“There’s so much moulding that happens with boobs and feet,” Karen Booker explains. She’s talking about the similarities between her current profession – a shoemaker and designer – and her work designing underwear for the Bendon and YSL lingerie brands over the last 15 years.
“You’re moulding a very specific part of the body,” she continues. “So it’s technical and precise. Millimetres make a big difference with bras and shoes – the only difference, of course, is that feet have bones.”
Booker launched Booker & Co in 2015 after completing a course in creating footwear by hand at RMIT. Originally from New Zealand, Booker’s career in lingerie took her to Sydney before she settled in Melbourne in 2011. “Ever since I graduated from fashion school in the late ’90s, I’ve been interested in doing fashion shoes,” she says. “After doing opulent lingerie for YSL, I didn’t want to go back to doing boring lingerie. After I had kids, I thought it was a good time for a career change.”
Her aim is to make “timeless” shoes with a twist. “I’m not trying to compete with the big boys in fast fashion.”
Her women’s leather shoes each have a conceptual element. A boot is elevated by a diamond-shaped heel; a platform slide is done in a Japanese tabi shape (where the big toe is separated from the others); a two-tone leather boot “cracks” and balds” to reveal a different inner layer as it wears on.
Booker hand-makes each of her limited-edition shoes to sell from her “shoe gallery” and workspace in Carlton North, as well as for a number of stockists around Victoria. Booker designs and produces two seasons a year, with quantities of only 50 in each style. Buyers can also come back to have their purchases resoled when needed.
“Making shoes is ridiculously challenging and infuriating,” Booker says. “But I love it. I want to make interesting avant-garde designs that are also classic, so people can wear them for a long time.”
Booker & Co
316 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
Tues to Fri 11–5pm
Sat 11–4 pm