In the autumn, I had a chance to visit the workshop in East London where Freed make their ballet shoes. The tension between fashion and function, art and craft and high and lowbrow made the visit interesting in all sorts of ways aside from the obvious how-they-do-it.
The manager, Gary Brooks, was extremely generous with his time, and I left knowing more about shoes and the shoe business and than I ever thought possible.
Tucked away in the side streets of Mayfair, the world-famous tailors of Savile Row make gentleman’s suiting to order for businessmen, gentry, politicians, oligarchs and Saudi princes.
Six miles to the east, in Hackney, lies another temple to old-school English craftsmanship: Freed of London, makers of custom pointe shoes since 1929. In a small workshop flanked by midrise apartment blocks, a no-frills sandwich café and a betting parlor, 12 shoemakers each transform satin, canvas, cardboard, burlap and leather into 40 pairs of pointe shoes each a day.
You can read the whole piece, including the part about Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard, ici.
This video, made by the Dutch National Ballet, shows a ballet shoe’s entire life cycle.
And this one, from Australia, shows more about what happens to the shoes once the ballerinas get hold of them.