Shoes, glorious shoes

Many people — and not just women! — fancy their fashions, top to bottom. Although hats have made a noticeable comeback over the past few years, a solid shoe fetish never goes out of style. That’s where Agnete “Chippy” Todd comes in. A local shoemaker, Todd says that she has enjoyed a lifelong love of shoes: “As a child, I spent a lot of time on a little island in the Baltic Sea called Langeland. On this island, there was a shoemaker. I often remember peering into his work space and visualizing the beautiful shoes he was making. I have always been good at working with my hands and, before I decided to focus my energies on shoemaking, I studied art and design, which only helped shape my interest in the dying art of shoemaking. In some respects, studying a dying art is much like studying a dying language, and I felt compelled to learn all there was to know. After all, shoes are a necessity and I found it simply odd not to know how to construct one.”


Cordwainer, not cobbler

Following the dying language thread a bit further, it is significant to note that the retro-cool craft of making shoes belongs to a cordwainer, not a cobbler. Todd explained, “Shoe making — or cordwaining — is the art of making shoes, whereas a cobbler is someone who fixes shoes. I know it’s a funny thing to try to differentiate, but it shows how even the word cordwaining has become lost in the American English language.” To properly learn the traditional trade of cordwaining, Todd went to Denmark, London and Italy, soaking up each culture along the way. “It was not until I went to Italy that I fully understood the art of shoemaking. In Italy, every line on the last — the body of the shoe — every stitch on the upper oozes with the perfection of the craft. Every shoe enthusiast I met in Italy loved the craft and their specialty to the tips of their toes. I say ‘specialty’ because, in Italy, every step of shoemaking requires a trained technician. There is rarely, today, an individual who does every part, unless you go to southern Italy or roam the streets of Florence. The passion that people had for shoes made me feel completely blessed that I was given the opportunity to learn from them.”

Technology versus tradition

Todd’s passion for tradition is evident in the styles that she designs and in the hand-stitching techniques that she employs. She observed, “I am most interested in designing classic flat wear. I like to study the elegance of the line of the pattern and what would make it different.  As the fashion world moves faster and faster with each coming trend, there will always be timeless styles that will endure and last.”

Slow fashion on the rise

In parallel to the boom of the slow food movement and other artisan trades, Todd has witnessed — and is part of — a similar consciousness within fashion. “With an increased interest in slow fashion and quality-made goods, I definitely see a trend,” she mused. “There is also very little waste besides that of necessity, as every piece of material has a purpose and can be used in some way or other; close to nothing is wasted. When an item is handmade personally, it is completely unique. This is one of the things which I enjoy most about shoe making — that every pair of shoes is more like a unique piece of art.”