Creating such beautiful, quality hand-crafted work has always been a source of inspiration. The child in me, that I will never give up, sees it as a magical process. At one point in life having a career creating work ‘by-hand’ instead of ‘by-mind’ was something I learned was frowned on. However with some ‘unlearning’ I realized it is a skill to embrace and cherish. Finding videos such as this Gucci moccasin production is a reminder of that.

Cheers to those that make magic with their bare hands, I will forever be inspired by the process and beauty derived from it.

How Christina Durante of Femmes Sans Peur Shoes Sculpted her Career in Footwear

Christina Durante FemmesSansPeur._OCOdesignsBlog

Christina Durante of Femmes Sans Peur Shoes

Christina Durante is the Founder & Creative Director of Femmes Sans Peur. Femmes Sans Peur translates to “fearless women”, a name quite fitting for Christina who, since the day I met her, has been fearless in the expression of her authentic creative voice. She is a free spirited creative and friend I had the opportunity to attend design school with at The Fashion Institute of Technology. Her fearlessness and authenticity lead me to inviting her to join the conversation surrounding “Designing your Career in Footwear; mentoring your younger creative self”. Read about the tools she used in the sculpting of her footwear career path below. You can also learn more about and shop her collection of shoes at www.FemmesSansPeur.com.

“I have always painted my story with a palette knife verses an actual brush. Sculpting my story with all of its peaks and plateaus, plains and cliffs; sometimes you just have to jump!”

A vision remains just that without training, preparation|strategic steps. What were some of your training|preparation steps?
CD: It started for me as a child, I would draw all of the Disney characters, thinking I would become an animator. Bob Ross was in my wheelhouse. I remember feeling ecstatic opening his entire painting set for Christmas; this was the year I began painting with the palette knife!
A shoe designer is part artist, architect and engineer; the shoe has to fit after all. I believe the most important asset to learn is correcting shoes; only a select few have the eye to correct the lines on a shoe to make it speak to you. There have been many teachers along the way as I designed my career path and I benefited from all of them. Each had their particular skill set so I took away what I could. I’ve always been able to sketch, but drawing a shoe design to scale for the factory was the first most important thing I learned within my four days of working as a Design Assistant at Dolce Vita Shoes. Next came building new constructions from original samples purchased on design trips. Line building followed, as well as curating a line of shoes ranging from flats to heels and everything in between while maintaining the brands identity.


What were the boldest, most influential strokes (i.e. steps) you made while designing your career path that lead you to where you are now?
CD: I always knew I wanted to have my own business someday so I made sure to intern at many different types of companies while I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology. I completed seven internships in the five years that I went to school there, while always working part-time and spending endless sleepless nights working on projects. I guess I have always had that fire lit under me to push forward. While completing my bachelors program, I hand-painted vintage pumps as a hobby, later selling them to boutiques in the East Village, Lower East Side and Soho; this led to my foray into shoes. What was one more year of college? Apparently this was the most important decision that I made, or I would not be where I am today.

As you sculpted you story, what peaks (i.e. challenges) did you encounter? How did you navigate through the rough terrain?
CD: There will be people you work with in this life that you will not get a long with. No matter how many times you try to please these people, they will find something wrong with your attitude, your work, your ensemble and they will find ways to put you down. These people are reflecting their own negative experiences and feelings onto you because they themselves do not want to deal with them, or know how too. You can respectfully disagree with them but it will not get you far.
Instead, make suggestions or add some of your own ideas|work in addition to what you are assigned. Always be polite (even when you want to throw a shoe at their head or go cry in a corner), bite your tongue (even when you’re being cursed at) and know that you will learn from these experiences. Be the bigger person and do not burn bridges. Everyone knows everyone. In the end, you will be the one with all of the success!

Does the concept of balance resonate with you?
CD: Is balance a foreign word? Just kidding. This is something very hard to achieve in this life, let alone this industry. There definitely have been times I had the opportunity to balance my schedule|work|life|friends, but currently it is a pendulum that never stops. So balance does resonate with me, I just need to find it!

Do you have a particular regimen or practice you do to get into the creative zone? (music, meditation, tea…)
CD: Tea is for relaxing! To exercise your creative juices you need a good cup of coffee, all of your inspiration laid out in front of you (either on the wall, floor or table) and some great tunes to sing along with to get you moving! Haha.

What is the most important bit of wisdom gained your younger creative self should remember?
CD:This is my best advice in both work and life: Don’t worry about things that you cannot control. If you make a mistake, take responsibility for it and work to resolve the issue. Your superior will respect you more for owning up to your faults and you will learn from it.


