Prestigious Italian designer invites
student to lead shoemaking sessions

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With two old socks, duct tape and packing foam, environmental design student Zach Weldy has devised an inexpensive way to make emergency shoes, an idea that caught the attention of an influential Italian designer and earned Weldy a trip to Italy to lead shoemaking workshops.

During a disaster, said Weldy, such as the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many basic elements of survival may be limited or completely unavailable.

"With a family's belongings lost, and hazardous waste and rubble everywhere, protecting one's feet from infection is very important," he said.

Weldy, who graduated in May, developed the duct tape shoe concept when Peter Lang, associate professor of architecture, asked students to design survival objects as part of a spring 2010 studio.

Stefano Mirti, head of the College of Design at Milan's Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti,  saw Weldy's portfolio, which included the shoe idea, and invited him to come to Milan to lead shoemaking workshops during a citywide salone de mobile, or furniture fair.

"In the workshops, we made 30 or 40 pair of shoes," said Weldy, who led sessions at the fair as well as impromptu sessions in Milan's streets.

In addition to leading the workshops, Weldy met other designers, such as Martino Gamper and Fabio Novembere, and explained his ideas to them, and was interviewed by several magazine and website writers.

The idea got started when Weldy was wrapping his ankles prior to exercising.

"I realized, 'hey, this could be a shoe,'" he said, "and when we were asked to create a survival objects in Peter Lang's studio it seemed to be the right time to develop the idea."

He said he went through several different methods of making the shoe.

"I finally came up with a process that's pretty simple and produces a shoe that lasts a long time," he said.

It begins with an old sock and, using one's own foot as a mold, a shoemaker makes a sole out of packing foam, wraps it all in duct tape, then adds laces or creates a slip-on or sandal, then trims the shoe to right size and shape, he said.

Weldy brought a pair that had three months of use to show participants at a workshop he led at the Langford Architecture Center.

"They're a little bit worn, but considering I've been wearing them for three months they're in good shape, and they only cost about $4 to make," he said.

The best part of the shoes, he said, is their uniqueness.

"Because your foot is the mold, they're exactly the right size and shape for your foot, you can decide on the colors and everything else," he said. "They're exactly unique to you and what you want."


- Posted: June 11, 2010 -

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Contact:   Phillip Rollfing, or 979.458.0442.


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