Bespoke Shoemaker Alexander Fielden
What do you get when you mix a medieval-inspired bespoke shoemaker
with an international footwear company, unashamedly driven by technology?
An unexpected amount of common ground. We speak to shoe couturier
Alexander Fielden about his work and a somewhat unlikely collaboration with ECCO.
"I started off not knowing what I was
doing at the art academy," Alexander
says. "I knew I was on the right track to
somehow becoming a creative
but at that time, I didn't understand a
whole lot about the world, but doing
creative things, that gave it sense."
"When I first started designing, there
was a lot of handwork," he says. "At that
time, there were no computers for 3D
design, you made everything by hand,
and I think it really shaped me."
But while he spent his daytime studying
at the Utrecht School of Arts, it was
his job in a shoe store that
helped define his career the most.
"I was working in a shoe store, and then I
started to draw theh2 shoes that we had in
the store," he says, "And I thought, 'Hey,
there's something with this, I like this!' So, I
did some research and I fell in love."
That love saw him spend the next three
years making shoes from scratch in a
course that included everything from
measuring techniques of the foot, to
final construction. Eventually there came
a time when he couldn't do both, so he
parted ways with the art academy and
went out on his own instead.
"I got help from a teacher — one of the
best bespoke shoemakers in the world,
Rene van den Berg," he says. "He was
a teacher at the shoe course, and he
gave me the confidence to execute
all the ideas that I had thought were
impossible to make. Within a year I
made a group of shoes, applied for a
fund, and could set up a studio."
"I got grounded physically when I found
shoes. It's the metaphor I still use every
day — that the shoe is the first contact
on Mother Earth, that it's where we
stand. Shoes have the ability to express
how men walks through life. It's always
been a red thread through my life."
From 2005, Alexander made one-off,
bespoke shoes, mostly for female clients,
from about €1500 a pair, until another
job at a clothing store saw him fall in
love again — this time with men's shoes.
"With women's shoes you can go crazy,"
he says. "You can do a lot of things, but
with men's shoes, it's different. For me,
I always found it very daunting to play
with the fact that the boundaries are
In 2010 he launched his first men's
shoes and leather goods range: 'The
Wanderers Collection' and grew a name
in the 'darkwear fashion' world, bringing
his designs to stores like Darklands Berlin,
ISETAN and Lift Ecru in Tokyo, Hotoveli in
New York, and Antonioli in Milan.
It was on this journey that Alexander
developed a relationship with ECCO
Leather, using their leathers to make his
modern, medieval-inspired silhouettes,
and also attending their annual 3-day
"Hot Shop" leather innovation workshop.
"I didn't realise it at the time, but they
had been setting up an artisanal 'stealth
artisan' project as a rough sketch, and
they invited me to come and play."
Describing his own style as something
"in between — a medieval untraveled
Future" Alexander says he finds inspiration
in many things, in everyday objects
like curbs and pavement.
"It's a bit crazy," he says, "But I can be
very excited about a piece of metal
that's been bumping around for two
years on the street. You cannot recognise
it anymore, but somehow it has a
reference to what it was, its 'deformation'
brings the freedom of looking at
something from a new perspective."
"The essence I've found within my work
has an alter ego — the Wanderer,"
Alexander says. "He is a time traveler —
he can move deeply into the past, and
the untraveled future or parallel worlds.
It's all about having an open mind to
anything that he finds interesting."
And while his ideas might seem to
belong in a somewhat parallel world, his
design sensibility is very pragmatic.
"I don't like to fake things. If it's there,
it needs to have a function," he says.
"I've never thought it before, but I really
like all these technical boundaries
you have to push against. That was
thing about working with
ECCO — being part of a new process