We came across Andrew McDonald shoemakers only a couple of years ago although he had been established since 1992. In a small workshop in Sydney’s Surry Hills designing bespoke handcrafted shoes for men and women, his store attracts those who have an appreciation for footwear tailor made & divinely individual. His skill and artistry were quickly recognized overseas and Andrew was soon to be awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 1996 to understudy master shoemakers, John Lobb of London and Paul Harnden shoemakers.
On his return to Sydney, Andrew opened his current shop/workshop in Paddington. Founded on his craftsmanship and design exploration. The team comprises a dedicated group of shoemakers at the forefront of footwear and accessories design. “The craft of making shoes”, as Andrew would say, “and what to look for when you’re buying shoes is so important. The key points to knowing you have a magnificent shoe are firstly the materials. High quality leather must be seen in the sole or the upper shoe. Secondly, look at the construction, the way the materials are put together. How does it fit? How is the shoe shaped? Does it give your foot comfort and support, and finally, the appearance, the style, how does it show off your outfit and character. If you can get all those elements at once, you’re looking good.”
Andrew works out of Williams Street in Paddington, it’s residential and a lot of old homes have been transformed into retail stores. It seems like a community, and it’s intimate. Most of the retailers on this street love it like that. They feel when a customer walks into their store, they put the kettle on and pull out some chairs to have a chat to them about life, and what they want. It’s a destination. He’s very aware of what people are wearing, and notes that Australians are not that educated in footwear compared to the older cities of Italy or Paris.
“Many Australians will buy footwear that lasts them a very short amount of time. Manufactured shoes aren’t sustainable. Consequently, we have shoes only worn for 6 months and they end up in the tip and they’re not biodegradable. These manufactured shoes are not made so that you can repair them. It’s most unfortunate.”
Andrew makes over 500 pairs of shoes a year. You buy a pair of his handcrafted designs and you have them for a lifetime. If after two years the trend changes, three years later they will be back in fashion. Each shoe has a life expectancy of at least 10 years. In addition to getting your moneys worth, Andrew designs for people who want something different.
Central to the new range from Andrew McDonald Shoemaker is the investigation of the relationship between craftsman, object and owner. This approach is in reaction to the global climate of mass production and excessive consumption. All items are designed, made and finished in our Sydney workshop, combining traditional shoemaking techniques with quality materials and new technologies in surface customization.
Each style has been based around the surface qualities of the hide from which it is constructed, the leather serving as a blank canvas for artistic expression. One approach has been to unite industrial materials such as iron filings and processes like paint blasting with the yielding qualities of vegetable-tanned Kangaroo leather, producing a multi dimensional patterning unique from shoe to shoe.
The flowing qualities of ink have also been combined with smooth chalk calf in a modernized tie-dye technique, resulting in lyrical marbled patterns not dissimilar to a Rorschach test. Another focus within the range has been the selection of the highest quality calf and horse hides from around the globe, in particular, those responsive to a variety of polishing, staining and distressing techniques. Olive green horse leather and chromexcel calf have been sourced for their unique vegetable re tanning processes. Resin coated hides from Italy and cordovan from Japan also offer the maximum in durability and individual wear.
The culmination of all the above processes is a range of limited edition footwear that refutes the mass production logic: shoes for the mindful customer who seeks something beautiful and uncommon.