When I think of creating my own wardrobe, my first thought is about designing and sewing clothes: like a chic shirt, or a pretty and comfortable dress. But while it’s easy to find a sewing class, one doesn’t find shoemaking classes so easily.
Luckily, those of us in Austin don’t have to look far. The Art of Shoes, a local online retail store and shoemaking workshop, allows anyone to come into a class to create their very own shoes or sandals. Sign me up!
Steps to Reach a Dream
Selena McCarntey, native Texan, started her shoe design career almost 20 years ago at a well-known retail store: Steve Madden. When she made the step up from assistant manager to store manager, she was disappointed by the amount of pencil pushing that came with the job.
Her favorite part of being an assistant manager had been working with customers, so she tried to get creative in her new role by starting a “What’s Hot, What’s Not” trend report based on customer preferences. She paid attention to the style of shoes people were buying, trending colors, and complaints on the height of different heel, and sent her findings to New York.
McCartney became excited when headquarters started sending her shoes based on her own trend reports. Her store quickly become the number one selling store.
But despite her success, McCartney was itching to go to school and get her degree. When her district manager moved to Chicago and asked her to take over the new store there, McCartney jumped at the chance to help–with the intention of taking classes at the same time.
McCartney made the move and built on what she had accomplished at Steve Madden in San Antonio. But when the time came to get started with classes, everything fell apart. The store wouldn’t work with her class schedule.
McCartney knew school was her priority, so she decided to make a sacrifice. She decided to change jobs to go to college. But the company came back with an offer she couldn’t refuse: they wanted to promote her to assistant designer. “This would be the best school for you,” they told her. McCartney agreed.
McCartney made the move to New York to work in their corporate office. Her first job as assistant designer was to take her boss’s sketch and go pick out the leather, work with the pattern maker, and so on. It was a thrill helping make the shoes in the miniature shoe factory in Madden’s office, and a great learning experience for McCartney.
And while the blossoming designer didn’t know how to sketch yet, she stayed in the office late every night tracing over her boss’s sketches until her hand was familiar with what it was doing.
After Steven Madden, McCartney worked with several other brands to continue growing her skills: Calvin Klein, FRYE, GAP, and, currently, Katy Perry. But almost five years ago, she decided to move back to Texas and start something of her own. Her city of choice was obvious: Austin was the most creative city and perfect for what she wanted to do.
McCartney had been fascinated seeing shoes come to life from the moment she started her career as assistant designer at Steve Madden. So she decided to simplify the process and made it more relatable to everyday shoes. She founded The Art of Shoes, which is an online retail store and shoemaking workshop.
When I asked McCartney about her favorite part of the business, she told me it’s “when the shoes that students are making are actually coming to life and their eyes light up with excitement.” She gets emotional with every class because of how much joy students have getting to build their very own shoes.
While The Art of Shoes was originally located off of South 1st Street, she had to move last year and is now located in a maker’s warehouse on Cesar Chavez with other local creatives.
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Shoemaking Classes at The Art of Shoes
The Art of Shoes offers a variety of classes: sandals, sneakers, bridal sandals, and mules. Be prepared to spend some time making your shoes. Sandals classes can take between three and four hours, while the sneakers classes can take four to five hours.
All of the materials needed are provided at the workshop, and you have the option to choose different colors and patterns for your shoes. Don’t think it’s only for adults; there are kid-friendly classes, as well!
McCartney puts together special classes for holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as parents come in with their kids to make shoes together. She has flown out of state to do bachelorette parties and has led an all-kids class, as well.
The Art of Shoes has more coming in 2020. Expect to see more pop-up shops and fun events throughout the year. McCartney will also be adding new shoemaking classes soon: wooden clogs and slippers.
You can check out all of the available classes and the online store on The Art of Shoes website.
3508 E. Cesar Chavez St. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What type of shoes do you want to make first at The Art of Shoes?