BC: What is your background? Did you go to school or are you self-taught?
ZL: I was born in Taiwan and come from a traditional family, but many of us are also very creative. My older brother, for example is an artist and illustrator. I too went on to study the fine arts of painting and drawing, and then pursued graphic arts and communications design in London. It was there that I met someone from Taiwan who was in the UK to study shoe design, and whose family has a shoe manufacturing business. I started to work with him, initially on creating renderings and color selection, but then later we began to design together.
Soon I had built up my courage to design on my own, while at the same time seeking out an internship with someone who made hand crafted shoes for women. I really wanted to learn the technical aspects of construction too–so I immersed myself in as much of footwear industry as possible, making a special effort to learn by “doing.”
BC: What are your personal inspirations?
ZL: I design from a place of intuition, being greatly attracted to things I consider to be “beautiful.” This could be anything from old Hollywood movies to Japanese animation; from an elegant shop window in Soho London to old art books I find in a thrift store. My first collection, for example, was inspired by night life in the West End London, by the experience of shopping Carnaby Street and Oxford Circus, by observing beautiful women in cafes and restaurants and such, and then imagining what type of shoes I would have them wear.
BC: How did you feel when you decided to do this for a living: Were you excited, scared, elated or all of the above?
ZL: As a creative but shy person, I try to allow myself to have every true feeling possible, both good and bad. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career as a designer, and at the same time I also wanted to follow my entrepreneurial interests in how to build a brand as business–sort of art and commerce together. For me designing is very joyful because it is a creative act. Figuring out the production, promotion and sales is far more scary because it pushes me further and further into the world. And being responsible for all the folks close to me who work with and for me–that is the scariest of all, because I have a reason to be successful above and beyond myself. And this way my brand also belongs to them, too.
What designing shoes mean to Zack and more up next!