The kid’s alright! Don’t let age fool you, Louise Millard may be a spring chicken compared to the rest, but get her talking about her crazy vintage collection and this lady will shut you down in a hot minute. Concerned more with aesthetics than boring history lessons, Louise has amassed a bounty of stanky old school goodness in a very short time. Not to mention a coup from a certain ‘going out of business’ sneaker store. We get the inside information from the London lass.
Tell us about your collection and obsession with old sneakers?
It’s less of an obsession, more a lifestyle choice. I’m training as a footwear designer, so I like things that I haven’t seen before and are intriguing. I don’t give a damn if what I buy is Nike, adidas, Fila, Reebok or Avia. If I like, I buy. The size I wear looks sick in chunky hi-hops. The proportions are really important, as well as how the colours work. It appears that there’s more old than new that suits this criteria.
How do you define vintage as applied to footwear?
If it cracks when you wear it – it’s gotta be vintage!
Ok, fair enough! Gimme a few choice cuts and anything you know about them.
My knowledge of the past is limited, my memory sucks and some of that stuff isn’t important to me. My Ewings are definitely up there on the list. They came in many different colourways, but the orange and blues were the hottest! There’s also these Fila’s. I have no box and haven’t a clue to their name but absolutely love the design, it’s the removable strap around the back and the chunky dark sole. Then there’s the old Huaraches, they are so damn comfy! I thought Converse was as wacked out as Fila, but these are definitely golden oldies. But before any of these came to my attention I was mashing my foot into these Nikes I found on eBay. Once again, no box and no name, they look like they are related to the Blazer family. Sorry, I’m purely into the aesthetics. I’ve read about sneakers I have, but don’t make any purchases because of a story, or because of it being one in 100 produced, or down to some mad colourway that was a freak accident.
For most of us, vintage shoes are a reminder of our childhood... you’re from a MUCH younger generation. Why do they mean so much to you?
True to say I’m more or less a kid in this game, so it’s excitement for design. Cos I’m young I have no knowledge of the shoes first time round. Design is what I do and to be honest, the trainers being released at the moment just don’t get me as excited. I can’t believe that models released before I was born or could even walk are that old, I guess I just dig the '80s/'90s flex. In a way, the mystery is appealing. Why did they do that? When the hell were these invented and why didn’t anyone tell me before? I firmly believe that if some of the models I own were rereleased they would sell as well now. It’s a shame that it’s always the same old models on the shelves.
Are you a bit frustrated by the current range of shoes for gals?
My love of vintage is more appreciation of design. I got over the fact there’s nothing for me when looking at the women’s range pretty quickly. I buy what I like and at the moment that’s not pink, blue, heart-shaped or slim-line. I’m mainly looking for the smallest men’s sizes (UK6), or the biggest kids (UK5.5) and it was a while before I clocked that I was always heading for the men’s section. The women’s range will probably always be a bit naff, most products aren’t for the ‘cool kids’, they’re for the ones that aspire to be… But there’s definitely gonna be good things coming soon – if any of the brands do the right thing and actually hire me as a design assistant – then this shit’ll get sorted! I graduate from Cordwainers in July and have an exhibition in June if anyone would like to view the new women’s range I have designed.
I heard you went down to Sports & Things in South London?
A lot of cash had just entered my account during Student Loan time and I went to Sports & Things as part of my research for my Final Project at Uni to talk to the owner. Before arriving I tried to tell myself ‘only buy one pair, and maybe a tracksuit’, but stepping off the bus and spotting the huge closing down signs in the window, I actually broke into a run to get there faster. There were a lot of shoes and boxes everywhere, a table full of Filas (I didn’t even know that I liked Fila’s until I saw some of what was on offer). I asked the nearest assistant to point out the manager (being a women, slightly devious and already reading about this place, I knew there was way more to be had), found him, smiled sweetly, paid for the armful of trainers, explained to him my intentions and asked him to let me in the stock room. He was slightly taken aback by this, but was very courteous and ended up giving me a guided-tour. I told him my size and in the end probably looked at every shoe that would fit on my foot.
How many pairs did you evacuate?
Maybe 40+ pairs! First trip I bought more than I could carry so they gave me two travel bags on wheels! Next day was meant to be just picking up the rest of them, but somehow turned into more purchases. By the third day, the dude was like ‘no more’. The new managers are really into collecting themselves, so I guess it felt good to share, then the novelty wore off. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, it wasn’t a completely selfish trip, a couple of pairs were picked up for my brother and friends. The thought of hustling and getting involved with eBay also came to mind, but when it came to the crunch of actually parting with them I couldn’t do it.
Are you actually going to wear them?
Hell yes! What’s the point of having it if you’re not going to wear it? Some of these designs are incredible and deserve to see the light of day. To start with, I wore a new pair every day for about a month, mixing it up with the sneakers I already had. Some of the leather cracked and flaked on the first wear, others are slightly yellowed which is a shame but that happens in old age. I’m still enjoying the surprise of opening a box and going ‘oh yeah, I remember these bad boys’. Also, the compliments and neck breaking is nice…
I heard you might be the only girl to have been admitted to the SPORTS & THINGS vault?
I’m of the understanding I was the first. The manager, Del, was so surprised that any females were actually into trainers. Recently I’ve met another girl that was there, but she was told she was the second to have the privilege, so she was definitely after me.
It’s usually a blokey thing to crave these stinky old sneakers... is it related to the male obsession with sports? Or something else?
Design all the way. Honestly, it wasn’t until I started my project research in October that I realised how sports oriented it kinda should be. Does this make me a fake cos I don’t care who wore what when? Plus I have no-sense of smell, so as far as the smelly thing goes I had no idea.