BLOG # 1_IMAGEWe are the designers of our destiny, choosing the colors and strokes to paint our paths…or not. Hindsight is the recognition of the realities and possibilities after its occurrence. I remember the first strokes painted when I started designing my career in footwear. A fearless painter using bold strokes, vibrant reds and fuchsias, pop colors were all over the place. Fearlessly lead by the fire within my spirit, knowing I would be as excited in my design field twenty years down the road as I was then. Fast-forward nine years and I continue to be fueled by the fire within my spirit; however I am now grounded with hindsight that has gifted me bits of wisdom.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have considered incorporating neutrals and grounding colors by factoring balance, wellness and daily spiritual practice into my path design. I would have approached the design more as a line-builder tasked with creating a balanced collection. I mean who designs a collection of only pops and shades of reds? Smh…

At times I play out a conversation with my younger creative self, in my head. Creating a fantasy world where I mentor her and guide her with the wisdom gained from hindsight. I edit her work and probe her to consider the idea of balance in her design. It’s this recurring thought that sparked the inspiration to write this journal post, and more to come.

Every so often females thinking about starting their journey in the footwear industry reach out to me with inquiries. They too are considering the colors and strokes to use in their design. So I figured why keep this conversation with my younger self in my head…why not put it out there? Share it?

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with and-for brilliant, creative and hardworking women who put in the work each season churning out beautiful coveted footwear. Each with their unique career path design that lead them where they are, and composed of an array of colors and strokes that represent bits of wisdom, challenges and tales they faced along the way.

 I figure why not include them in on the conversation, while exploring the concepts of creating|maintaining balance, wellness, spiritual|creative practice in the context of designing a career in footwear. So that’s the plan and I am excited to learn from this conversation and the exploration of concepts…

Stay tuned for more…

Monique Pean’s New Web Campaign Spread

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Image taken from www.MoniquePean.com

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Image taken from www.MoniquePean.com

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Image taken from www.MoniquePean.com

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Image taken from www.MoniquePean.com

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Image taken from www.MoniquePean.com

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Image taken from www.MoniquePean.com

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Image taken from www.MoniquePean.com

Monique Pean jewelery is a brand that I pay close attention to and love for a number of reasons. So naturally I make it a point to check out her site on occasion. This time when I stopped by I was hit with an audio/visual stimulating ad campaign, I could not help but share it. Everything about it is a reflection of the authentic brand voice and what I see as an extension of Monique Pean herself. The model even bares a slight resemblance to the designer. I would love to know the inspiration behind the shoot.

Monique Pean has and continues to be a designer and brand inspiration, one I hope to have the opportunity to interview/meet in the future!

Check out her page while the campaign is still up at www.MoniquePean.com.


Trials & Tribulations of a Footwear Designer


Photo Credit: Joe Raedle

Trip to the Shoe Repairman

Since moving to the West Coast and my last factory visit, I accumulated a bag of heels, boots and flats all in need of repair. The days of having my team technician replace an outsole, top lift or even fix a broken heel has been long. Dreaded was the day I knew I would have to visit a local repairman as it would mean building a new relationship and from experience I am very aware of all it involves.
Seven years designing & developing footwear in various countries I learned to be ‘passionately detached’ to first protos. You get really excited about a design you sketch and detail so beautifully then you open the shoebox and your heart sinks when the proto received is so far from what you communicated. This would happen for at least 3 styles per collection and you never really knew which it would be. As heartbreaking as it was, I understood it to be part of the relationship building and development process.

The Drop-off
So the day arrived when I really needed to find a repairman. I was to attend an important meeting and wanted to wear my favorite pair of Jill Sander winter white patent slingback pumps. To be sure I found the right shop, I called the holy grail of footwear supply stores which happens to be in my neighborhood. He gave me a referral and I went right away to the shop, Jill Sanders in hand. I figured I would see how he does with this one before sending more his way, you know step-by-step. I spoke with the owner explaining the three main details to be repaired: replacement of the leather outsole on the platform, new top lifts, and lightly clean marks. He reported back that he could do it and quoted a steep price. I left feeling good (despite the price) that I was clear communicating the work to be done.

The Pickup
I arrived and was handed my Jill Sander pumps and my heart sank. As my heart pumped I was taken back to being in the office opening a shoebox to find a very scary-looking proto staring back at me. Back to the countless times growing up family members and friends would tell me “you are too picky, just accept it the way it is”. At that point I decided to ‘check’ my emotions and doubts, instead trust my eyes and focus on the main red flags on my, now sad looking, Jill Sanders. I proceeded to explain to the repairman my main concerns:

  1. The beautiful patent leather luster quality was gone. I now realize that this was due to him applying paint to coverup marks!
  2. The top lift was at least 3mm larger than heel itself, the color was distracting but acceptable.
  3. There was now a third color spotted throughout the shoe!

