process of the production has nothing to do with 3D printing. There is still a lot of handcraft work to do. I adore the handcraft work. There is nothing more luxurious than products that are made by hand. Of course technology and 3D printers are an essential element of designing and creating nowadays, but I have to say I am not the biggest fan of 3D printing. One day if the costs of 3D printing are not that high anymore, it might be good for mass-production. But a 3D printed object can never be as unique as a handmade object.
We should not overestimate technology. In the end, we still want to have the real experience because we have a body to use, not just a mind. The handcraft will always play an incredibly important role because it lasts forever and this gives people a good feeling, the feeling of resistance.
SC!: Where do you find your inspiration? We know you are a collector. What kind of things do you collect?
CH: The human body is my muse! I collect quotes, books, pictures, and odours. Especially when I do research for a new collection my brain starts acting like a sponge, absorbing as much as possible.
SC!: What is the perfect shoe for you?
CH: The perfect shoe does not exist for me. There are always things to improve –which is good otherwise I would stop working on new shoes.
SC!: The kinds of shoes you normally wear are…
CH: I wish I could walk barefoot more often, but during the day I wear flat shoes, to walk fast and be able to work in my workshop. For the evening I also wear heels. They change the way you walk and therefor how you feel…I like that.
SC!: What are you doing right now?
CH: Working for my own brand Carolin Holzhuber.
SC!: Do you plan to sell online?
CH: Right now I am selling my collection Conjoined Illusion via Not Just A Label, but I am planning my own online shop on my website…stay tuned.
SC!: Do you plan to launch a wearable line of shoes anytime soon?
CH: Yes. My aim for S/S16 is to make one or two sculptural footwear pieces and a wearable collection connected to the art objects.
SC!: Have you worked for a label designing shoes in the past?
CH: Not designing shoes, but I have held internships at the bespoke shoemaker Andreas Kudweis in Vienna, the British footwear brand and designer Atalanta Weller and London based footwear brand FINSK. Furthermore I was working together with the British womenswear designer Francesca Capper for the S/S 15 fashion film collaboration. The video was released during London Fashion Week in September 2014.
SC!: Your favourite fashion designer is…
CH: I am always afraid of this question. There are many designers, whose work I admire. But if I have to pick just one it is Christopher Kane. I am always keen to see what he is doing next.
SC!: Your favourite footwear designer / label is…
CH: Again I don’t have one favourite footwear designer and this might sound selfish but I guess my favourite footwear label is my own.
SC!: What blogs or webs do you read normally about design and fashion?
CH: Style.com, BoF, Trendland, fubiz, nowness, wallpaper, i-D, aestheticamagazine, dazed and confused, synchrodogs, ted, trendtablet, the talks, etc, etc
There is an endless list and it gets longer every month. Sometimes I have the feeling there is too much and too fast information through the web, then I buy books and they give me the feeling of persistence.
SC!: You can´t stop wearing…
CH: Jewellery! Especially one necklace, it is an heirloom.
SC!: You can´t live without…
CH: Air and water. Pen and paper.
Product photos & header photo by Louise Markey
Model photos by Thuy Pham
Translation and Layout by Michael Padilla