Shoe designer Faye Montalban introduces her burgeoning label.
When you work at a fashion magazine, it can be pretty easy to fall into the trap of wearing crippling shoes in an effort to perennially appear at your sartorial prime. Alas, the high-heeled hobble of a day spent in five-inch platforms doesn't really scream "style icon". Fortunately for us, footwear label Provensen delivers shoes that are achingly cool without being acutely painful. Since launching the brand last year, designer Faye Montalban has unleashed a slew of shoes in super high quality suedes and leathers, adorned with unexpected details and rendered in a range of beautifully offbeat tones. We talked to Faye about her passion for shoes, the importance of individuality in fashion and taking over the world.
Lillian McKnight: Why did you initially become interested in footwear design?
Faye Montalban: Footwear was actually a second option for me when I first tried to start up my own label. My best friend and I wanted to start a womenswear label but she decided that becoming an artist was really her calling, so I was left to decide what I could imagine myself working on solo. Footwear was always an obvious choice: as with most people that have a thing for footwear, I had a large collection of both vintage and new shoes but needed to have more! I also felt that I could possibly offer an aesthetic that was not yet readily available among Australian labels.
Describe your design process for us, from conception to finished project.
I really need my space when I'm trying to form ideas. I was always one of those children at school that was easily distracted so all the years of the same thing written on my report card have taught me that the less people surrounding me when I need to work, the better. I begin trawling the internet to gather initial ideas, then move on to things like the library. Sometimes ideas might be from movies, exhibitions or books. I also tend to gather images and other paraphernalia throughout the year prior to actually sitting down and designing, as inspiration can stem from anywhere really. Then I get specs done, choose colours and materials and cull designs if need be.
Your designs take classic shapes but are amped up with interesting details, like pops of colour and high-quality hardware. What comes first in the design process, the general shape or the distinct details?
Definitely shape for me. It is one of the most important things in my eyes. Something as simple as having a bad toe shape can totally ruin the overall look of a shoe. The details like buckles are the bonuses!
Who do you imagine wearing your designs?
I try and make footwear for all types of girls really. But I'd have to say someone who wants to wear clothing and footwear the way they want to wear it and not necessarily because it is what fashion media is dictating. I really like people that choose to express their individuality or personality through clothing.
If you could wear one pair of shoes from your current collection for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Oh that's a hard one. It would be a toss up between the Mohican wedge booties or the Cuban heel court shoes. The Mohicans because they are super comfy and I love the colour palette and the Cuban heel courts because they are an easy classic shape. Do I really have to choose?
A lot of footwear these days sacrifices comfort for style. How important for you is comfort in a shoe?
I am pretty proud to say that my shoes are pretty comfy. I run around all day and one of the criteria for the label was to provide footwear for girls that had similar busy lifestyles to mine. It is not unusual for me to go straight from work out to dinner or drinks with friends and the thought of having to change my shoes because my feet are sore from wearing them all day is really annoying. Making sure that having little things such as a cushioned foot bed in every shoe can make all the difference.
Your designs have a distinctly masculine flair. Any plans for a men's range?
Yes, I really want to do men's eventually but might need a little more time to sort that one out!
What have been the most exciting achievements for Provensen thus far?
I know its seemingly not a big thing, but I am still chuffed when I get emails from girls telling me they love the styles or have got a pair and are really happy with them. It feels like I am on the right track.
What direction do you see Provensen heading in next? Anything super exciting on the horizon?
To take over the world! That might take a little while, so in the meantime I just want to try and hone in on the Provensen identity and stock in more stores abroad.