I still remember the day I slipped, tripped and stumbled into A-gency. I was not wearing heels, though I was immediately captured by the photo of her bunny, snuggling between her 4-inch-high hot pink Mary Janes. It was a digital encounter of the Instagram type. Her profile caption read: “Look like a girl, act like a lady, Think like a man & work like a dog”. Right then I thought ‘There must be a brilliant mind behind this’, and I was not mistaken. I scrolled through the many images, and found not just exquisite taste, but also wit, sarcasm, inspiration, and a whole boxful of wonders.
A-gency, Footwear and Accessory Designer from Northern England, is not just that; she is a multi-talented woman bringing an endless stream of innovative suggestions to the world of fashion and design. Her ever-long list of working experiences has taken her all around the world (among the many: Camper, G-star, Hudson, Sixty), and her studies and creative family background have all contributed in forming a truly eclectic artist. She offers a unique point of view on most anything, delivering it in an innovative language made of images, hashtags and word-play; because in the end fashion is but a game, and A-gency somehow seems to know just what its next move will be.
1. Firstly: what shoes have you got on?
Lol Trust you…
A pair of vintage knee high Salvatore Ferragamo boots.
In multi-tonal patchwork hides of mocha and cappuccino
Mmmmmmmm you’d like them lady
2. When did your desire to design shoes begin, and why shoes specifically?
I have always loved shoes, from a little girl.
After many a silent hour of no aGENCY running around the house. I would often be located by an adult, in a wardrobe, either trying to get to Narnia or just trying on the many incredible shoes, the women in my life had purchased over their years of shopping.
My grandmother, on my mother’s side in particular had, it seems an incredible fetish for footwear and fashion. I would spend hours in a fantasy world of fifties glamour, which included exquisite cut glass kitten heels (something I’m still in awe of today).
She also retained a lot of my mother’s style, from the sixties, which was pretty much the Holy Grail during my early youth and, exploration into beatnik, later evolving to goth and punk.
She was also a bit of a hippie and that blended perfectly with my alter ego – The flower child.
I have always loved nature and fascinated by faeries, wood nymphs and magical spirits.
I was a very visual kid and spent hours happily in my own imagination, drawing and making up worlds where trees talked and witches were not only cool, but had the best accessories.
I adore the technical aspects of footwear; it’s a true three dimensional object.
I also embrace the responsibility of making good shoes that support the body and hold the individual in the correct position.
Footwear is probably the most important item, you wear every day.
It has a real physical effect on our bodies’ health and well-being.
I think a great shoe shop has the same effect on the visitor as a really awesome sweet shop.
There should be a colour, a style, a flavour that sends you back on a journey to a time, a sensation we had maybe forgot for a while.
To a feeling so warm, we can’t help but smile and get a little giggly and sentimental.
Shoes can definitely do that to a person and I see that magic and get immense satisfaction from it.
3. You are always on the cutting edge, if not a step forward than anybody else, in launching and suggesting both footwear and accessories. How does your selection process come about?
Well that’s very kind of you to say.
I have always sold, promoted and sought to create product that I believe in, and speaks to me personally and the consumer market I’m working with.
There is quite literally tons of “stuff” out there to buy in to. But from an early age I was surrounded by antiques and taught to appreciate quality and craftsmanship in all arenas.
I was and am, very lucky, as I was brought up by a wonderfully creative and inspiring family of individuals, with very much their own areas of expertise within the arts or design.
They each had/have their own views of life, style, politics, cultures and beliefs.
It was a great education and continues to be.
But to answer the question –
In the main my selection process is based on my personal values and ethics.
So product as a general rule should endeavour to be environmentally friendly and ethical in its processes from design, to sourcing, to production.
As in childhood, I retain the love of a story, and a product that was born from one will always hold my eye and if it can also hold my heart – It’s usually supported and endorsed.
Function is fundamental.
I’m not interested in reinventing the wheel but if we can make the wheel’s performance better, safer and aesthetically cooler – I’m in!
Art speaks to the emotions, design must be functional
– My grandfather was an architect and he taught me that, at a very early age.
Common sense really, but often overlooked for aesthetics, or worse still price.
To finish –
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given in this business was “You sell what you love”.
Love is key, Love is everything.
If you Love it, you can believe in it.
If you don’t believe in it or can’t believe in it, you’re wasting everyone’s time, including your own.
