Interview with Liam Fahy
Fashion Salade: How has your multicultural background influenced you?
Liam Fahy: It has made me see differences many people don’t notice, like how different cultures find different things attractive, that aesthetics cannot be quantitatively measured but are relative to their context. In Africa, for example, if you gave someone the choice between a cheap plastic shoe like a Croc or a 1000€ pair of pumps, their choice would not be so obvious as they have a completely different assessment of value and function compared with Europeans. When you see how different we are in this respect, you start to see tendencies and reactions to fashion most people think are normal but are a result of advertising.
FS: What do you admire the most about Africans?
LF: Africans have originality and creativity when it comes to craft. Where I come from, creativity and a ‘hands-on’ approach is a part of everyday life. We don’t have large clothing stores or furniture corporations, so when it comes to getting something new, we go to the guy down the road who is a tailor or get the woodcarver two blocks down to make us something for the house. I like the fact Africa is still largely untouched by massive consumer corporations. I think there’s a massive abundance of creativity there.
FS: You once lived with the Batonka tribe. What did you learn from them?
LF: A lot! They are situated alongside the Zambezi river, which forms Victoria Falls. I learned how to live without electricity and, eventually, I lost my sense of materialism. The lifestyle is completely different: eating crocodile tail, skinning animals, sleeping in mud huts, etc. The most valuable things I took with me are my definitions of ‘need’ and “want’, a distinction that differs immensely from the first world distinction.
FS: At one point, you were a psychology student. When did you change your mind and decide the right choice was fashion?
LF: I like to think what I am doing in fashion is a part of my lifelong study of human psychology. To me, I am a psychology student undertaking an experiment in fashion. Each of my designs has a basis in human behaviour; people’s perceptions to colour, height, the proportions of the pattern, phi, the golden ratio, movement and most importantly, human memory. We’re always doing experiments and studies. In fact, anyone who joins our Facebook page influences the outcome of our research and experiments and ultimately, our designs.
FS: Why shoes?
LF: I grew up in a society where shoes were a status symbol. Not many people wore shoes so if they did, it meant quite a bit. In London, the average person buys at least five to six pairs of shoes each year. In Africa, we wear them until they fall off. The first pair of sandals I made were a local standard sandal called imbatata, made from a single used car tire. We cut the tread into the sole pattern and then used the treadless sides to create straps. I still have them 12 years later.
FS: Many celebrities love your shoes. Who are some of your famous clients?
LF: Besides the red carpet clientele, the most important woman to wear my shoes is my mother. I think every designer’s sense of proportion and aesthetic can be attributed to the style of their parents in one way or another so, to me, she’s the most important client. I name my shoes after important women in my life. Every shoe name is named after a particular person.
FS: Who would you love to see wearing your shoes?
LF: I wonder what would happen if someone incongruous to high heels would wear a pair, like Mr. T, Chuck Norris or Arnold Schwarzenegger. I would love to study the reaction.
FS: How would you describe your designs?
LF: The designs in our current collection are pure luxury. The materials are some of the most expensive materials from the finest tanneries in Italy: lasered cavallino, metallic water snake, Burmese python with nabuk finish, burgundy camoscio suedes and imperiali satins. Each shoe is painstakingly inscribed with the signature metal detailing under the sole that takes just as much time to finish as an entire upper of any other shoe. It is a very expensive detail but it authenticates our quality. I think this labour and attention to detail makes our shoes not only unique in their process, but also timeless. To further emphasise this, every shoe we design is always produced in a limited production run.
FS: Do you have a philosophy for life or work?
LF: I have many philosophies within design and I love to explore design theories and how they may overlap with psychology, mathematics and even poker. On the website, there is a section dedicated to little theories many people find interesting. But one of my favourite philosophies is from Bruno Minari: “To progress is to simplify, not complicate.”
FS: What are your future plans for the brand?
LF: We are going to expand our range to offer limited edition clutches and hopefully sunglasses soon, too. At the moment, we are trying to set up a project in Zimbabwe where our dust bags are made by a local organisation to benefit orphans. I find it more rewarding knowing luxury can offset its uneven price balance, even if it is in a small way.