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Meet shoe designer Sarah Johnson, in collaboration with Sam, as she chats to us about her style, career, and of course… shoes!

LillyBlog
Lilly leather & studs flat – $240

WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A DESIGNER?

My mother and father are both painters. I learned to express myself by drawing alongside them. Paint and creating have always been a part of my life. I knew at the age of 14 I wanted to be a designer. My mother inspired me; she made all of my clothing from the day I was born to the age of 14 when she first taught me how to sew.  

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN SHOE DESIGN?

Barbara Bowman gave me my first opportunity to design before design school. At the age of 16, I walked by her shop window and absolutely fell in love with a pair of shoes — I had to have them. When I spent all of my life’s savings on that one pair of shoes, I knew I had a problem! After buying my shoes, I started working in Barbara’s Ojai boutique as the shoe stock girl. One year later, at the age of 17, she made me store manager. Barbara really believed in me. On my first trip to Italy back in 1984, I was to assist her on a small portion of the Barbara Bowman collection. She showed me what luxury Italian handmade shoes were all about. “The business” — from design, to manufacturing, importing, selling, and then each season starting all over again. 

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOUR CAREER IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY TOOK OFF.

I just up and moved to Italy at the age of 24. After a long trail, with lots of serendipity, I found myself in Milano, drawn into Prada… designing for all 8 different brands, 16 collections per year.

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TALK US THROUGH A TYPICAL DAY.

I love the outdoors; I need the outdoors. It’s a big part of why I moved back to where I grew up — an incredibly beautiful valley in California called Ojai. I live in the sacred space of the Chumash Indians, my home town. A place to be inspired by and to create from. Mornings are the most sacred, meditative, and inspiring creative moments for me. I feel it here more than any other place in the world. For me as a designer, the natural is mandatory to recharge. I am a creator and need to be inspired and moved to create. 

My job is not just sitting around and sketching ideas all day. That is the least part of the job. It’s a thought process and requires lots of follow-up. In Italy, I learned that I have to be open to inspiration throughout the day, wherever I find it. When working with Italian Luxury Brands there is no down time; it almost seems like there’s not even time to think. You need to take in every moment. On a train, a plane, even at the grocery store. In a pet department I drew inspiration from a dog brush. Re-imagined, it became the sole for a group of Miu Miu shoes. 

While you have to be focused and determined in realising your vision as a designer, you also have to be willing to make changes last minute without ego — and most importantly, knowing what changes can be made at which moment in the process. There are the times when one has to wave a magic wand and pull a rabbit out of a hat to make things appear! Then it all comes back to nature again, to recharge that force within me. 

WHERE DID YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THE SAMBAG AW17 SHOE COLLECTION?

I was inspired by the astonishingly beautiful nature of Sydney, Australia — the Opera house, ferry trips, botanical gardens, people-watching, and just hanging out with Sam’s lovely team. Always with my eyes wide open, I can be influenced everyday by anything.

WHAT CRITERIA DO YOU USE WHEN DESIGNING A SHOE?

Proportion and great design. 

WHAT MAKES THE PERFECT SHOE?

Something that is relevant and stays true to the DNA of the brand. 

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WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO AN ASPIRING SHOE DESIGNER?

Go to Italy. Find your way. Don’t get discouraged. Never give up. Eyes open, speak less, take notes, be willing to sacrifice time no matter what holiday and never have an excuse why the work wasn’t done. Never stop learning. Learn the rules to break the rules.

HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE THE SAMBAG WOMAN?

Sambag is a brand that caters to the business professional women who wears a classic tailored and sporty look during the week, to the girl who rocks the effortless just-rolled-out-of-bed look on the weekends.  Fingers through the hair, a touch of makeup and she looks effortlessly gorgeous!

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT SAMBAG?

The brand’s global appeal, and the fact that the design is inspired by the nature and beauty of Australia with a flirty, fun, casual approach — something you could easily see on the streets of Paris, Milano, London, New York, Los Angeles, and Sydney!

WHY CHOOSE SAMBAG SHOES ABOVE THE REST?

Sam’s shoes bring fun and excitement to anyone’s wardrobe. They are casual, happy, flirty, and speak a language of their own — not just another boring shoe!

LilahBlog
Lilah eyelet sandal – Khaki – $200 

DO YOU DESIGN WITH A SPECIFIC CUSTOMER IN MIND?

Yes — someone who lives, loves, breathes and wears fashion. Whether it be a teenage girl or an older woman. Ageless. 

YOU HAVE A VERY CLASSIC YET ELABORATE AESTHETIC THAT SHINES THROUGH YOUR WORK. HOW TO YOU INCORPORATE THIS INTO SAMBAG’S AW17 SHOE COLLECTION?

Shoes are the most important part of a woman’s wardrobe — they have the power to make or break the outfit. From jeans and a t-shirt to a designer outfit, the shoe is key. Sparkle always adds a happy, colourful mood — material and shape create attitude. I keep the shapes of the lasts classic and proportioned, and the uppers exciting and fun.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AW17 SHOE? 

I love the Britt pointed-toe jewelled flat. A fun shoe with attitude, beautifully executed. 

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WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BEING PART OF THE SAMBAG TEAM?

Everyone there is committed, passionate, and hardworking — that’s the key to a successful business. It all depends on each of us working together as a unit. Sam sets a positive example for her employees to follow. It’s like a second family you can trust in and always rely on.

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