Footwear designer Jessie Randall has been knitting and sewing for as long as she can remember, but the birth of her twin boys, Casper and Liam, in 2007, sparked a passion for quilting, and in turn, ushered in a new era of creativity when it comes to creating shoes.
“I’ve always been really interested in learning new craft skills,” said the Loeffler Randall partner and creative director, taking time out at the New York showroom to display one of her latest projects, a blue, Liberty-print quilt she made for her youngest child, 1-year-old Harry. “[Crafting] was definitely part of my life growing up. My mom is an amazing knitter, and my grandmother was a knitter. My grandfather made wooden toys. Everyone in my family has something they do.”
When Randall started her own family with her husband and business partner, Brian Murphy, she took a quilting class as a way to get out of the house for a few hours a week while on maternity leave. Since then, she has pieced together more than 10 quilts and blankets, including a child-size quilt for each of her three sons.
Randall also has kept up with her knitting and other crafts. Among her favorite free-time activities is potato printing: making stamps from the root vegetable. In addition, she and Murphy design custom T-shirts for their children and their friends for birthday parties and other special occasions.
“I love crafting because it enables me to have fun and be creative without any kind of pressure,” Randall said. “It allows me a freedom that I don’t necessarily have in my work life.”
It’s no surprise, then, that her passion for quilting crosses over into her work life, coming out through subtleties in her footwear designs, including Loeffler Randall’s fall ’11 bridal collection, which launched in August.
The line is a departure from the ultra-traditional bridal looks now on the market and includes surprising twists such as a lace-up stiletto in midnight velvet, stilettos in metallic lizard and snake-printed leather and mesh lace-up booties.
“[Quilting] definitely influences my work,” Randall said. “Techniques that I use in my crafts — for gifts or random little projects for the boys — lead to great ideas. [Loeffler Randall has] had a lot of success with ornamentation and coming up with new ways of manipulating leather and fabrics.”
The designer pointed out the Zuri Rosette Stiletto, a satin pump with a tonal tulle pouf on the toe box, as an example. “The rosette came from us just playing around with a piece of tulle,” Randall said. “One thing I love about crafting is that you’re actually manipulating the material with your hands instead of relying on a sketch. You can come up with a different result than you would if you were just sketching.”
Handling different fabrics also has given Randall a penchant for mixing and matching. “I love putting together different prints,” she said. “That’s definitely something we’ve been working with here at Loeffler Randall. For this past fall, we had a shoe called the Bree, [a wallaby chukka], that combined different patterns. I’m getting more and more into prints and patterns in my work. I love coming up with printed shoes that someone could wear with a printed dress or printed skirt.”
As inspiring as quilting might be for Randall, she said it can be difficult to carve out time for it between running a business and taking care of three children (including one who never sleeps, according to the designer). Even so, she’s rarely without a quilt or another crafty project.
“I’m sort of doing my crafts these days hiding on the side of the bed, hoping that [baby Harry] doesn’t wake up,” Randall said with a laugh. “It’s really hard [to make time], but it’s such a necessary outlet for me.”