From kick-flare heels to runway-ready collaborations, meet the next generation of shoe designers leaving their footprint on the fashion industry.

For Marko Baković, teamwork is everything. During his studies at London College of Fashion in 2018, he partnered with Central Saint Martins menswear student Nicolas Fischer. Since then, the Amsterdam-based shoemaker has made ‘collaboration’ his mission statement, creating custom silhouettes for Stefan Cooke, Charlotte Knowles, Barragán, and Paolina Russo.

From repurposed adidas Superstar boots to mules made out of belts, Baković brings innovation and eccentricity to every piece of footwear he makes. And while initially his creations were conceived for the runway, the designer is finally answering to the slew of fandomania on his Instagram and releasing his pieces to the public.


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What’s the first pair of shoes you remember wanting to own?

When I was about 18, I was obsessed with the black Stella McCartney wooden wedge Chelsea boots from the AW08 collection. Not to wear; I just remember that I found them so beautiful.

What was the first pair of shoes you ever made?

They were Oxford-style shoes for myself, with a zipper closure instead of laces.

You studied product design at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, then did an MA in fashion footwear at London College of Fashion. How did these two pathways impact your creative approach?

In the start-up phase of my creative process, I take a lot from my ‘Rietveldian’ upbringing— meaning that I experiment a lot and don’t like to think in constricted boxes—it was a time of sponging up as much information about all kinds of disciplines from all eras. Whereas, the execution and production trajectory of projects is very akin to what I learned at LCF: Being precise, on time, and militant.


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What’s on your mood board?

I don’t work with mood boards if I’m honest! I used to not draw either, but I’m forcing myself to draw out designs and ideas beforehand. My mind works in a rather technical way, so I find architecture and rather boring and dry things inspirational. One of my favourite pastimes is watching very long and illustrious YouTube tutorials on the most niche subjects, like concrete floor casting, doll-making, wig-making, or car restoration.

Why do you choose to co-create?

It’s actually a fairly egotistical choice of mine to work in this way. Being able to collaborate with creatively rich individuals has two huge benefits: First of all, it allows me to try out numerous ideas and experimental whims. If I was designing solely for my own label, it would be impossible to try out so many different ideas, materials, and constructions without losing the DNA of the brand.

Secondly, I, in return, am fed all this creativity and visions from my collaborators, rather than being left alone with my own ideas. It’s about making connections and learning from each other.


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You’ve now collaborated with the likes of Charlotte Knowles and Stefan Cooke. Does your design process change a lot depending on who you’re working with?

Very much so. It’s very interesting to see how different designers have different ways of coming to an end result. Some require a lot of back and forth idea-exchanging and are very meticulous about what they like, whereas others leave it completely up to me. What is clear, in any case, is that there is a lot of trust required from all parties involved, which I am grateful for.

What’s been the most challenging collaboration you’ve worked on so far?

In all honesty, every last collaboration is the hardest, as I like to push myself more and more every time around, be it in terms of time constraints, scope of project, exploring, or even inventing new techniques. I am a bit of a workaholic, if I’m frank.


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How would you describe the relationship between functionality, wearability, and aesthetics in your work? Do you approach shoes as art—design objects created for wearing once on the runway—or also as durable, practical footwear?

It depends on the project. Usually, show pieces are more about impactful looks and less about wearability. But, ultimately, it’s all about sales. If I design beautiful shoes that are unbearable to wear, nobody will buy them, or at least not more than once. So it’s about achieving an interesting look but always having comfort and fit as a degree of measure. Finding this equilibrium between the runway look and shoes that go into production is a very time-consuming and precise endeavour—it’s a matter of quarters of millimetres sometimes.

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