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Sunday, January 5, 2014

What's in a Shoe? Workshop with Richard Siccardi

Hi, my name is June and I have something to confess: I am an irrevocable SHOE ADDICT.

Ah, but I am sure I am not alone in this. How many of you desire the very covetable shoe closet below? (PS: it belongs to Miss Paris Hilton) While I do not have thaaaaaaaaat many pairs to compete with the heiress, I have a sizable collection that is enough to earn endless nagging from mom and frantic cramming in to what little space left in my shoe cabinet.

But how many of us truly know what constitutes a shoe? Or the work that goes behind it? Thanks to an invite from The Academy of Fashion Professions (, I was to find out from a crash course with their leather master specialist, Mr Richard Siccardi.

Fast facts on why this man is to be revered: Richard Siccardi has more than 15 years of experience as a footwear pattern maker, and 8 as a footwear manufacturer. One of very few footwear specialists in the world, he is much sought after for design, collection and model development and prototyping. In 2006, he became an Ars Sutoria trainer, (renowned Milan footwear school) to share his knowledge and skills with the new breed of shoe designers/makers. He is also a thorough insider, having worked with many established brands such as Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin.

Mr Richard Siccardi, leather maestro extraordinare

First, one needs to chose the right cast (the plaster foot model) and line a pattern on paper. A piece of masking tape is cut out to ensure accurate measurements before the pattern is traced and cut out on the chosen fabric. Which trust me, as I came to find out soon, it wasn't as easy as it looks due to thickness and grain of the material.

The piece is than sent through a machine that flattens the leather further and removes the furry bits from the underside. The after product is thinner but not thin enough just yet. Another special machine is then used to flatten edges further so that they are able to sew the borders of the shoe neatly without it bulging unsightly.

Measuring gauge to check thickness of material

Next, there is the need to treat the pieces together, and this is done in dual process that features heat and cooling techniques. Below is the video of the machine used, really quite cool. The treated after product is then sewn together using a heavy duty sewing machine, to ensure a strong hold.

It is at this stage that I found myself in awe of the craftsmanship; because it certainly required deft hands and a seasoned eye to hammer the nails in, all while ensuring that the fabric does not scrunch or move about. This author tried her clumsy best to emulate, with limited results (and alot help from Mr Siccardi). 

But when you have yourself the coveted leatherware and shoes, it will be nothing unless you know how to take care of it. I of course, took the opportunity to volunteer up my Longchamp clutch for the master to work his magic. Its a 2-step rule of thumb, just like how we take care of our skin: to use cleansing solution to clean the exterior, then a emollient to moisturise the leather material and keep it from cracking and flaking.

Of course, this does not apply to every leather material, so it is important to identify the correct type before administering the leather care; otherwise too harsh a solution will destroy a soft material.

While I did not manage to make my own shoe (that takes a full course and man hours to accomplish that), I certainly enjoyed myself and knew more about shoe makes and leather care. The course is perfect for anyone looking to advance a career in the field of footwear or even for an interesting recreational activity; and experience for yourself the distinguished art of shoe-making.

If you are interested to know more about the 13 module syllabus, you can check it out here.

Thank you and Richard Siccardi for the fun and interesting workshop experience! is located at Central Plaza #14-06298 Tiong Bahru Road, Singapore 168730.

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