Unwanted Advice
As the repairman tells me his part, his partner decides to take my shoes and clean off the excess top lift; a major detail that should have been caught. I then hear grunts to my side. Turning to my right I make eye-contact with an older woman you proceeds to tell me “sweetie, you can’t have perfection in life” and rudely asks if she can go ahead of me since I was taking so long. At this point I thought I was transported to the twilight zone, I had a few choice words to shoot off at her but being raised to respect elders I addressed her in a graceful, diplomatic fashion. She then huffed some more, threw a colorful word at me and left.

The Conclusion
I could tell the repairman was sincere in his efforts; however, major details were overlooked resulting in a watered down version of my favorite Jill Sander pumps. I left with a discount on the service and lessons learned.

  1. Always trust my instincts and abilities. I knew not to suggest cleaning the patent. I have always found success removing marks my way but for some reason thought he would know a better way.
  2. Don’t let what people think of you taint your vision. Instead filter out the fluff and focus on creating your unique vision.

Anyone here in the Los Angeles area with a repairman they love?
Share, please! I have a bag full of shoes in need of repair.




What Happened to Heel Interest in the Contemporary Footwear Market?

Footwear Heels_OCOdesigns

Fall’14 Footwear is looking too Conservative in my Opinion.

To be completely honest, I am not excited by style offerings in the contemporary footwear women’s market, at least what I’ve seen of Fall 2014. Let me explain, it’s always been about the heel for me. Roger Vivier’s signature Virgule heel, known as the ‘comma’, first created in 1963 and still relevant in 2014. Walter Steiger’s Claw heel continues to be a staple in his collections, refreshed, relevant and exciting today. I can go on with the list. Their innovative signature designs had a magical quality that excited me and contributed to my desire to design footwear. I remember creating my submission portfolio for design school, adding a signature heel treatment to each style in the collection. I may have went overboard but I just didn’t feel the shoe was complete without it. (The proposal got me in so I must have done something right).

Five years ago, the industry’s focus was on the platform of the shoe. High-fashion brands sent innovative platforms down the runway with the contemporary market quickly following suit. Season after season consumers were offered countless options to buy into. As of late, maybe 2012, the focus gradually heightened to the heel. The high point for being the SS13 and F14 shows with a large number of premier brands like Celine, Miu Miu, Lanvin, Balmain, Prada sending innovative heels down the runway. Heels were created out of metal spheres, metal frames, concealed plateau steel, molded leather, plastic molds, covered with mixed media — I was excited to see how it would translate into the contemporary market.

To my disappointment I have yet to see the excitement within the $150-$250 price point, instead style offerings have been on the conservative side. The ankle boot is back looking very much like previous seasons. The pump looks pretty basic with upper covered heel or leather stacked heel, nothing really exciting there. The ballerina is another staple coming back again with the 1-unit rubber sole/heel, or leather sole with stacked heel. Where did all the excitement go? Ok, a few brands have offered up some heel interest; however, only a few.

I understand the relationship between the economic climate and it’s effect on consumer spending. How buyers as a result took a more conservative approach with their seasonal buys. Brands scale back to keep costs down and margins up. From a contemporary footwear consumer standpoint my purchasing style has evolved due to the economic climate as well. Instead of making flighty emotional purchases based on the look of the shoe + sale price, I put my emotions in-check and further examine quality/fit, and then look for innovation in details that push the boundary of what that style represents. In the end I pay more for what I consider an investment that represents my unique style, the shoe transcends being just a fashion purchase to a statement of my style. From a contemporary footwear designer standpoint it is frustrating to have styles I create with heel treatments not make the cut, or get edited to be “safer” for fear the customer will not understand it. This is a thought as a consumer and designer I have yet to understand.

Bottom-line: consumers are looking to state their individuality through their style; let’s not be afraid to give the heel signature treatment. Contemporary brands should attempt exploring and creating their signature, a great place for this is the heel. The approach can be exaggerated, subtle, unconventional, minimal, the list goes on, as illustrated by the references pinned to my Pinterest board [Footwear_F14/W15_Heels]. In my (humble) opinion what is most important is keeping the signature closely aligned with the DNA of the Brand. This further creates the brand image while bringing the excitement back. Yes, cost is always a factor, however this can be done in a cleaver, cost-effective style that will payoff in the long run.

Just my thoughts, thank you for listening.
I could be wrong, love to hear your thoughts.

