Last Saturday (09 Dec 2017), Street Chic met 17yr year old shoe designer, Daniel Charkow of Charkow Shoes. Daniel is a design prodigy now gaining popularity on Instagram as @Shoe_Man_Dan. Let it be known that at the time of this writing the young shoemaker has but a thousand followers, and this author was #1001. But Street Chic predicts that by December 2018 this prolific young craftsman will have several thousand followers, and that number will climb to a quarter million devotees by the time he’s age 19, at which point he can legally celebrate. Why? He’s an interesting young fellow well focused on making high fashion footwear from found materials.
When an artist works with found items its because they glimpse something in these objects that nobody else can fathom, and when a clever kid can turn clutter into couture, its newsworthy.
On that Saturday morning we met Daniel near Queen and Dufferin and went for a tour of the Parkdale Flea to see if the young cobbler could find some crafty ingredients for his next creation.
Street Chic thinks Daniel is pretty cool – we’ve got an eye for wild style and confident clothing arrangements. When Dan showed up for our meeting he was rocking a faux fur jacket and well-altered converse running shoes over monogrammed socks. The tape across the tongue of his shoes says clearly ‘do not reuse this bag’!
Inside the Parkdale Flea, Saturday 09 December
At each vendor’s booth, Daniel would invariably look at the footwear for sale, and small shoe racks were like super magnets for this young designer.
Occasionally, and only after some prompting, Shoe Man Dan would share insights on the makes and models available on the shelf.
A fashion paradox, these size 6 green Jungle pattern camo patterned ladies heeled boots had pony hair fronts but braided leather backs with studded metal rivets. The vendor wanted sixty dollars, but this author reckons a crisp fifty-dollar bill would have secured them, tax free.
At this point in life, having only been a sentient being for a few years now, Dan is still sponging up knowledge about shoes. He scrutinizes all types of footwear looking for manufacturer’s secrets.
Already Daniel knows more about shoes than anyone else his age. He’s pursued shoemaking at the Art and Sole Academy in Toronto under the guidance of master instructor Jennifer Alison, where he took his skills to the next level and learned how to make shoes from scratch.
When shopping for shoes, the craftsman in Daniel looks at how the bottom is affixed to the top. What holds the body of the shoe to its sole? Is the upper part fastened to the bottom inside the shoe with a Blake Stitch? or a Goodyear stitch? Or is there exterior welting to bind them together? Or were the shoes simply cemented together? as above. Daniel showed us examples of all types of modern manufacturing, and pointed out shoes that are very high quality but low design, and others that are flashy but destined to fall apart relatively quickly.
Inside the Parkdale Flea, which had only just opened its doors, and where the only other occupants were other vendors setting up their booths, Daniel led Street Chic on a quest for shoe crafting components and shared some little know facts about the business of making and selling footwear.
Daniel Charkow is serious about sustainability and likes recycling old kitsch into new kicks.
In the top corner of another vendors booth, or more accurately in the permanent workspace behind the temporary retail table, Daniel spotted his first real find of the morning. He pointed out an old dining room chair that was ‘showing us its heels’.
Inside Public Butter in Toronto
Next it was off to Public Butter at 1290 Queen St W, which is one of the finest vintage stores in Toronto. This shop is right around the corner from the flea market and easily spotted by the heap of rusting bicycles opposite the front door. At this venue Daniel got a second chance to shop for shoe-making ingredients.
Public Butter has a vast collection of vintage clothing all organized by ‘type of thing’ and generally not sized or sorted into any subcategories. That makes the store rather ill-suited for hunting specifics, but perfect for finding surprises, and Daniel’s eyes were open.
In here, Daniel palmed antique textiles while contemplating their potential as shoes. He handled dresses, suit jackets, sweaters and thick vinyl overcoats, but didn’t get too excited until he hit upon an old leather jacket in the back of the store.
Buried deep in the back racks, a decades old Mount Allison high school football jacket caught Daniel’s eye. The deep burgundy jacket was in bad shape with the inner lining torn to shreds, and it was priced to sell at $20.
And so it came to pass that this author bought the jacket and donated its burgundy body to the young lad to see what comes … He can keep and sell the shoes himself, however, I’d like to see them auctioned off on Street Chic.
Just before we published this article, Daniel sent a sketch showing the shoes he’s making with the old Mount Allison High School football jacket.