â€śI have customers who wear their slippers inside only and others who wear them all the time. And there are even people who put them on the shelf.â€ť Indeed, a pair of slippers from Suzhou Cobblers can be mistaken for the purely ornamental. Huang Meng Qi (”Denise”) along with her team of abundantly skilled artists create footwear with themes that â€śreflect Shanghaiâ€™s grandest eraâ€ť. Her designs echo the artistry and traditional craftsmanship that her style-conscious grandmother would have worn. Ms. Huangâ€™s instinct to create footwear and accessories with the same attention to quality and cultural themes leads her on the right path, then, because her designs attract the style-conscious of today.
image: Green Tea shoe www.suzhou-cobblers.com
I have strolled around in a pair of the above shoes for months now, and find that they are equally as pleasing to look at as they are comfortable to walk in. The Green Tea shoe also come in a slipper, as many of the designs do. Suzhou (â€śsue-joeâ€ť) Cobblers, though named after Chinaâ€™s garden city, is actually located in Shanghai. The online store makes it easy to browse her beautiful designs and purchase footwear. I spoke to Ms. Huang, and she says that for now she doesnâ€™t have a timetable to expand her range online. That gives me a good excuse to go to Shanghai and visit her shop at 17 Fuzhou Road to find her â€śI Love Pandaâ€ť handbag.
image: I Love Panda handbag www.suzhou-cobblers.com
It takes great dedication to do quality work for an extended period of time, which is necessary when perpetuating traditional crafts. Since China’s cultural memory extends far into the past, all of the long-cultivated methods of production demand time and skill to get right. When my mother was teaching me how to sew, she always scolded me for lack of patience, because thatâ€™s what it takes to hone skill. (Iâ€™m still working on the patience issue, and am decidedly a few notches up from the attention span of a gnat). We lose the essence of tradition when we no longer have the patience to invest in it.
image: Autumn shoes www.suzhou-cobblers.com
Ms. Huang feels that, â€śAs China modernizes, people lose a grip on tradition. Most people are tilting their interest toward foreign big brands.â€ť She has hope that more designers in Shanghai will engage in creating traditional Chinese goods. She says that, â€ś[T]he production is increasingly here, so why not design too.â€ť As Suzhou Cobblers continues to draw the attention of people around the globe â€“ like myself â€“ Ms. Huang may rest assured that she sets a very good example for aspiring designers back home.
image: Red Strap slippers www.suzhou-cobblers.com
Dressing up sets a mood. Some of us dress purely for function, but for the style-conscious, putting on a beautiful pair of shoes bestows on the wearer a sense of cheer.
image: Pom-Pom slippers www.suzhou-cobblers.com