Strassing And All That Jazz
If you haven’t heard about Strassing yet, you haven’t explored a whole world of possibilities of shoe transformation, enhancement and adornment.
Strass and Strassing
Going to the dictionary definition, strass refers to flint glass with a high lead content that is used to imitate precious stones. It is also a synonym for ‘rhinestone’ taking the name from its inventor Georg Friedrich Strass. Now the concept of strass has evolved into ‘strassing’, which is the use of Swarovski crystals to beautify shoes.
Increasingly those who love their shoes and want to own a beautiful, one of a kind pair are using crystal embellishments to make a shoe statement like no other. It is about wearing a work of art, of upping the intrinsic worth of a shoe not just because of how stunningly they can be transformed but also because of having added to the shoes, crystals that are highly valuable by themselves.
The options and the permutations and combinations that can be achieved are literally limitless. The options in terms of the kind of shoes used, the sort of heels they have, their color and their material provide a sort of canvass on which the artist is to paint a masterpiece.
Then, using different gluing techniques and picking from a mind boggling variety of stunning stones: a wide selection in terms of color, size and brilliance, the crystals, which add sparkle, definition and texture; transform a mere shoe into a veritable work of art that spells luxury and class!
Beads, flat backs, rounded stones, sew on stones, buttons, crystal pearls, metal trimmings, crystal fabric, crystal transfers can all create stunning effects.
It is possible to add crystals to the entire shoe or to just a part of the shoe to create interesting shades and contrasts.
Strassing with crystals
Shoe collectors know all about the legend of Christian Louboutin and his resolve to make a woman look sexy, beautiful, to make her legs look as long as [he] can. Principally responsible for the return of the stiletto in the 1990’s and the 2000s, he has brought us the epitome of the dress shoe, replete with bows, feathers, bejeweled straps, and stunning patent leather finishes.
The luxury and glamour that are associated with Louboutin’s designs lend themselves naturally to strassing or the crystallizing process with fabulous results. This is not to say that only Louboutin’s designs will work for strassing; far from it.
It is good quality shoes – peep toes, pumps and any other suitable style – that is the requirement. Quality raw materials, sound construction and exquisite design all go into making that quality shoe. It doesn’t even have to be a brand new shoe; pre-owned, high-end shoes will work just as well for strassing.
The surface of the shoe matters for how successful the strassing will be. Leather and satin finishes work very well and these can also be painted to a base shade identical to or close to the crystal colors that one may want.
An increasing number of professionals and DIY enthusiasts, that’s who! You just have to visit an online forum or two like purseblog.com to know how much of a rage strassing is! Forum commentators discuss the type of shoes that form the base of their project, the type of crystals they use and how many will be required given the size, the type of gluing process they use (some use Barge Cement some use Gem-tac glue), and the amount of time the entire project will take.
Strassers offer each other tips and pointers for their projects and also help by posting pictures of the work in progress and finally the finished project. Discussions also involve the process of using combinations of different sizes of crystals: using smaller sized crystals to fill in any of the gaps left over by the larger ones.
A forum such as weddingbee.com also has threads dedicated to DIY strassing projects since many brides to be, want that very special shoe for that very special day. The best deals for buying the crystals and where to source them from are other topics of discussion on these forums.
And it isn’t just the girls either who are strassing and getting a kick out of their sparkly shoes. Guys are doing it too! Mark MacKillop, singer, actor, model and dancer is also a shoe lover. He was featured in the April-June 2012 edition in one of his perfectly self-strassed shoes. Not only does he enjoy high heeled shoes (and a growing tribe of men do this), he successfully strassed thousands of dollars worth of Swarovski crystals on to a pair of gray Oxfords from Kenneth Cole. Like any woman would, he enjoys making an entrance as well; with all eyes on him in those stunning footwear creations that are the result of his own toil!
Strassing can be time consuming and can require a lot of skills. So for those of you who fear soiling or spoiling expensive shoes with clumsy attempts and glue stains, there is always an option to submit the pair to professionals to let them do all the work. You have to be prepared to brave the exuberant cost in the thousands of dollars to cover time, labor and cost of materials. Needless to say, you can always settle for the retail store versions for just about the same price, also in the thousands of dollars. To self-strass is a matter of time consumption; DIY derives a custom-made color theme versus retail cost for an already made color theme dictated by the designer for the season.
If opting to brave the odds with the DIY route, professionals do point out that the shoe surfaces that work best for strassing are suede, satin, calfskin/nappa or laminato leather and that the laminato leather works best because the sheen of the shoe disguises the glue perfectly. Patent leather is unable to absorb glue and so is not advisable.
Several channels on YouTube offers glimpses of stunning strassing projects, using principally, shoes from Christian Louboutin, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianmarco Lorenzi and Giuseppe Zanotti pairs. Again it isn’t just the women who look to add sparkles to their collection, men also realize the amazing things that strassing can do to their shoes. Strassing is also a great way to give an old pair a “face lift” from the old worn out form it had been before. So consider this before you toss out an old favored pair.
Strassing is something that you can do or get done to your prized shoes in order that you can fall in love with them…. All over again!
Featured shoes in the article: A classic Yves Saint Laurent Tribtoo suede pumps every inch of the surface embellished entirely, in various sizes, with genuine Swarovski crystals. Strassing and photo by Editor-in-Chief & Creative Director Tinu, which she completed in between work deadlines and daily work schedules. Total time of completion of a full pair, 68 hours! We really don’t know how she does it!
An exclusive by Denise Waller, first published in the July-Sept 2012 edition of Shoeholics magazine. All rights reserved