If I had to choose just one word to describe London-based shoe designer Liam Fahy, I would call him “fascinating” because everything he does or says leaves me happily speechless. I’ve discovered him through Charlotte, an unfeasible love of mine… With Charlotte came a story about the intelligent, refined and one-of-a-kind man who makes some of the most beautiful and flawless shoes in the world.
First there was Yves Saint Laurent, then Azzedine Alaia, two legends who came out of Africa to change fashion history forever. Half a century later, just after Saint Laurent was honoured with a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum or Art and a year before Alaia was awarded the Best Designer of the Year and Best collection of the Year at the Oscars de la Mode by the French Ministry of Culture, Liam Fahy was born in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
His passion for creativity turned into a fruitful journey from the little snake farm at the Zimbabwean suburbs known for African stone sculptors, musicians, weavers and painters, to the Zimbezi river where the young art and psychology student lived with the Tonga Tribe, to England where Liam enrolled in a course of footwear design at the De Montfort University, to Italy where he won Lineapelle award in Milan and, finally, London where Liam received the Drapers designer of the year award and, after graduating with honours in 2006 and spending two years working with several multinational sports brands, became the first ever winner of the Fashion Fringe Shoes award judged by Manolo Blahnik, Colin McDowel and Rupert Sanderson.
The competition lead to the apprenticeship with Sanderson where the young designer was put to work all over the business, learning the secrets of the trade at Sanderson’s factory in Bologna and, three weeks later, London.
In 2010 he started his own brand of luxury footwear and produced Liam Fahy London Elegant Collectables range in 2011. Since then his elegant creations stole hearts of women around the Globe and have been featured on pages of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire.
In June 2013 Liam Fahy won the prestigious British Fashion Council NewGen S/S 2014 award.
His F/W 2014 collection will be available for preview at Somerset House from 13 to 17th September 2013 as a part of London fashion week.
WHO: Liam Fahy, a multi-award winning shoe designer
WHAT: Gorgeous hand-made shoes that will make you feel beautiful.
WHY: These shoes are timeless, elegant and crafted to perfection.
Brigitte, Spring/Summer 2013
Christian Louboutin once said that shoes are a communication tool between people, men and women... What are your thoughts on this?
I agree, a good men’s shoe is something a guy would wear on a date with his perfect woman and a good woman’s shoe is one you would expect to see worn by your perfect lady.
What is your first memory of a beautiful shoe?
Probably my mother’s shoe closet. Very 80’s retro and piled up to my head, which isn’t that high for a 3 year old.
Do you remember the day you decided to become a designer? What influenced your choice?
I’ve wanted to be a designer for as long as I can remember although I almost chose to pursue behavioural psychology. The psychology in fashion has always fascinated me and influences most of how I work. It’s still a huge unexplored area.
What is the most challenging about playing the fashion game?
Luxury fashion is not a meritocracy like athletics or academia, it’s very much like popularist politics or pop music. Hype often overrides substance. The challenge is not to make any compromises in what you believe in.
How do you feel about trends?
I have to be aware of trends only to make sure I am not on-trend. I design each collection over a year in advance as it takes so long to manufacture, so if I were to be on-trend by the time the collection arrived in stores, it would be yesterdays news. I see trends as subject to what is called the ‘law of diffusion innovation” and therefore I have to be the one guy out of 100 who is off trend and weird to begin with.
What is more important to you - design process or result?
I see both as equally important. Many people think that design is just a measure of creativity, but unless the process allows for the design, the result may never happen. Each season I go to Italy with about 100 designs and by the end of the season, 6 months later, not a single shoe looks anything like the original drawing.
Where do you find inspiration?
I love cinema! I’m planning on making a small cinema room in my house one day complete with old cinema chairs and soft walls. Every collection to date has been based on a classic movie – film noir, Midnight train to Paris, African Queen etc.
Why do you think women adore shoes?
Because a good shoe makes a women look beautiful and every woman wants to look beautiful.
Charlotte, Becky, Brigitte, Lis, Anouk.... What was first - the shoes or the names?
All of the shoes are named after women I know. Charlotte was our first ever style and is found in every one of our collections.
And which lady is the leading one and why?
A gentleman never tells…
What makes your designs so desirable?
We use the same heel-maker as Chanel and Givenchy, the same tanneries as Louboutin and Blahnik, we even use the same box maker as Alaia. The average luxury shoe takes 4 hours to make while ours take 2 days and 25 people.
If a woman could only own one pair of shoes - which one should she choose?
The Charlotte or the Brigitte. We’ve scientifically designed them down to the millimeter to make them as sexy as possible. Each shoe had 10 trials before we got the pattern just right.
And what would be the worst footwear crime that a woman could commit?
MBT’s or Crocs. They’re like kryptonite to me.
5 things about Liam Fahy:
Are you a perfectionist? Definitely
What is your greatest luxury? I enjoy the simple things. Anything extra is a bonus.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you find yourself? Zambezi river in Africa.
Do you have a favourite quote? I have many, but right now I choose one from Confucius:
“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
First three things you think of when you wake up?
What’s the time (as I wake up when I want to but usually very early)
What’s happening BBC, Aljazeera and CNN
Cup of English tea
Coco, Fall/Winter 2014
Photo source: portrait via Emmanuel Ray, look book images c/o Liam Fahy