Sustainable Bone Beads, Creativity and Empowerment

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Kenyan bone bead Chevron design

I stumbled into the world of beads a couple of years ago and have been digging deeper since then. The more I dig the more I learn, their story. As I learn their story, I learn my story. As I work with them, using them in my designs I gain more clarity and further cultivate my creative expression.

My first love in the bead world has been the Kenyan bone bead. My initial attraction was physical, of course 😉
The contrast of ivory against dark brown, the juxtaposed colors together creating striking graphic designs full of impact struck a chord within me!
I was taken back to the day I first discovered Acoma Pueblo tribe pottery while in Santa Fe, NM. The pottery designs were so intricate, each line with a deeper meaning, together telling a story unique to individual families. Everywhere I saw them I instantly had such a strong attraction to them, I actually felt a spark of inspiration within me. I wondered if the same were true of the designs my first love are adorned with. As I dug deeper I realized my love’s story wasn’t within each design line, rather in the creation of them.

The bone beads are sustainable designs created from byproduct of food production. And, the actual transformation of them from waste into works of art by Kenyan artisans directly helped to economically sustain their families livelihood through the selling of them. This creative process* is one of resourcefulness, innovation and resilience in its rawest form. From a lack and a need, birthed an empowering solution. This resonated within me greatly.

The discovery of this further grounded my belief that creativity is an innate quality within each and every Being, whether we are aware of it or not. The choice is left to the individual to tap into it and allow it to further evolve them, or keep it dormant. Our art is the expression of our authentic creative voice which we are capable of using to empower ourselves and those around us.

As I continue to create and build my brand of OCOdesigns tribal statement jewelry, it is my desire for others to hopefully experience the transcendent energy of empowerment.

*check back for my blog entry detailing the creative process, it is quite interesting



“style is the answer to everything —
a fresh way to approach a dull or a
dangerous thing.
to do a dull thing with style
is preferable to doing a dangerous thing”
without it.
-Charles Bukowski

Taken from Charles Bukowski’s poem titled “Style”.
This is the audio clip him reading the entire poem.
So true.

Oops, i’ve stumbled into the world of beads…

OCOdesigns Jewelry

amber comes from fossilized sap of trees. a negative electrical static develops when rubbed together which can pick up tiny pieces of paper or lint!…keep that in mind when searching for authentic pieces

i’ve stumbled into a the world of beads and have become enchanted by african beads. actually, not only by those from my Motherland but globally…be it from Venice to India.

the first level attraction was physical (of course)…the brilliant pops of color are so engaging. then the graphic designs, how they vary so from bead to bead. i wonder what the story is behind each line (digging further to find more info on this)..then the organic form they take. most, at least the particular ones i am attracted to, are far from refined. rather they come as they are, and are even more beautiful for it.

as i explore past my initial physical attraction, i discover the depth of history they possess. at one point in time they may have traveled throughout continents such as from Venice, traded with African countries for commodities. what a distance to travel for these little lovelies.  some like the dZi bead, known as a “precious jewel of supernatural origin”, from Tibet is said to have been adorned by the gods who discarded them when they became blemished, thus explaining why they are seldom found in perfect condition.  (info about dZi bead found in the book titled “The History of Beads” by Lois Dubin”)

as i work on my collection, my interest for them grows. i love that not one is identical in shape, making pairing them together sort of a match-making game (i guess i am more like my Mom, a natural matchmaker, than i realized,). so far i’ve scored some pretty interesting pieces from Ghana through my Mom, flea markets i regularly filter through, and i still feel like there are more out there that are calling me to find them.

beads, specifically Bone Beads, have become essential for family planning in the country of Senegal. Georgetown University is said to have “pioneered” the use of Cycle Beads, which were handed out in Senegal. the beads are strung on a string and replicate the female reproductive cycle in days. each color denoting the various stages of the cycle, with the purpose of educated women about their cycle stages thus allowing her to be more in control of her fertility and family planning responsibilities. (want to read more on this, click here for the article this info was found).
who would have thought…you see how these little lovelies are pulling me into their world!

notice the graphic black+white Bone Beads (Ghana)

notice the graphic black+white Bone Beads (Ghana)

i am excited to see what my good friend Lollise will score for me during her inspiration trip to Ghana this summer. knowing her great taste and attention to detail, i know i have some greatness in store for me…and because i think her work as a handbag designer is so great, check out the latest collections at the company (Botkier) where she has been holding it down as handbag designer for years now, here.
for now here is a peak at the beads i am using for my current collection…and pics from flea markets.

i’m giving them time to bond before starting the match-making!

skulls have even made their way to the world of beads…not sure how i feel about it 

a lot of the metal beads are found in Ethiopia

more to come, enjoy!