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My job may be from the 18th century, but it’s my dream…

Beauty and Fashion

My job may be from the 18th century, but it’s my dream…

…meet the London woman keeping the lost art of shoemaking alive.

18th century England may have been a haven for commercialised shoemaking, but by the end of the 19th century the process had been almost completely mechanised.

People like North London local Maria Navarre (41), though, are keeping the lost art alive. Many old-fashioned jobs have been lost over years of technological advancements – lamplighters, milkmen, and bowling pin setters are now things of the past. But after taking a day course in shoemaking, Maria was hooked.

“I was working as a live-in carer at the time staying with a 96 year old lady in Chelsea. I was working 6 days a week and went on a day shoemaking course just for fun. I had always been creative and loved drawing so it was just a nice day out for me. I wasn’t planning on doing anything with it, I just made a pair of sandals for myself. I was absolutely captivated by the craftsmanship and thought about that day for a long time afterwards”.

Maria explains that as she began to see her client’s health deteriorate, she started to consider alternative, less demanding career paths.

“I would travel a lot between Chelsea and my client’s homes in the Lake District and Kent. I wanted something I could do from home. I dreamed of work that excited me where I could still be free and happy on the weekends”.

After some careful consideration, Maria decided to try her hand at professional shoemaking.

“I struggled finding perfect heels for myself so I’d made my own along with some flats for myself that I absolutely loved. There’s something wonderful about the personal touch of handcrafted shoes, it’s a nicer feel than shop-bought pairs. I wasn’t expecting much, but I started offering one-on-one shoemaking courses and was surprised to find a big appetite for it”.

Maria later expanded her shoemaking and began designing her own range of inclusive clothing – culminating in the birth of her LGBTQ streetwear brand Skay Navarre.

“I want to make more than just nice clothes. I design wearable activism pieces that are simplistic but impactful for those who feel underrepresented in society. I think it doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay starting an LGBTQ business. I loved the idea of illustrating same sex couples and putting them on clothing and stationery to spread the rainbow love”.

Created and designed by UK based illustrator, author and entrepreneur Maria Navarre, Skay Navarre’s simple but impactful designs provide an all inclusive apparel option for those who often feel underrepresented in society.

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