These boots are made for walkin’

Deborah BakerAnd the lady that designs them is the epitome of cool! Comfortably seated on a timeworn leather sofa, with a woollen grey hat designed by Donna, her Italian friend, a long velvety green overcoat, jeans and her eponymous boots, Deborah Baker seems to be a latter-day Anita Pallenberg or Marianne Faithful. Those iconic women marked The Rolling Stones‘ generation of the 60’s and 70’s and also happen to be a strong inspiration behind the Fiorentini + Baker label.

sketchingFiorentini + Baker was born in Italy as the first part of the brand name suggests. After having attended Cordwainers College just round the corner from her latest boutique, Deborah travelled to Italy where opportunities to learn and create were bountiful in contrast with the 80’s depressed job market in morose England. After freelancing for various companies, her partner of the time, interior designer Paolo Fiorentini, convinced her to set up her own label. Thus Fiorentini + Baker was born in the heart of Bologna in 2001. Just over ten years later, Fiorentini + Baker counts four boutiques in the hottest fashion spots on earth: Los Angeles, Soho/New York, Notting Hill and, the latest addition, in trendy Shoreditch. By now, her shoes have already been featured in various English and Italian films and are rapidly becoming a must amongst celebrities.

boots

When the power of love overcomes the love for power, the world will know peace. Jimi Hendrix

Deborah readily claims the 60’s and 70’s eras as a major inspiration for the collections that she creates year in year out. But also the kooky furniture of the 50’s, music by Jimi Hendrix, Bobby Gillespie, old Motown, David Bowie et al, architectural pieces, old scraps of vintage fabric and buttons, and films from Federico Fellini. Beyond that, you would be hard pressed to find what influences spark her imagination on a daily basis. Call it forgetfulness or coyness of a great mind, either way, Deborah will not sit down throwing names of innovative painters or young bright artists at you. Perhaps part of the charm and longevity of Fiorentini + Baker stems from that very fact that it cannot be pinned down to a particular trend or theme. Quite the opposite, her design has the essence of timelessness that comes with being spared the changing mood of the fickle fashion world. Even the small family run factories in the Marches in Italy where her designs are produced are a far cry from the madness of the fashion industry. She prefers to say that everything around her inspires her: any little detail on Portobello Market, one of her favourite haunts, can catch her attention and any original combination of clothes she spots someone wearing spurs her interest. In other words, she catches l’air du temps in a creative exchange with her friends and a joyful interaction with the people that walk the streets of New York, London or Los Angeles.

 in marketAll the while, Deborah is deeply attached to her Bermondsey roots and values the community of people and friends that gives any place its true identity and its vibe. Her creative team and the local artisans that make her shoes are like one big family where ideas bounce back and forth. Every shoe is made with genuine Italian leather. Every little detail is carefully thought out; one-off pieces of vintage fabrics are sometimes added on and her good friend, Giovanni Calzolari, handcrafts the delicate metal pieces that adorn the Summer collection sandals and sometimes the wallets. The original Fiorentini + Baker store is located in the heart of Bologna on a busy street where artisans bustle about their activities. She deplores the fact that the artisans that peopled the communities of English towns and villages across the country seem to have all but disappeared leaving soulless and homogenised streets to take their place.

at work with GiovaniDeborah Baker’s dream for the future involves in no particular order: taking a break of three months or so in the city that never sleeps to charge her batteries and soak up the atmosphere, collaborating with a clothes designer as she has done once with Anna Sui (she is an unconditional fan of Vivienne Westwood by the way), hosting more selling exhibitions of photography just as she did with the work of legendary British portraitist, Cornel Lucas. After all, photography is one of her other passions and she often visits the Red Gallery just round the corner from her Shoreditch boutique. But her agenda is pretty full between the never ending pressure of producing a new collection every season and the everyday management of her boutiques. Though, she assured me, she always finds time to have fun and party with her friends and the community of local artists.

girl upside down

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