Style Curious


Curiously accomplished accessories designer, Thea Cadabra

Thea Cadabra is probably best known for her inspirational 1970s and '80s shoe designs, recently reincarnated at her new studio workshop in London. But Thea's importance as an accessories designer appears to have been somewhat overlooked...

I recently discovered Thea's small-but-uniquely-original collection of vintage belts, designed and made in the early 1980s, and persuaded her to offer the individually hand crafted pieces for sale at ShopCurious. Do take a look at these stylish belts - if not to buy, at least to appreciate the talent and quality of craftsmanship evident in the work of this skilled and accomplished accessories designer.

Please note: these are one-off items - so collectors beware, the belts will only be available until they are sold!

A little more background information about the designer: Cadabra comes from an artistic family and has always loved making things. Shoemaking was a natural progression from her love of dressmaking – she needed shoes to go with her outfits – particularly for the themed parties of London in the 1970s.

In 1975 she apprenticed herself to a well established Turkish shoemaker, Mehmet K. Egeli, in London’s Charlotte Street, from whom she learned traditional shoemaking skills. So well in fact, that in 1979 she won the Crafts Council Shoe Show 1st Prize, presented by Princess Margaret. In addition to shoes, she then branched out into making belts and handbags with similarly colourful and dramatic themes....

From the mid 80s onwards, however, Thea was drawn into the commercial world. She spent the next twenty years living first in France and then in the States, working for the likes of Charles Jourdan, Beverly Feldman, Stuart Weitzman, and Nine West.

Now back in the UK, and with renewed interest in her handmade work from the 70s and early 80s (the Thames and Hudson book Seventies Style & Design featured her work), she's been inspired to return to her artisanal roots and has once again set up a workshop, designing and making shoes and accessories - developing earlier themes and exploring new ideas.

Thea loves individual expression beyond fashion, and “the irreverence that seems to be a particular aspect of British eccentricity.” Her ideal client is someone who appreciates fun, colour, quality, and craftsmanship. “My aim when designing is to create a shoe, belt or bag that fully integrates the design idea – it’s not just about surface embellishment, I make my shoes in beautiful leathers which are a pleasure to work with - and sensuous to wear.” Every shoe takes a great deal of time to perfect. The final version is the result of several months work of deliberation, trials and remakes.

For inspiration, Thea looks to the dynamics of asymmetry, so the foot becomes rather dramatic and unusual. "Inspiration may come from any number of sources – architecture, home interiors, nature, the weather…My aim is to create aesthetically pleasing, fun, wearable, pretty shoes, with a timeless quality."

Thea's favourite places in London are her patio garden, the Troubadour cafe in Earl’s Court for breakfast, the Turkish Baths in Ironmonger Row – a wood panelled underground oasis, but sadly since May, closed for refurbishment… She also loves to eat oysters and drink champagne at Brasserie Mollard in Paris, where she soaks in the fin de siècle magical mosaic and mirrored interior, "an uplifting and relaxing experience."

She'd love to sit next to David Eagleman, the neuroscientist and fiction writer at dinner. "I've read his brilliant book Sum, and went to hear him speak at The School of Life lecture series recently – an absolutely amazing experience - I was entranced by his sense of humour, wit, and imagination."

Thea's plan for the future is to establish niche markets where she can express her individual creativity: Meantime, her curiously collectable vintage belts are exclusively available at ShopCurious.