Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to create a breakthrough. Shoe designer Anna Korshun was originally trained in product design. But for her final student project at the Dutch Design Academy, she chose to venture into fashion and create a shoe collection. "I thought it was a challenging product," says the young designer. The line grew into a full-fledged atelier, where Korshun has been developing an innovative technique for making shoes using a minimum of material and toxic glue.
The transition wasn’t smooth, as Korshun realized how different product design and fashion really were. The latter runs off an unhealthy diet of seasonal cycles and trends, she says, while the former tackles matters of user experience and sustainability. Korshun soon saw just how little the industry shares with her own training.
Concerning sustainable practices, most footwear enterprises implemented few, if any, instead operating on gross use of labor and material. "I visited factories in Europe where different types of shoes were produced," Koshun tells Co.Design. "What I saw was that the shoes need a lot of different components: There is a LOT of glue, it needs stitching and it’s very labor intensive."
That’s when she hatched her idea: To design footwear that was easy to assemble and made with sustainable materials. Her shoes are constructed with a "clicking technique" that uses zero glue or stitching and virtually nullifies intensive fabrication processes, though Korshun stresses that there is still assemblage work involved. (In other words, these aren’t "Ikea" shoes that you can buy and assemble yourself.) Her wares aren’t produced by professionals but by participants of Dutch Sociaal werkplaats, or social-working houses, where long-unemployed and mentally and physically disabled workers piece together the shoes.
Korshun explains that she derived the process from the Elastic Wood chair by Israeli designer Gil Sheffi, which consists of wood and elastic parts held at joints by hardened rubber and a few nuts and bolts. No glue or extensive joinery necessary. Adapting the same principles to her footwear, she separates the shoe into two chief components, the leather upper and insole fastened together by rubber. The latter is perforated with narrow holes that the upper hooks into; a mold filled with liquid rubber is applied to the bottom of the shoe and allowed to cure.
The nature of the slotting technique does have a few drawbacks, Korshun admits. "It’s not very easy to make a completely closed shoe. Like a winter version." She is, however, currently hard at work at solving that problem and hopes to have boot models just in time for fall.
The shoes are available in sizes 37 to 41. Order them here for €129.