By: Yelena Kozachkova
Haplessly, I was unable to meet with Barbara Briones in person for an interview as she was in Chile for business. Still, I could almost hear her Spanish accent working over the keyboard as she replied to my many questions in the Chilean climate. Her experiences with these South American spices have shaped her designs- adding zip and tang to every shoe. Such as the tyrian purple booties, named Marina, with a vertical black bow flat against the front, or the black booties, named Poly, with snake skin textured on the heel and platform and a red lining along the mid-front from her fall/winter collection.
I could imagine Barbara seated before me. Her olive skin glistening in our July heat, which is rather mild this year, or maybe I would be seated before her in Chile.
What inspired you to design shoes as a career path?
I have always been inspired by art and design. When I was 19 years old I moved to Buenos Aires to learn the art of shoe making, I got the opportunity to learn with really good people there, at the Colon Theater and with other shoemakers from the city. One of them, Sylvie, a French shoemaker and designer used to do tango shoes, we used to spend hours in her atelier, she taught me the art and craftsmanship involved in a handmade shoe, and I guess she inspired me the most.
After 3 years in Buenos Aires I moved to London were I studied at London College of Fashion. Those were great years, London is such an inspiring city!
I think, in a way, shoes are the perfect combination between art and design, they are like sculptures in movement. I guess I was very lucky to be at the right place at the right time.
What would you say is your signature style?
What I like the most is mixing different materials, I work with fur, leather, and textiles. Personally I love the woven leather shoes from this collection. I recently designed some shoes for Anthropologie, all woven in leather. When I look at them it reminds me of my time in Buenos Aires and the chairs of those old cafes, chic and sensual with history.
This mixture can be seen from her flats with leather and snake skin to the boots with suede and fur. Her heterogeneous combinations make for an exquisite look like the Juliana black shoes with gold embellishments on the point and lace ends or the grey Mara bootie with fur protruding from a hole between the laces.
What sets your shoes apart from other products on the market?
My shoes are handmade in Chile, every piece involves a lot of craftsmanship, I think handmade work is rare these days, but some people value that special work. The shoes are handmade in our atelier in Santiago and working in your own workshop gives you more space to follow your creativity, where as in a big factory there is no place for it. I guess that is great advantage for me.
How much balance is there between beauty and comfort?
Comfort has always been an important part of my designs, shoes unlike other pieces of design, have to be wearable and comfortable, if not they lose their functionality and essence.