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Accessories and footwear are two of the fastest growing areas of the global fashion industry. Many of the most internationally renowned fashion houses are today making their largest profits from the sale of accessories and shoes. London College of Fashion, with its central London location and strong commercial and industrial links, enjoys a close relationship with the city's fashion industry and livery companies who offer tremendous support to the footwear and accessories courses.
Courses in footwear and accessories design are led by a staff of professional practitioners. Shoe making is taught by the Cordwainers team in specialist workshops where students learn through practical experimentation and the application of their technical skills. The workshops are situated in the heart of London's East End, an area historically rich in local crafts and skills, and still one of the city's most buzzing creative hotspots.
Cordwainers College has its origins in the Leather Trades School, the first school of boot and shoe manufacture founded in Bethnal Green in 1887. The term dates back to the Middle Ages, when the tradesmen of London began to form themselves into fraternities. Workers in metal, cloth, leather and other trades formed guilds to present a united front for their craft.
Those who worked with the finest leather were called Cordwainers because their material came from Cordoba in Spain. They developed a soft, durable goatskin leather known as Cordwain – the very finest leather available – importation of which contributed to the growing prosperity of London. Over a period of time, those who processed the leather formed their own guilds. The shoemakers, however, retained the name.
The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, which had been involved in the establishment of the Leather Trades School, took responsibility for the school from 1913 when it became known as the Cordwainers Technical College. In 1946 it moved to Mare Street in Hackney and became Cordwainers College in 1989. The college was unique in providing vocational courses in footwear, saddlery and leather-craft. In August 2000 it was incorporated in the London College of Fashion, where specialist courses in footwear and accessories continue to uphold the quality of the Cordwainers tradition.
Cordwainers graduates are today sought after for their special expertise and impeccable skills and attitudes towards the shoe trade. Many alumni are some of the most influential footwear and accessory designers of recent years, including Jimmy Choo, Emma Hope, Patrick Cox, Joseph Azagury, Linda Bennett of LK Bennett and many NJAL talents. London College of Fashion still works closely with many of these individuals, and continues to educate new generations of traditional, yet pioneering shoe and accessories makers.
This summer Cordwainers College at London College of Fashion will be running a creative summer school. If you are planning to launch a footwear range or have a passionate interest in shoe design this might be your perfect summer activity. The unique programme combines traditional design principles and techniques with innovation and creativity, the participation in a study trip to Paris, CAD technology and the traditional craft of shoemaking. From the start, you will gain a concentrated and superior knowledge of the footwear product, with particular emphasis on creativity, the use of technology, and finally product realisation.