Melbourne shoemaker Matea Gluščević has repurposed 21 boots worn by professional AFLW players.
Gluščević was selected by the AFLW and scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker to repurpose the boots into four new designs. These were then gifted to four rising players including GWS Giants player Chloe Dalton, Hawthorn’s Emily Bates, Brisbane Lions’ Ally Anderson and Collingwood’s Ashleigh Brazill.
Repurposed elements include laces from Lynn Smith – a foundation player in Victoria’s first female footy league in 1981; leather from Joanne Huggins, who founded the West Australian Women’s Football League in 1987; and the studs that made from Debbie Lee’s final game day boots – Debbie was the first female to be inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame.
Speaking with Ragtrader, Gluščević said she had about four weeks to turn the project around.
“The handcrafting journey wasn’t necessarily a linear process,” she said. “It was so important to me that I dedicate my time and focus to do this initiative justice, so I chose to put my other work on hold to really give this design process my undivided attention.
“The large amount of hand stitching on the soles also meant sore hands for a while.”
While Gluščević started with a general idea of the design, this had changed when she received the 21 pairs.
“Once the handcrafting process was underway, I found myself pivoting my vision and reconsidering aspects of the design, to best reflect the original trailblazers as well as the current players, and how and where to apply branding and campaign elements such as the inspiring quotes provided by the current players.
“It required me to tap into a lot of my prior experience managing design and creation timelines, meeting the brief I was given, whilst also achieving an appealing aesthetic and finish. It wasn’t an easy project, but I really enjoyed exploring this new territory within the sports world.”
The Melbourne shoemaker admitted this was the first time she had ever designed or created a football boot. During the process, she researched construction techniques and paid attention to the details while taking apart the 21 legacy football boots.
“Some things that I noted were different than a ‘standard’ shoe included the level of flex in the soling, as well as where this flex occurred, the way the tongue was attached to the upper, the amount of toe spring, and how tightly the shoe needs to fit.
“For this project specifically, the differences in the design process were centred around capturing the old vs new elements which included using the patchwork aesthetic to create a visual story with all the different pieces of shoes and using a visually unique yet mechanically strong construction method to attach the soles.
“There were also general considerations regarding seam placement, longevity and wear of materials, and the fact that screw in metal cleats such as the ones I used are not actually allowed on the field during an official match.
“However, as these bespoke boots were gifted to their new owners as a symbol of the bold steps taken by pioneering athletes and inspiration for them to keep walking boldly, the creatives and I decided to proceed with this element of the design since the current player wouldn’t be playing in them.”
The AFLW and Johnnie Walker partnership, with Gluščević in tow, is part of a marketing campaign titled ‘Keep Walking Boldly’.
“Together, with Johnnie Walker, we share the ambition to progress the women’s game and inspire Aussies to join the sport, both socially and competitively, in their local grassroots clubs, and professionally,” AFL Women’s Football GM Nicole Livingstone said.
Johnnie Walker marketing manager Jodi McLeod said the four new pairs of boots pay homage to the 150 years it took for women’s football to be established.
“‘Keep walking’ has been an incredible rallying cry for progress for more than two decades now,” McLeod said. “Johnnie Walker is committed to continuing its support of the trailblazers who push for progress every day, by partnering with those who took bold strides and those who will continue striding to push Australia forward.”
Gluščević has prior experience designing and creating footwear for Australian Fashion Week, and creates made-to-order designs for clients.
“It’s always exciting when visions align and when like-minded brands reach out to me to work together,” she said. “I’m definitely proud to take part in an initiative that tells the stories of progress from the AFLW’s trailblazers past and present.”