Step Into Exotic Skins & Architectural Heels With tom gunn
Feb 07, 2011 - by Amanda Gabriele
Designers Gabrielle Thompson and Shannon Gunn believe shoes should be wearable art. Their shared passion for luxury materials and strong, structured silhouettes led to the launch of their Australian footwear label tom gunn. Described as "sophisticated with an edge," tom gunn shoes are constructed with materials from the top Italian tanneries and suppliers and have been used by the likes of Prada, Marni, CoSTUME NATIONAL and Gucci. I got a chance to to ask Thompson and Gunn about how they got started, where they find inspiration and how their label has become a shoe industry stand-out.
Were you girls a design team prior to studying at Ars Arpel School in Milan or did you meet there? As a team, did you always want to design shoes or was it something you fell into along the way? We met when we both started work in the same week as junior designers for an Australian footwear group. We clicked immediately and it wasn't long before we were planning our own label together. We've always both been interested in shoes and our passion and study drew us together. We both studied fashion design in Italy at different times and we've worked together now since 2003.
As designers, you maintain a "strong focus on the silhouette" of the shoes for your line tom gunn. Are you inspired by architecture in modern and ancient building? What about the architecture of nature like mountains and valleys? We are inspired by everything around us. We collect images and photos on an inspiration board when we start to design a new collection and quite often use both modern and ancient architecture as inspiration as well as nature. We then zero in on the small details and take lines and shapes from the image to create the design lines of the shoes.
You source leathers and exotic skins from some of the top Italian tanneries. What about these materials make your shoes stand out from other lines? Has working with such high-end materials changed your perception of the footwear industry as a whole? We absolutely love working with beautiful Italian leathers and exotic skins. The best quality materials make the shoe much more luxurious and comfortable. Snake and lizard leathers also have such a gorgeous texture that adds another dimension to the design.
There are so many footwear labels using low-end, cheap and plastic materials to keep the prices extremely low. This means you get what you pay for in terms of quality and comfort. Now we strive to use the best materials we can to ensure our shoes are luxurious, comfortable and the wearer will love them!
Do you look to forecasting trends for the colors and textures you use for your collections, or does the inspiration stem from inner creativity? Or is it a mix of both? We build our colour palette from our images on our inspiration board. We love colour and leathers so we usually choose them first before we even start talking about design details for the collection. We don't look at forecasting trends but design based on how we're feeling and on what we would like to have in our shoe collections at that time! Of course, this means we need to wait six months for the shoe we're coveting at the time, but it's worth the wait!
Who and what inspires you? From nature to buildings, and blogs to other designers, where do you turn when a creativity block comes along? Our design time is the most fun part of running the label so we usually come into it bursting with ideas and inspirations we've been dreaming about after the previous collection. There are a few amazing blogs including The Selby, Jak & Jil and Sea of Shoes we love looking at and some designers that inspire us are Dries Van Noten, Phoebe Philo of Celine and Consuelo Castiglioni of Marni.
It is so amazing tom gunn was awarded Footwear Designer of the Year at the 2010 2threads Fashion Awards. How has this changed the attention toward your brand? Winning the 2Threads Footwear Designer of the Year was fantastic! It has certainly helped raise the profile of our brand and we have received many more inquiries and press.
You can learn more about tom gunn on the brand's website.