Tristan Blair creates shoes that look like candy. Gingham ribboned straps, velvet heeled mules and pink and black spider webbed ballet pumps are just a few of the delicious designs Blair dishes up in each collection.
Blair has slowly learned his craft through trial and error, by working with people who show him the ins and outs of the industry and by relying on intuitive inspiration. "I'd rather stay influenced by what I see and find on a day-to-day basis," he admits. "I love going on little adventures into random towns and ethnic areas to refresh my mind. Not necessarily to seek instant inspiration, but to clear my head of the everyday things that chip away at ones imagination."
Recreating these thoughts and ideas into footwear may keep Blair up at night, but his love of seeing an idea to the end means he spends much of the year flying to production houses in Brazil, Spain and Indonesia. "I oversee all the production of my designs first hand, spending months in factories with shoe manufacturers on a daily basis. It is a very time consuming task but so fulfilling when the product is finished."
With such a sincere and hands-on approach, its no wonder that Blair's creations look so sweet. jcreport.com
Click here to find out more! INTERVIEWS Tristan Blair - all you need to know
If you’re a regular around these parts, you’ll be familiar with shoe designer Tristan Blair. You’ll also be familiar with the surprising colour combinations, the architectural heels and dynamic juxtapositions of texture and details that induce a feverish desire to find his nearest stockist, smack down your credit card and say “I’ll take those – and those - in a size 39 please.”
Tristan Blair has only been around for four short years since the launch of his eponymous label, and already finds himself the darling of Australian independent shoe design. Not to mention somewhat of a blog-star all over the interwebs, with everyone from influential fashion bloggers to your mum, swooning over his shoes.
The down to earth, chill and refreshingly ‘un-fashion’ former skateboarder takes it all in his stride though, shrugging off the praise with a simple “Thanks!”
So then, where exactly did Australia’s aspiring Manolo Blahnik come from?
Hailing from Perth, Tristan was born into a family in the construction business. His first ever job though, was as a veterinary assistant, cleaning up cages and occasionally assisting in surgery. “I soon got over that though,” he says.
He then turned and focused his attention on the family business. Starting with sorting nuts and bolts to earn pocket money, the jobs got more complicated as he got older. “I started learning how to weld, manipulate and transform flat pieces of metal into shapes and different patterns. Eventually, when I left school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do."
With the family business available for him to take a bigger role if he wished, it made sense for Tristan to ride the opportunity as a means to something else. “That’s what kinda brought me over to Sydney. We won some really big contracts here…I wanted to spread my wings and go out and do something,” he adds.
Back then, construction wasn’t the only thing occupying his time. “I was really into skateboarding at the time. My whole life was pretty much focused on skating, so I wanted to go to Sydney and pursue those interests.”
The offer of a free flight to Sydney and a job ready for him when he got here was just too good to resist. “I would work from 6:30am to 3:30 in the afternoon in the city and then go and skate in the city every night after work until about 10. Then I’d just catch the bus home.”
Yet Tristan was doing this job on a construction site that he still didn’t really like at all. He found himself talking it out with his girlfriend at the time, trying to find what it was he wanted to do.
Then they hit upon a revelation. “I’d always been interested in shoes. You know, taken note of shoes before anything else in a person. And funnily enough, she had met someone on her path that was opening up a shoe label. They needed a shoe designer. She said, ‘You should try out for this job.’ And I said, well, I can’t design shoes, I’ve never done it before! She encouraged me to just do it, try it out, regardless. Sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end.” With this thought, Tristan sat down for a week and simply practiced drawing shoes. He got the job.
After about a year with the company, he decided it was time to go it alone. First to Indonesia, immersing himself experimenting with the manufacturing and creative process of the shoe business, and then to Sydney’s Ultimo TAFE to learn whatever else he could about designing shoes. “I want women to feel the best that they possibly can in my shoes. When I’m designing , I just let my mind wander and it comes up with lots and lots of different silly ideas. And then I have to edit them and edit them and edit them."
So that’s how we now find this former construction bloke by day and skater boy by night to be one of Australia’s premier shoe designers. “I’m fortunate - or unfortunate – that my mind seems to process things in a different kind of way and manages to creates things with the tools I have inside my head. I can’t put my finger on how it works but the most difficult thing for me is to capture that image in mind and be able to put it down onto paper before I forget it, and actually keep the initial image I was thinking about,” he says.
Unlike some other Australian footwear companies who have caused much controversy over ripping off other people’s designs, Tristan produces shoes that are not only bang on trend, but refreshingly and powerfully original. “No one has knocked me off to date, so I guess I’m doing alright!” Perhaps that’s when Tristan Blair will officially have made it – when someone makes a knock off of his shoe? Laughingly, he says,“I’ll be appreciative when it does happen then!”
You can find Tristan Blair's shoes and stockists over at www.tristanblair.com - and don't say we didn't warn you, if you find yourself succumbing to some serious shoe fever.
Photo of Tristan by Rachel Yabsley