Spherical shoes! Blowtorches! Welcome to Atalanta Weller's world!

12 August 2010

She’s the shoemaker who designed for everyone from Gareth Pugh to Clarks before setting up her own label. Grazia Daily ventured into deepest Hackney to visit Atalanta Weller in her studio – and see where the magic happens. Everyone else in the studio complex is working hard on a Friday afternoon, but even though there are only a few weeks to go till fashion week,  Atalanta is calm rather than flustered as we settle down to talk shoes over a cup of tea.

Grazia Daily: How’s the new collection coming along? Are you still working on it or what stage is it at?

Atalanta Weller: Well, my own S/S ’11 collection is all finished now and it’s been sent off to the factory. However I’m making the shoes for Craig Lawrence’s collection as well and they are still in development. [Takes out a sort of crazy hunk of Styrofoam and shows me where the foot will go inside] You see they are huge HUGE wedges but to wear they are extremely lightweight because I like to use quite hi-tech materials that they use to make trainers . . . It’s a very strong look, but very wearable at the same time.


GD: How did you get started in designing shoes?

AW: I trained in footwear at Cordwainers College in London. Funnily enough I now teach there – I’m a visiting lecturer on the MA course. I really like it, my students are cool. Before coming to the point of doing my MA I originally did a sculpture degree!


GD: Wow! That explains quite a lot about your shoes then, especially the huge show pieces.

AW: Yes I know. Some of the shoes I’ve done are just complete one-off pieces that I sort of make purely to see if I can – although, sometimes they are possible to make but not possible for the model to walk in! The spherical ones – they are all woven out of hundreds of metres of leather strips and ribbon and you CAN walk in those, although because they are so wide, you have to walk in quite a strange way [demonstrates funny bandy-legged walk]. I’ve lent them out to loads of people for shoots though, and my favourite was in a French magazine called Jalouse. Then there are the giant wooden ones. (below) They are for sitting down in only.

GD: Tell us about your career so far . . .

AW: I’ve worked in shoes for quite a while. Since graduating I’ve worked for John Richmond, Hugo Boss and Clarks, so I’ve experienced the complete spectrum of shoes! I’ve worked around the world in Brazil, China, Italy and Portugal, although I’m still learning about it all.

One of the main things I’ve done as well as my own collection is work with other London designers to produce shoes for their catwalk shows. I worked with Henry Holland on his first five seasons.


GD: How was that?

AW: That was a really nice collaboration, he’s a really easy person to work with. He’d just brief me really loosely – for example, this season I’m really feeling spots, or stripes, and then I’d make him some spotty or stripey shoes and he’d always be like – that’s perfect!

GD: Who else have you worked with?

AW: I worked making shoes for Gareth Pugh before that, and now I'm working with Craig, and I did a season for Sinha Stanic. To be honest, one of my favourite things of all is collaborating AND I absolutely love a catwalk show.

GD: So do you get quite involved in the prep for the show itself?

AW: Oh yes, I’m very hands on. I’ll be there, scrabbling around on the floor backstage, strapping the models into their shoes. The Gareth Pugh shows were incredible. I remember we were somehow shrink wrapping the models’ legs with a blowtorch as they were lining up to go out!



AW: OK, blowtorch isn’t quite what it was. More like an industrial hairdryer.

GD: Blimey! Tell us about your latest collection

AW: I’m really pleased with it. I’m really happy with the way the shoes have turned out. I feel they are maybe slightly more feminine than things I’ve done before and certainly wearable. Possible the most wearable collection I’ve done so far.

GD: How do you fit into the NEWGEN scheme?

AW: I launched my label under my own name last September and I’ve always known about NEWGEN and aimed to be involved with them because of the ready-to-wear designers I worked with. I think I was the second ever shoe person they’ve had – Nicholas Kirkwood was the first. NEWGEN is more brilliant than simply sponsoring your London Fashion Week stand or show – there are seminars and events throughout the year – they advise you on what you need to be doing to push your business forward and besides that – the camaraderie is good. You really do feel you are part of a ‘generation’ of designers, you can help each other out and also, when we got whisked to New York with Sarah Mower and when we go to Paris to do the exhibition then it’s really good fun as well as a work trip because you’re part of this little gang!

Tell us about celebrity clients!

Ha ha ha, I know that Rihanna, Agyness Deyn, and Skin have worn my shoes. Emma Watson very sweetly emailed me to say how much she liked my designs, although I need to remind myself to send her some! Oh, and the other week they popped up in the video for Robyn’s song – Hang With Me. A friend of mine sent me the clip on Youtube with a note – 2mins 39 seconds! That’s the moment when they appear!

Have a look for yourself!

Thank you so much Atalanta! We’ll see you at fashion week!

Have a look at Atalanta's WEBSITE for more info

-Naomi Attwood



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