I Love to inspire, encourage and educate other like-minded individuals, who want to embrace new ideas and concepts without egos getting in the way.
Design should never say, “Look at me.” It should always say, “Look at this.”
— DAVID CRAIB
4. There is a wit and sarcasm in each of your posts, which I find brilliant, but may be not so easy to grasp, and is sometimes regarded as disagreeable. Do the detractors affect you in any way, and what are your thoughts on censorship seeing that nowadays anything is accessible to anyone?
Hmmmmmm (scratches chin quizzically)
Lol I guess I can be a grump (grin) but I am, what I am!
In general I only post what I love and I am rarely negative, as I am not a negative person by nature.
I do however have opinions and I am also, a very empathic person.
I would be lying if I said negativity doesn’t hurt sometimes, but I have broad shoulders and my biggest critic is myself and my father usually.
Constructive criticism is always welcome both professionally and personally but I am old enough, wise enough and experienced enough in both areas, to see when it is meant with malice. Jealousy is an ugly business – for someone else (grin).
Work for a cause, not for applause.
Live life to express, not to impress.
Don’t strive to make you presence noticed, just make your absence felt.
Aspire to inspire before you expire.
It is better to write for yourself and have no public.
Than write for the public and have no self.
Censorship is rife and if there was one overall global department responsible for it.
They would be fired with immediate effect.
I do think however we are living in a nanny state, pandering to groups that seem a little out of touch with the evolution of society and with a very confused view of what is really right and wrong in this world.
For example –
It is easier to get free wifi, than it is to get free water!
Now that’s wrong.
5. Staying on topic, your uniqueness is also in your language: your use of hashtags and giving similar-sounding words a meaning different than their original one while still keeping them in context is something I have never seen. How did you come up with such an idea?
I don’t think it was ever something I came up with to be honest, more something that evolved in to a kind of personal signature over time.
I was found to be dyslexic, at a very late stage in my education. Strangely, it was noted and suspected through, not my essay writing, but my unusual use of colour, in my design work.
Apparently people with such “Qualities” dig deeper in to the resources box of their brains, to find another path for their journey.
Having discovered this, and remembering the years at high school, not ever really understanding where to put a full stop and therefore, writing pages and pages without one (it’s no wonder I was out of breath).
I decided to get self-educated in the art of my birth rite – English.
My mother, who was a bit of a fellow rebel in her youth, burning bras and what not, Once told me
“You have to be in the system and know the rules, before you can break them”.
Never a wiser word was spoken in my ear and, I have never sent a text since, without full punctuation, or correct pronunciation and spelling. It reminds me that it’s never too late to learn and there is always, something to learn.
Word play is just an extension of how I use my alternative and lateral brain.
Dyslexics think differently, usually because they’ve had to, to survive and get by.
I have always sought solace in writing poetry and, I have always been a lyrics kid, when it comes to music.
Music is so important to my daily life and again like my interests, my taste in music is eclectic.
I use lyrics often to accompany my post.
It’s a universal language, after all!
6. A necessary question: who is your most beloved shoe-maker, besides yourself?
Urghhhhh this is the worst question of all.
It’s like asking me, who is my favourite band.
I love hundreds of shoe makers/brands/designers but not necessarily as a whole collection.
Bearing in mind the couture arena will always incorporate skins, hides and fur from more exotic species into designs.
I tend to feel uncomfortable with the association.
That question is far more complicated than it appears.
Which I’m sure, sounds ridiculous but for me, it really isn’t.
If you want brands I love and admire…
Trickers, Camper, Christian Louboutin, Barker Black, Church’s, Grenson, Yohji Yamamoto, Thorocraft, Prada, Nike, Doc Martens, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Sergio Rossi, Adidas, Mihara Yasuhiro, Miu Miu, Jill Sander, Givenchy, Del Toro to name a few.
A couple I have a soft spot for are –
Nicholas Kirkwood, Alberto Gaurdiani, Salvatore Ferragamo and Kobi Levi
7. What is in the works for the future and where would you like to see A-gency in a few years?
The future, not unlike myself, is a bit of a mystery.
But at some point, I would quite like to see aGENCY on her own boat, sailing around the Adriatic.
That’s the ultimate, in footwear design.
Thank you to A-gency.
by Stefania Piccolo