Matthew Harrison

My background is as an Industrial Designer and Engineer. I did a masters degree in mechanical engineering at Imperial, but became more and more interested in the goings on at the Royal College of Art next door. So I applied to do the Industrial Design Engineering MA Course at the RCA. I loved every minute of it, and it was on this course that I designed the Dopie.

Why design a shoe?
It is my first shoe. It came out of a brief to design something very simple, so that we could get it to manufacturable status within the length of the project. At the time I wanted to embrace the extra challenge of designing for the body. To design a beautiful object to sit on a mantle piece is fairly easy, but to design something for people to wear, it becomes a much more personal choice, with all sorts of fashion, culture and status influences, as well as function and aesthetics. So I set my self the challenge to make the simplest shoe possible. This was the starting point for Dopie.

Moment of Inspiration:
There were several moments of inspiration. The first was playing around with a bit of Blue Foam (similar to expanded polystyrene) and I became amazed at how dexterous the foot could be if it was given space to move, and not weighed down with too much padding.

The next was a moment of affirmation that I was going down the right road, I found some pictures of sandals made out of wooden planks, with just a draw-knob bolted on to go between the toes. These primitive shoes were well worn and loved. Seeing this gave me absolute confidence that it was possible to make DOPIES. And the final moment of inspiration was putting the slot between the toes. From a manufacturing stand point, this made things a lot easier on the molding process, but in terms of feel and elegance, it also did great things.

The Design and Development process:
It has progressed slowly, and has been a long journey, the main reason for this is that is a fairly radical shoe in an industry based around texture and colour rather than form. Shoe design is dominated by 'aesthetic evolution' rather than functional development. Dopie puts new and different stresses on the toes and feet, it took a long time to find the right shape and materials for it to work properly and make it comfortable. It took a lot of confidence and enthusiasm to get the product this far. The manufacturers Terra Plana have been brilliant in their support and patience however, and few people would have given me the freedom to create such an unusual product.

By Matthew Harrison


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