By Melissa Keogh
In an industry consumed with fast fashion and big brands, Adelaide shoemaker Matea Gluscevic is proving that slow and sustainable is best when it comes to the world of custom-made creations.
“I can’t really participate in fast fashion or trends because by the time a trend comes and goes, I’m only at the research, development and pattern making stages,” says Matea from her workshop at creative hub The Mill on Angas Street, Adelaide.
“My satisfaction comes from making something that I know will last a long time. I want somebody to be able to have my shoes for ages.”
The 30-year-old designer and maker launched her own shoe brand just over a year ago, with the first order placed by a woman in Portland, Oregon, in the US who had spotted Matea’s shoes on Instagram.
Since then Matea’s brand has transitioned through a few name changes and different style directions, from minimalistic and basic block coloured sandals to more futuristic and colourful designs.
Her label underwent a rebrand recently to become Matea Gluscevic Handmade, – in response to Matea’s desire to adopt to a more genuine and sincere style suited to her own personal taste.
The shoes are made to order, taking about three weeks to craft from sustainably sourced materials including wild kangaroo leather, cork and recycled rubber.
The vegetable tanned kangaroo leather is considered more environmentally friendly than typical chrome tanned bovine leather and is sourced from South Australian kangaroo leather tannery Vacel Leather in Adelaide’s north.
“Veg tan leather is made using bark tannins, so it’s better for the environment … I would rather not have too much of a guilty conscience in terms of what I’m doing,” Matea says.
“Even the rubber I use is made from 20% recycled content.”
Matea has been a resident at The Mill for three years, with the first two years of her tenure spent as a sculptor and installation artist.
She brought with her qualifications in shoemaking as well as a Bachelor of Visual Art specialising in sculpture and installation from the University of Adelaide. She even studied a year of dental technology to learn more practical skills with plastering and mould making.
Matea admits that life as an artist can be a tough gig compared to a regular nine-to-five job, and so she works on weekends as a bartender and is also an event manager for a dance party held at an Adelaide nightspot roughly once a month.
“In terms of being a maker I prefer it here in Adelaide, the environment is better and it feels like a more supportive scene,” she says.
While the life of a craftsperson is usually seen as one spent tucked away in a one-person studio, Matea’s everyday surroundings are quite the opposite.
Although she occupies her own dedicated workspace at The Mill, she’s surrounded by a number of like-minded creators, artists, makers, writers and designers – some emerging, others established.
There’s JamFactory trained jeweller Tanis Blines who shares a studio with her husband John Blines, an artist whose works are entrenched in medical and behavioural science.
Other associate artists include Lisa Penny of Hey Reflect’o, furniture designer Robyn Wood, ceramicist Kate O’Callaghan and tattoo studio XO L’Avant.
Illustrator and furniture designer Peter Fong has been at The Mill since its establishment in 2013.
Graduating with a visual communications degree at the UniSA, Peter went on to become a freelance illustrator using traditional tools of nibs and ink.
Peter’s portfolio includes wine labels and magazine illustrations and says Adelaide’s close-knit community means he’s rarely had to promote his brand to find work.
He recently pushed the pen to the side to pursue his love for woodwork and furniture design and is preparing to launch his first collection of custom furniture including tables and stools in the near future.
“I mainly use hand tools and try not to use many screws or nails, it’s all joinery,” Peter says.
“I just love building things that last. It makes me happy seeing something down the road and saying ‘yep, it’s still there’.”
Industry in focus: Craft industries
Throughout the months of November and December, the state’s craft industries will be celebrated as part of I Choose SA.
South Australian craftspeople make up some of our most creative thinkers and makers of sustainable and innovative goods. Read more craft stories here.
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.
Shop South Australia is home to a unique collection of over 300 South Australian gifts and goods from more than 70 local makers and producers. Choose local and Shop South Australia.