I have been meaning to get this article out for about two weeks now (Feb 3rd!) – ever since I had the distinct pleasure of receiving a telephone call from Pasquale Fabrizio for an informal interview following the launch of his amazing new “Q by Pasquale” shoe line.
Unfortunately, a nice little winter illness running through my family combined with a minor back injury got in the way of my plans. But, with the wonders of ibuprofen & a few extra days of bed rest, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it all covered and am finally back on the shoe-blogging horse.
So, before I get to the details, let me share some of the photos that were sent to us from the launch party:
Pasquale posing with shoes and guests:
And, of course, shoes a la carte:
…they had their own red carpet!
Seriously, how TDF are these?
Now to the interview.
First off, let me say that what started as a straight interview covering his new shoe line slowly meandered into a more general conversation between shoe aficionados. It was an absolutely delightful time speaking with someone of similar interests on topics ranging from his new shoe collection to the role of fashion as a display of power and position among women.
The first things we covered were details specific to the 2010 Limited Edition collection which Pasquale referred to in conversation simply as the ‘Oscar’. These shoes, he stated “were really designed to be worn on the red carpet…We had celebrities who were interested in having these for the Grammy Awards. But, I felt that we had waited 5 years to design and make these shoes perfect, I wanted to have them appear at the Oscars first, where they were really meant to be seen.”
So, I admit, as a non-celeb watcher, I will have to watch the Oscar coverage on March 7th to see on whose feet these shoes finally appear!
Now, I had a lot of questions about the design and technical process needed to produce a completely transparent ‘glass’ shoe. We’ve all seen what happens when designers try to make plastic and vinyl shoes. Not pretty – and all too often the antithesis of that whole Cinderella/innocence ideal.
So, the first thing I had to ask was, “Why glass, and why this specific (Murano) glass?”
According to Pasquale, he was on a business trip with Italian suppliers about 5 years ago. He had always wanted to ‘get to it’ (create a shoe) and was looking for new leathers at Italian tanneries. “I wasn’t finding anything. Then we went to Venice and there was a shop with a glass-handled letter opener. And it looked like a stiletto heel. It was this Murano glass and I wanted to do something with it and to make a shoe that was all transparent”.
“What kind of technical challenges did you encounter making an all-glass shoe?”
“The whole thing has been a challenge but we saw it through. People kept saying ‘that can’t happen’. We had to make things and do things in a way that had never been done before. The glass is a high-tempered acrylic glass that is very strong – really a bulletproof glass. So, it is very strong and durable. But, the people who made the shoes didn’t have the experience or knowledge to work with these materials. So, we wound up working with people who were people like machinists who usually worked with metal. So, it was really a learning experience for everybody to do something that hasn’t been done before.”
“Is there any kind of flexibility to the shoe to allow for foot motion?”
“The sole is not flexible at all. But it is very durable. That is one of the reasons why it is a sandal. The heel of the foot has room to flex away from the sole as you walk since the sole does not move.”
Later in the conversation he noted that “Each glass-wrapped heel, just the heel portion, is made completely by hand. And the handcraft and time involved, plus the shipping on just this one portion of a pair of the limited edition shoes costs €1500-€2000. This is before the heel, sole and upper are joined and matched. So, even though the limited edition shoes are priced at $7500, we really are keeping the price as low as possible on this first 500 pair. It’s really about being able to be the first to do this thing that nobody else has done before.”
“So, if you had to create a whole new process, were you involved with adding any patents during this whole process?”
“No. We looked at the whole patent process, but I really want this to be something that is available to others to use. I am happy to have been the first to do this and that people will remember that I created this shoe that showed a different way to do this (making shoes) with both technique and artistry.”
“Will this be a continuing line, or was this a one-time occurrence?”
“We already have plans for our second line which we are producing. The ‘Africa’ line will not have the all-glass sole, so we will be able to produce it at a more accessible price point for more people. It will still be hand-made and have Murano glass elements, but it will be more traditional bottom materials which will allow us to keep the price lower for people who want something like this. ($700-$900)”
Pasquale also has a third line under development that sounds both completely different and intriguing, but I have been asked not to reveal that information. So, I can only leave the above hint; these are still in early development and I’d not want to be the one to give copyists and counterfeiters more ammunition to beat an original designer’s products to market.
Here are some publicity photos on the in-development ‘Africa’ shoes:
“Where will women be able to find your shoes?”
“You can contact us on our website, but we are in negotiation right now with several retailers, particularly on the Africa collection, and will release that information once details are complete.”
“So, are you exhausted?”
‘”Yes, terribly. But it’s exciting. The baby’s born, what to do next? But, things all fall into place.”
As for the rest of our conversation, I just want to put together some scattered quotes on a variety of topics to try to give you a feel for his personality:
On his glass shoes:
“It’s a fantasy of specialness. A woman puts on a glass shoe and it completely changes the way she moves. It affects her on a deep level.”
On being a man who notices shoes:
“I’m the oddball, looking at shoes. But women do that immediately….but I really think it’s wonderful for people to show fashion uniqueness….shoes are the ultimate accessory that makes an outfit.”
“I love accessories. With men it’s shoes and watches; with women it’s bags and shoes.”
Really, the man’s excitement and energy were palpable during our entire conversation. Pasquale Fabrizio must be like the Energizer Bunny in person. He is an active and experienced cobbler. He has designed and overseen production of a one of a kind luxury shoe collection. He has a wealth of knowledge gleaned from his work that he would like to ‘someday’ fit into the pages of a book (imagine a how-to on the care of your favorite bags, shoes, etc. from someone with so much first-hand experience). He is father to adult children. His family cobbling business will be expanding online to accommodate out-of-state customers with order tracking on shoe repairs for their 8000+ customer database (eta 2-3 months).
Oh my, just listing all of this makes me feel a little bit exhausted.
Of course, it’s also made me promise myself something else. When I next wind up in Los Angeles (likely on the inevitable family trifecta of Disneyland, Legoland & the San Diego Wild Animal Park), I will make an effort to drop by to see what he is up to by that time. And, as I’ll be coming from the Pacific Northwest, I’ll have to see how he feels about letting me buy him a cup of coffee and chat with him in person.