Meant for walking

’I like things that are outside of the usual silhouette of the shoe,’ says designer Shani Bar, a young woman who chose cobbling for a profession.

The greatest success, in the eyes of many, is the admiration of our peers. In the bustling Israeli fashion scene, there are a few names that are often spoken, pioneers of the trade that provide inspiration for emerging talents. Shani Bar is most definitely one of these names.
Shani Bar is a cordwainer. Never heard of the term before? This word describes a person who can describe the lasting process in depth and explain the difference between a stitchdown and a turnout. In short, she is a shoemaker. Though these terms read like Greek to most of us, they belong to an ageold tradition. Shoemaking, or cobbling, goes back to biblical times. And as footwear is a necessity we don’t seem to be outgrowing, the skill continues to evolve and develop, bringing us innovators like Bar.
Bar is a tall, striking woman with an air of ease and refinement. Her store on Rehov Dizengoff in Tel Aviv is similarly beautiful.
Though the space is not large, Bar’s boutique has an open and uncluttered feel to it with everything in its right place.
Bar graduated from Bezalel School of Art and Design in 2003 and immediately got to work on her first line of handcrafted shoes. In the seven years since, she has become an icon of local design, leading a generation of young, energetic shoemakers.
Her easily identifiable footwear has been used to accent designs by the biggest and best Israeli designers.
“I listen to trends a little,” says Bar, “But because of my training at Bezalel, I work according to a concept.”
The Wild West inspired her newest collection, which hit the market this season.
“I usually spend about two weeks researching my idea,” she explained. “I go to libraries and rent films. I don’t like looking things up on the Internet. And then I sketch. The whole process takes about a month to six weeks,” she says. Hints of corsets and bustled dresses are easy to spot amidst the array of designs in this line.
This collection includes oxfords, which Bar refers to as sneakers (being the most casual model one will find in her line), boots and a variety of heels from high to low as well as a few handbags. Among the classic pumps and intricate flats are a few humoristic touches. One shoe, which Bar refers to as Dumbo, is a take on a lace-up, five-centimeter heeled shoe. On both sides of the laces there is a butterfly-wing-shaped flap. “I like things that are outside of the usual silhouette,” explains Bar as she returns Dumbo to its spot on the shelves.
Beyond being painfully chic, the defining characteristic of any Shani Bar shoe is comfort.
Bar explains that during the crafting process, she tries on each pair herself to ensure that they are both lovely on the leg and fun to walk in. A key element in comfort is the quality of the materials. Bar hand-picks her leathers in Europe. “The use of leather is what attracted me to this field to begin with. I love leather and I love the tradition of crafting it,” she says.
“Unlike clothes, shoes need to fit perfectly.
If my shoes sit in the closet, I haven’t accomplished anything.“ Bar produces all of her shoes and handbags in a factory in Tel Aviv. Each heel is selected according to the shoe it will support.
Every lace or tie is chosen to perfectly accentuate the line or color of its design.
This attention to detail is what sets Bar apart from other contenders in her competitive field.
“At the end of the day, the thing that thrills me the most,” she says, “is seeing a pair of my shoes on the street. I’ll be standing at a traffic light, waiting to cross the road, and I’ll look down and see one of my designs. It’s great,” she exclaims.
Shani Bar stores are located at 151 Dizengoff and 3 Mikve Yisrael in Tel Aviv.