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.