They say that color is life – and that’s exactly what Heidi Cozens hopes to translate through her eloquent and eclectic selection of footwear that is supplied via her namesake business Heidi Louise Shoemaker.
Having a quick glimpse of the range of footwear that is offered via Heidi Louise Shoemaker, you are instantly captivated by the floral and florescent patterns that are designed by drawing inspiration from marine life and the contours of the female body to create shoes that are not only stylish, but also hella comfortable – a luxury in its rarest forms!
With the upcoming Gathered Design Market in Hahndorf from December 13 – 15, 2019, I had a Q&A with Heidi about her anticipations around participating in the market as a stall holder – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Heidi: My greatest passion in life is shoes – I live and breathe shoes! The smell of the leather, what beautiful colour I can design with next, the head-to-toe coverage of the soling dust as I grind & fit the soles. It’s difficult to decide what I like most about making shoes, I’m most certainly addicted to buying leather, the feel of leather, and the way it evolves with the wearer. I do love the design process, but more the evolution of that design. When making shoes, it’s not until the upper is lasted up (stretched and shaped over the last mould to give the shape & size of the shoe) that you see the shoes as a 3D object for the first time, I do love that moment! But, there is nothing like the feeling of finishing the shoes and being able to wear them. To wear something you have made yourself is very special, especially after the hours of labour involved.
I grew up in a small country town Keith South Australia & moved to Adelaide after High school to study fashion at Marleston TAFE. I actually wanted to be a costume designer and maker but there didn’t seem to be any study options for that at the time & as I was into making my own clothes that I designed myself, it seemed like the next step. However, it was too conforming for me! I’m sure it would have changed now that was a long time ago. I went on to study Footwear at Marleston which was 2 years full-time and graduated in 1994. While working in hospitality, I attended shoemaking classes with an Adelaide shoemaker Tim Skyrme and later decided to start up my own business.
Tema: What attracted you to the idea of basing your business around shoes in particular?
Heidi: When you study to become a shoemaker, there isn’t really a lot of options. You either start your own business or invest a lot of money in a very expensive hobby. When I started making shoes, we didn’t have the luxury of choices that we have now. We didn’t have as many of the imported mass-produced shoes. Clarks, Slatters, R.M’s & Rossi’s were all made here and they were the main choices locally. So, I really wanted to create unique and vibrant designs that stood out from the crowd. Even now in a sea of shoe choices, a really unique pair of boots sure catches the eye.
Tema: When Heidi Louise Shoemaker progressed from being a concept to a reality, what were the key principles that you based your business around?
Heidi: I wanted to create a business that would offer the highest quality product made by
hand from the highest quality materials. I wanted to offer my customers exceptional
customer service, where they’d be able to access direct contact between the maker (myself)
and them. I also wanted to offer my customers unique designs that not only deliver in
presentation, but also in comfort and durability.
Tema: How did you decide on the range of footwear that Heidi Louise Shoemaker was going to offer to its customers?
Heidi: This one is difficult to answer – while I don’t follow fashion, there is always some
influence as to the colours of the season, which tends to be the colours that people are
looking for. When making stock for markets, I tend to make some designs in the colours of
the season and some of the most popular colours and styles that have been popular in my online shop with some of my new designs to see how people react to them. As I also do bespoke orders, I make shoes and boots for display that will tend to be my chance to design whatever I desire at the time to show what may be possible.
Tema: What do you hope for your customers to experience when purchasing from Heidi Louise Shoemaker?
Heidi: I hope that customers have an exciting and enjoyable experience when making a
purchase with me. The excitement of finding or having made the perfect shoe for them and
having an enjoyable experience in doing so; whether it’s having a bespoke pair of shoes
designed and made just for them or discovering a lovingly-created pair that I have in stock.
Tema: Where do you source your raw materials from, in order to create your colorful shoes?
Heidi: I purchase all materials locally from reputable suppliers to support other local businesses. I consider it important to support local in this industry. I have seen so many businesses disappear due to lack of support from local industry that has gradually moved overseas. Also, it is important to check the environmental policies that suppliers have in place when sourcing leather and materials.
Tema: How do you decide on the color combinations that would work for your shoes?
Heidi: That’s a tough one as it all comes down to instinct. I would fluff about putting different combinations together until I find one I’m happy with, then ponder on it for a day or so then check if I still like it. Sometimes, I love it once it’s made and sometimes, I don’t but then someone else does. Thankfully we all like different things.
Tema: Do you offer standard designs or are you open to custom orders as well?
Heidi: I do quite a lot of custom or bespoke orders, which make up about 40% of my business. The other 60% would be standard size or custom size of my own designs that customers can order online in the colour, width & toe shape of their choice, or sandals I have ready and available in stock.
Tema: What do you think helps Heidi Louise Shoemaker stand out from the rest in the industry?
Heidi: I would hope that my unique designs, custom choices, quality of materials, work ethic, and my personal touch to everything I make, and personal interaction with every customer is what makes my business a unique option of footwear for my customers.
Tema: What have you found rewarding about being a small-scale business in SA?
Heidi: Being able to have that in-person interaction with my customers! When selling online, I’m not able to have that face-to-face interaction with my overseas clients as they are all by either message or email.
Tema: What have you found challenging about being a small-scale business in SA?
Heidi: Having to compete with mass-produced imported shoes, along with the lack of local manufacture can make it difficult to source materials at times.
Tema: How long has Heidi Louise Shoemaker been in business for and how has the journey been like so far?
Heidi: I’m not entirely sure when I first started my business – I’d like to say it was in the early 2000’s, perhaps? It has evolved many times over from having a shopfront with my workspace out the back to working from home and going out to customer’s homes to measure and fit the shoes to an online business. Over the years, there have been times that my business had to take a back seat & be a part-time hobby business, while I went back to working full-time, and of course times like now that it has been a full-time job. Like any small business, it has most certainly been a roller coaster of a journey through time, but thankfully mostly rewarding and enjoyable.
Tema: Where do you see Heidi Louise Shoemaker in the next 5 years?
Heidi: While I am perfectly happy to be making my income from doing what I love most, I would be even happier to have a slightly recognized brand and a booming online business.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA and how has the experience been like, so far?
Heidi: I came across Gathered SA in a google search looking for design markets, I was especially excited to be grouped with other handmade South Australian businesses. My first Gathered was at the Queens Theatre in October 2019. What a fantastic group of small handmade businesses, I am honoured to be included. Also the markets are so well organised which makes life so much easier for stall holders.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like us to know about you and Heidi Louise Shoemaker?
Heidi: I also make the sandals worn by the students at Brighton Secondary School, so if you
are ever driving along Brighton Road during summer and notice the brown roman sandals
that the students are wearing, each pair is handmade by myself right here in Adelaide. Also,
I teach one-day workshops at the W.E.A on Angas Street, Adelaide, where you can come
and spend a day making your very own pair of leather sandals or leather crafts.
You can visit Heidi Louise (Shoemaker) at the Gathered Design Market from December 13 – 15, 2019 from 4pm – 10pm at the Thiele House in Hahndorf. Entry to the market is free and there is plenty of free street parking available nearby.
With thanks to Jenna O’Dell from Gathered SA for the interview opportunity
Interview conducted by Fatema “Tema” Sitabkhan
Answers and images supplied by Heidi Cozens