The Sunday News
Nothando Ndhlovu Sunday Leisure Reporter
THE shoes have been deemed the most expensive in the world because when they are finished; each shoe is crafted with a nickel embellishment on each sole. A United Kingdom-based Zimbabwe-born women’s shoe designer — Liam Fahy has brought a whole new meaning to the term high-end luxury shoes, as his shoes are said to be the most expensive in the world.
Although his shoe designs are said to be the most expensive in the world, they are often sold out within a matter of days of release. His most expensive shoes are between 500 and 900 British pounds, while his cheapest cost between 300 and 400 pounds.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Liam migrated to the UK in 2003 to pursue his studies in footwear in Leicester (England).
His first collection, Film Noir — under his label — Liam Fahy London, was launched in 2012.
“I studied at the prestigious De Montfort University, one of the only universities in the world to offer a BA (Hons) in footwear design. After graduating with honours, I started working with several international sneaker brands learning production in China,” said Liam.
After winning the first-ever Fashion Fringe Award, judged by renowned shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, Liam said he worked in Italy as Rupert Sanderson’s (British Fashion Councils Accessory Designer of the year recipient) protégé for a while, as he was getting accustomed to the ropes of the trade.
Liam soon launched his own label and within the first season, he was awarded the prestigious British Fashion Council’s NewGEN Award. Liam’s designs are reported to be at par with well-known designers such as Christian Louboutin, Coco Chanel and Giuseppe Zinotti to mention a few notable designers.
Liam said his love for crafting is natural and that is why he chose shoe designing as a career.
His unique designs are characterised by velvet, fur, mirror and copper leathers.
“I’ve been designing shoes since high school, but had my shoe in the door for about 12 years. I love designing and crafting things. It’s a Zimbabwean thing I think.
“Everywhere I go, I come across Zimbabweans at the top of their game — directors, artistes, engineers etc. If only Zimbabwe could make money exporting resourcefulness,” he said.
Liam said the road to the top was not easy, as shoe production was an expensive business.
“Not many people are aware of the costs involved in producing luxury fashion. I seriously needed an investor, a luxury Italian factory with access to the best tanneries, pattern cutters, last makers, stitchers, developers, public relations, distribution, Press coverage, risk taking stockists, e-commerce, photographers and many other resources all before I did my first season.
“Even with everything in place, our competitors have 50-100 years head start and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH) budgets larger than the gross domestic product of a small country. Most luxury brands are actually owned by much larger groups and most independent labels are celebrity brands or licenced names so the market is very competitive,” said Liam.
Eventually everything fell in place and Liam’s shoes are recognised globally for their unique designs and quality stitching.
“It took me two years to find a factory that would give me the time I needed. I also had to live in Italy and learn Italian. When I started it was like creating a F1 company to compete with the likes of Ferrari and all I had was a spanner. It’s just as tough now for independents but that’s part of the fun,” Liam said jokingly.
Liam’s shoes are handmade in Italy, just outside Venice.
He said his company uses the same tanneries as Manolo, Givenchy, Prada, as well as the same artisans that are the best in the industry.
The shoes have been deemed the most expensive in the world because of the process which they are finished; each shoe is crafted with a nickel embellishment on each sole.
“We also have a small logo on the bottom of each shoe that takes just as much time to produce as the rest of the shoe. It’s this uncompromising attention to the details that makes our shoes on average the most expensive to produce.
“That doesn’t mean we make the largest margin per pair, as I like to say, those who eat the honey, never meet the bees. The quality just means our shoes are stitch for stitch and the best quality in the world,” said Liam.
While living in Zimbabwe, Liam took a year away from city life to live with the Tonga tribe to learn about their way of life.
“It was a pleasure to live away from the city and with people who weren’t so caught up with the 9-5 jobs, materialism and reality TV. I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s not easy going without your conditioned comforts though,” he said.
Liam remained coy about the secret to his success and said all one needed to do was to work hard.
“Don’t pursue something just for the money, the money may never happen. To quote Confucius, do what you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life,” he said.
Liam’s accolades include the Fashion Fringe Accessories Award, UUFA Fashion Award, Drapers Designer of the Year, Linea Pelle Young Designer Award, H.I.S. Presidential Award and the National Gallery Zimbabwe Best in Show Award.