Paula Gerbase had a simple answer when asked what inspired her fall 2017 collection for John Lobb: water. She described it as an “unsung hero” that is central to everything the brand does: The label’s founder hails from the British seaside town of Cornwall, while its headquarters are near the Northampton river in the English countryside.
“It’s so instrumental to the location of where all the shoemakers are because they started to do the tanning near the river that runs through Northampton. Also, water is the one element that makes shoes really shine. When we start the finishing process, we intersperse water with wax,” Gerbase said during the presentation of her fall 2017 range for the British footwear brand, which featured a video of falling water in the background and water-filled displays.
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The focus on water also translated into the materials used in the collection, which included a croc-suede turned inside out to ensure it is waterproof. It was featured across a series of buckled ankle boots in a muted palette of navy, khaki and black.
“It’s a naturally waterproof material. That’s how a lot of the leathers started to come around, which also means they get better with wear,” added Gerbase.
She used the same material, as well as the brand’s signature “museum leather” — usually reserved for formal shoes — to create elevated versions of the popular John Lobb low-top sneakers.
“It’s always been about taking formal techniques and applying them to the sneakers but then also developing ideas like the lightness and the flexibility of sneakers into the traditional techniques. It’s interesting to have that dialogue at all times,” said the designer.
The contrast between the classic and the athletic continued to feature throughout the collection, with a series of formal lace-up brogues updated with chunky rubber soles, ideal for rainy weather.