my name is Stefanie and I’m the founder of Atelier Stefani. Why I started this business? Well, where do I begin?
Fashion for me has always been something more meaningful than just a superficial cover of the human body. It reflects emotions, personality, character and an overall statement of your inner self.
What you see is what you feel. Shoes are indicators of our gender, identity and taste. They are commodities and aesthetic artefacts at the same time. Feet are made for walking, shoes may not be.
Design, art, craft, fashion, sex and power – Shoes have transformed into much more than just a practical necessity. Sitting between function and fashion, they express social values, power and passion. Shoes are pushed into the realm of art and sculpture. Sometimes so far removed from functionality, design can become more important than the comfort they bring. The glamour and desirability of such provocative creations tells us about the complex and enduring link between suffering, sex and style.
A few months ago I travelled to Milan, Italy, to visit little family owned shoemaking factories, meeting up with suppliers while getting inspired by the fashion metropolis. Italy is the birthplace of the shoemaking industry, leather tanneries and it is the embodiment of elegance and style. Milan sets designers’ standards for perfection. There are so many different associations I have in mind when it comes to Italy: luxury, quality, fashion, la Cosa Nostra, good wine and delicious food – La Dolce Vita.
Wandering through the city, I discovered old traditional shoemakers’ workshops and little design stores that transmitted the feeling of a different time in history. I think fashion, just
like any other form of art, can take you to certain places by stimulating your senses. Music, for example, is a huge inspiration for me and looking at the big picture I can find many parallels to my craft.
Shoemaking is the art to combine the beauty of the design with the comfort we need to live our busy lifestyle. It is the exact balance of the melody and the lyrics. Shoes set the rhythm of your steps, making your inner music flow through your body. It’s the creative tension between structure and spontaneity.
So, as I walked through the streets of Milan, those little unique studios and shops reminded me of something so essential. There was a time, long before mass production became a thing, when artisans and craftsmen were making something for the individual. They didn’t follow any trends; the client and their original were the center of their creation – for a reason.
the birthplace of luxury shoes
Old shoe lasts in the courtyard of an Italian factory
Work place for handstitching in a traditional shoe factory
Everyone is different with different needs – not only if it comes to design, personality and self-expression. The foot is a complex part of our body that needs to be taken care of. I always say: ‘Be good to your feet; they carry you through life.’ And this is exactly what we must take into consideration – each by their own, because our nature doesn’t know any standards. For a whole lifetime there is so much pressure and weight on our feet. We
should look after them, listen to our body and give it what it asks for. I feel like our modern society has taken that spark of originality away from us by standardising processes, fit, design and eventually us. We drift away from something that used to be so
important and useful to who we are as individuals with an expressive nature unique to us all.
When I started making shoes I went through different stages of my personal opinion. First it was the craft itself that was most important to me. However, what makes it challenging and exciting is the ever-changing design that we bring to life on people’s feet.
I asked myself: ‘What do I stand for? Does the pleasure an object of art can bring into our lives, weigh more than the sacrifice of comfort we take into account by wearing it? I mean, how many times have we seen ladies (and nowadays also more and more gentlemen) compromise on comfort just to squeeze into their favourite pair of shoes? How many times have we seen shoes built for comfort, but lack the design and uniqueness that we are looking for?
My conclusion was: I don’t want to choose between comfort and design. I want to master the rules of shoemaking to then break them to create something unique and personal. I aim to make shoes of integrity for people of character; shoes that tell a story and help give you a sense of joy, but also confidence and authenticity.
It is again comparable with music, like Charlie Parker liked to say: ’Master your instrument, master the music and then forget all about it and just play.’
Atelier Stefani is like an old symphony, remastered by our contemporising musicians. It has one foot in the past, following traditional rules of the craft, while also smoothly and gracefully stepping forward into the future.
I strive for ‘the rebirth of the cool’, for exploring the world and also evolving in my own character. I want to be true to myself and to you, do what I love doing and bring that little something to the world, that makes life a bit more enjoyable.
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