Shoe designer George Esquivel and Venice, Calif.-based hat maker Nick Fouquet teamed up to create a fall ’16 range of men’s shoes produced in Esquivel’s Orange County factory. Scroll down to see the collection.
But first, the two men talk with Footwear News about on the steps that went into blending their laid-back California aesthetics.
Step 1: Igniting the Conversation
Esquivel and Fouquet met while both participating in the “Wear LACMA” project this year, where the art museum enlisted 19 local designers to create one-off pieces. “We started talking, and it evolved easily,” said Esquivel. “Nick, like me, is a craftsman. He works with his hands.” Meanwhile, Fouquet was excited by the challenge of making his first foray into footwear and was immediately drawn to Esquivel’s hands-on manufacturing process. “I love things that have a story and a soul,” he said.
Step 2: Gathering Inspiration
After initial talks, Esquivel and Fouquet found inspiration by looking to their own shoe collections. “When I came to George, I had on these really old pair of shoes I found in London,” said Fouquet. “They were new when I bought them, but over time they developed an interesting patina, so we reinterpreted that.” Riffing off the idea, the two jumped right in and started experimenting — no sketches involved. “What’s the point of sketching if I can actually go downstairs and physically touch samples?” Esquivel asked.
Step 3: Diving Into Design
Esquivel and Fouquet decided to focus on a streamlined silhouette with handmade flourishes. “We wanted the design to be simple, but the process to make them is where the craftsmanship came through,” Esquivel said. Their efforts resulted in a lace-up boot and oxford shoe, crafted with hand-cut soles and hand-punched perforations. The Californians combined their skills more easily than expected. “I was surprised at the similarities between how we work,” said Esquivel. “The process for shaping hats is very similar to shaping shoes. He starts with a block, and I start with a last.”
Step 4: Perfecting the Final Touches
Much of the process was spent on the finalizing stages, where Fouquet and Esquivel worked to achieve the perfect distressed look. “There’s so much that goes into distressing leather — it’s actually easier to make a shoe look perfect and new,” said Esquivel. When Fouquet saw the final product, he had one more suggestion. “When I got the shoes, I loved them, but I knew there was something missing,” he said. “I took the laces out and patched vintage fabric together with my sewing machine to make fabric laces.”
Step 5: Hitting the Sales Floor
The collab styles will be available at Fouquet’s Lincoln Boulevard store in Venice, with prices ranging from $1,300 for the suede oxford to $2,200 for the leather boot. The shoes will also be sold in select retailers worldwide. But the two designers stressed that selling shoes wasn’t the main objective of their partnership. “There was no pressure during the process,” said Fouquet. “The whole purpose was to have some fun.”