In a new series about South Australian creators, Fritz ventures into the Gilles Street studio of Adelaide shoemaker Beccy Bromilow. There is something special about having an item crafted for you by hand. It has a feel, an intention, a story that makes it stand out from the mass produced crowd.
For Adelaide shoemaker Beccy Bromilow (aka BB Shoemaker) shoemaking is all about storytelling. First there’s her story. A high school dropout who tried her hand at hairdressing before studying costume design, Beccy turned to shoemaking after struggling to find work in the theatre industry. “When I was doing costume I was doing millenary as well, and I really liked that,” she says. I liked the process behind it: sculpting and molding the hats, but I wasn’t really into them. I decided on shoemaking because it seemed like a similar sort of process.”
“I want to respect this product I am using.”
That process kept Beccy building on her skills, despite an innate restlessness. “I find that shoemaking works well with the way that I am, in the sense that I will be working on multiple things at once, rather than the same thing and finishing it.”
After a stint at Adelaide creative space The Mill, Beccy joined with friends Anny Duff (Good Studios), plant stylist Emma Sadie Thomson and most recently Samia Fisher (Weft Textiles) to create Ensemble – a beautiful sunlit retail space and workshop in the city’s south-east. “I just think it is so important if you are doing something like this to surround yourself with other people that kind of get it.”
Every one of her shoes has a story to tell. Inspired by the colours found in the Australian landscape, Beccy’s designs have an earthiness to them. From design, to functionality to materials – it all speaks of her “love of Australiana”. Sustainability is also important to Bromilow, who uses vegetable-tanned kangaroo leather for her creations.
Her choice was fueled by the lack of information available from suppliers about the tanning process, and where traditional leather was sourced from. “I just wanted to feel more comfortable about what I was doing. That’s where it started from. It was me feeling okay about using this leather and knowing the story behind it. Like knowing the story behind who made your shoes. I want to respect this product I am using.”
Working with her hands poses its own set of unique challenges, but also affords her autonomy in her work. Bromilow creates through trial and error. “Working with my hands means that I will know if the designs will work or not, and I can test it as well – if it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.”
Equally as challenging are the mechanics behind running your own business. “Financial stuff is not something you think about when you just want to make some shoes.” But Beccy has found that the community support in Adelaide enables her to continue to run her bespoke business. “You go to the shops and you buy a pair of shoes and you have no idea of the story behind it or who made it or who touched it. I really like that fact that people want to have my shoes because they know the person who made them.”
Ensemble, 94 Gillies Street, Adelaide.
Do you have a favourite bespoke creator in South Australia? Tell us about them in the comments, below.