Westerly Handmade Shoes, Fashion and Leatherwork

#250-1000 Parker St (D3)

What's your medium of choice and why?

Over the years I have trialed many different products and materials, and I'm always fine tuning the selection. Full grain leather has always been my top choice for making footwear. I find it to be the most comfortable and resilient material, both to work with and to wear. I gravitate towards leathers tanned with a soft finish allowing the natural depth and texture of the hides to show through. The leather choice has a huge impact on the feel and aesthetic of the finished product, so I spend a lot of time and care selecting what I will work with. I also use a variety of vegetable tanned leathers to add internal support, and to build the soles and heels. In our wet climate it is imperative to protect soles from the elements, to this end I work with various thicknesses and treads of rubber. As a finishing touch and to add to the tactility and coziness, I work with merino wool for the foot bed liners. Delicious.

Where do you find your inspiration?

The main inspiration in footwear design and making needs to come from movement. Our feet are always in motion, and in order to give comfort our footwear needs to offer support and to flex in response to our movements. A pair of shoes can't just be pretty on the shelf, they need to look good and perform well when they are taking us out into the world.

What new pieces will you have at the Crawl?

This year's Culture Crawl will be the first in-house showing of Westerly's new Made to Order collection that launched in September. With the new launch, Westerly can now offer an additional level of service by allowing clients to place online orders on select boot styles. Of course, some of us (myself included!) prefer a 'live' experience and the Crawl is your opportunity to come by and take a look at the collection up close.

Describe your studio space a little – is it more minimal and contained, or is it sprawling?

My studio is my haven. The aesthetic of my surroundings influences my creative juices, so I've taken care to bring in pieces that inspire beauty, craft, and tradition. While the studio is an efficient workshop filled with materials and tools, it's also where I share time and space with clients, and it's the Westerly showroom too. For these reasons, I've made a point of maintaining a lot of open space to accommodate visitors and free thoughts! I spend a lot of time in my studio, and it's worth the effort to create a space that soothes my soul.

Do you listen to music while you’re working?

At almost any time of day you could find me listening to CBC Radio. It's my contact with the outside world when I get caught up in my shoemaking bubble! That said, when I'm pattern making I need gentle, lyric-less music for concentration. And when I have clients in the studio, I like music: Edith Piaf, Frazey Ford, Amy Winehouse, David Kitt, just to name a few.

Westerly Handmade Shoes is a small shoemaking practice based in East Vancouver, founded by shoemaker Renée Macdonald in 2012.