With footwear so accessible and affordable on the high street, it needs a talented designer to break out of the mould and actually design a shoe with flair, originality and a distinct look. Please step forward Joanne Stoker and take a bow in those truly awe-inspiring heels.
Using architecture and details that others overlook, Joanne’s designs are based around places visited and which she’d fallen ridiculously in love with. From Cuba, New York to India; she has literally been around the world in her shoes and witnessed all that is great in each country. The journey begins with cut out glass detail in the heel, Deco-height, sculptured perspex and a metallic flamingo, then onto baroque elegance, marble tile, a fluorescent martini glass and an exotic plumage that tantalises the edge of a stranger’s bare ankle; before returning home with a little gift from all.
Touted by Vogue.com as ‘One to watch’, Joanne has been mentored by the man, the legend himself; Mr Jimmy Choo and launched her first collection with an impressive Selfridges installation. The lady with the soft Liverpudlian accent has world domination in her sights. You may be unaware of her designs right now, but trust me when I say she is not going to stay understated for long. With coloured LED chips in the heels of her shoes (which can be changed with a tap of an iPhone app) there is nothing not to like, be inspired by and worth spending graciously on.
Here I met with Joanne during London Fashion Week…..
How has Fashion Week been for you so far?
I have had a really good response from everybody; a lot of people love the fun of the collection. The pink Lotus ones seem to be a particular favourite, as are the new heel shape that I have created this season; the colour block square heel with the stones set in.
What is the main inspiration behind your shoes?
Each season I tend to look to a new place where I have travelled to. This collection is all based around India; Kerala, Calcutta, Mumbai… the rich colours, just absolutely amazing. The last was based on the Empire State Building in New York; each collection has a mix of architecture in them. Then the season before was influenced around Cuba and next, well I have a few ideas but just compiling them for the next couple of weeks. I need to get this Fashion Week over with first!
How did you get into footwear originally?
Well I studied Fashion and Textiles initially, as I really wanted to design shoes but was worried about specialising too early. After I realised my textiles were more suited to footwear; laser cutting, embellishment, different textured leathers etc. So I went onto study a Masters at Cordwainers College in Footwear Design; in between the transition from textiles to footwear, I worked at a construction and architectural company, which is where I obtained my inspiration from buildings. I built a lot of architecture models whilst I was there for sub-contractors and worked with the scale of tall buildings all the time. I then started to look into the link between shoes and architecture. Footwear is not like clothing, in the sense that it really needs to support the body so has to be well balanced; the heels have to match perfectly, otherwise disaster! I won a competition with Jimmy Choo and had mentoring from the designer himself, which was great. He was lovely. I then just carried on developing my own collection from there.
Who do you have in mind when designing?
I would say someone who has more of an eclectic kind of dress sense; based around style as opposed to dressing well. Like myself; I do not have a specific look that I wear everyday but am always changing and looking somewhere else for inspiration. So somebody who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Oh, I’m going to be tropical today or military, nautical” etc, and is comfortable dressing in different styles.
What are your likes and dislikes in footwear and fashion?
Well my favourite designers are Prada, Miu Miu and Balenciaga but to be honest, I don’t really know as I have been so consumed in my own work and the collection, that you kind of forget what’s going on out there! I am always really excited for Fashion Week to see what everyone has been doing. But I am so particular about designing something unique; always looking at the finer details, that I have to move on and develop quickly. I can’t stay still!
What about collaboration wise, anyone you are dying to work with?
Well I have just finished a collaboration with Minx and WAH nails, who have based their patterns around the collection, which I am so happy about as I knew we would match perfectly with each other. They photographed my shoes in Las Vegas whilst I was over there, which they then developed onto a transfer and sent over to WAH, who turned them into amazing mosaic nail wraps. They are available at the Westfield in Stratford as part of a limited edition, so yes very exciting! Fashion wise I would love to collaborate with Holly Fulton, Christopher Kane and Mary Katrantzou; the more ‘poppy’ designers.
Who would you like to meet, dead or alive?
Well I would have loved to have met Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe! But Marc Jacobs also, I admire what he does, I mean, I would love to design for him as well, and Christian Dior; maybe I should send in my CV!
So have you managed to see any of the shows yet?
I haven’t, not yet as I have to stay here. But I am watching the Jayne Pierson show tomorrow night, to see her collaboration with Derek Lawlor as we all started out together and they will be using my shoes. They are including Royal Ballet dancers in the show which is going to be really nice.
What are your views on social media sites?
I have a Facebook page and I always post my press onto there, which I think is a good thing to let people know what is happening on a day-to-day basis. I’ve also got my website and blog which I’ve just started, but for me, digital is really important; everything is bought online.
What apps can’t you live without?
I have lots of apps! Probably the ones I use the most are Facebook, eBay and style.com but I am also developing my own app this season; some of my shoes have got LED chips embedded in the heel so you can actually go onto the app and change the colour! They don’t flash; instead glow, so you can wear them normal during the day and turn the light on at night. They last up to five hours and can be re-charged through your USB lead from your computer. The colours include red, blue, green, orange, yellow, white; they glow almost like a Tron instead of a discotheque!
Do you wear your designs often?
Not at the moment, as they cost so much to make that all the samples go to the press. But I have made sure that I have kept a couple of styles from each collection; especially this season as I love all of them and as they only have an 8cm instep, they should be really comfortable to wear. Because I am running around constantly all day, I think my feet have got used to flats! I have actually brought out a sample of flat shoes that are made out of grass and I would like to design more but I don’t want to just bring out ‘another’ flat style; instead something really different. When I first started as a designer, I was developing different toe shapes like the diamond, which has become a signature of mine and the hexagon this season, so when I do eventually bring out a flat style, they will follow that idea.
What is your current obsession?
I am addicted to the television series Boardwalk Empire! I love the 1920s feel; even with my shoes, which are quite Art Deco inspired.
As a keen traveller, what is a favourite place you have been to?
I absolutely loved Los Angeles when I went there three week ago; the majority of it was work and I only had two days off but I had such a good time. Everyone was so friendly, just really enjoyable!
What is a proudest moment so far?
Probably being involved in the Selfridges installation. To have that opportunity given to me, to launch my collection with them, was pretty incredible.
Is there a stand out piece from any of your collections?
Probably the Sapphire shoe from this season, which looks like a royal slipper. This is probably the craziest I would go, but saying that, I’m getting more extreme ideas pop into my head all the time!
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
Carrying on! I would like to get to a level where there’s not as much developing but more designing and collaboration work; to design within a fashion house would be amazing.
Joanne Stoker is stocked online.