I can only recall a few serendipitous encounters I've had in my life, and one of them was meeting the charming Michael Mack in Williamsburg, New York. A designer, shoe craftsman and philanthropist, Michael is the hands and heart behind the company, Michael Grey Footwear—a line of handmade shoes for both men and women. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with Michael and create an outfit perfect for his L'Amore court shoes. Keep reading for a behind-the-scenes look into the whimsical world of Michael Grey.
I am coveting the patent L'Amore court pumps. The sleek silhouette and subtle details in the stripes (evocative of his barbershop inspiration), coupled with a slender metallic heel makes it the perfect pump to transition from day to evening. In addition to the aesthetic perfection, the handmade craftsmanship behind the pump is apparent in the comfortable foot bed and lightweight construction. Michael Grey captures the best of vintage craft and fashion footwear design, which is why I'm a fan of his brand and know you will be too.
When did you first discover your passion for footwear design?
I discovered my passion for design when I was really young—maybe eight or nine. I can remember being obsessed with shoes. I would draw them all the time and make small shoes out of modeling clay and bake them in the oven so I could build a collection of my creations.
What is the story behind your Fall/Winter 2013-14 collection?
The inspiration for my collections as a whole comes from the vintage barbershop setting. I grew up in a similar setting, and when I started doing my thesis research, I felt intrigued by the intricacies of the craft. A lot of my inspiration comes from their sense of style, their precision, and the tools they used.
If you could describe three defining features of Michael Grey Footwear, what would they be?
The core of Michael Grey Footwear is comprised of three personalities: the barber, the surgeon, and the architect. The barber conveys my aesthetic, my sense of style. And a little known fact—in the early days of barbershops, the barber was also the town surgeon. I often look to the surgeon personality in the cutting of patterns, and the way each piece is assembled. Lastly I draw inspiration from the architect because I studied architecture during my first year of college and find that I still use those technical skills when working and sketching my footwear.
Do you find it difficult to design footwear for both women and men?
I can actually say I really enjoy designing both men and women's footwear, and don't find it difficult at all. I appreciate the challenge of understanding both sexes and what they want in their footwear. Getting inside the minds of each of our customers and identifying with them is key.
Tell us about your Knowledge for Souls program, and how it's a movement that makes a global impact.
This is a part of the brand that I'm really excited about. Knowledge for Souls is an organization that teaches volunteers the craft of making basic footwear from mostly found materials. The KFS volunteer group will then accompany me in the mission field to impoverished communities and countries, and teach the valuable skill of shoe-making to people who live in that area. I want to give them skills that they can use for life, and also teach others. I believe there is a huge need for more of this kind of movement, especially in the fashion world.
What do you envision for Michael Grey Footwear in the future?
That is an interesting question that I haven't given much thought to at this point. Ideally in the future I would love to grow the brand worldwide and have Michael Grey Footwear carried in major department stores and high end boutiques across the globe. Further than that I would love to have our own brick and mortar stores—and the first one would definitely have to be in New York!
I hope you enjoyed learning about Michael Grey Footwear, and I encourage everyone to explore his collection. Thank you so much for reading!