New shoe designer to know: Rocio Ildemaro

Dallas-based shoe designer Rocio Ildemaro, 33, is one of the more exciting talents to hit the footwear market and also one of the most unlikely. A former investment banker, ldemaro gave up number-crunching to move...


We have to ask you about the names of your shoes. Tell us, for instance, about the gold bootie [above] called Happy Birthday Elaine. Sure—well, I knew that I wanted a spectator bootie shoe that would be the perfect fall, winter, early spring shoe. My friend Elaine and her husband are jewelry people—they own Soho Enamel—and they work a lot with gold and bronze, and I was thinking about her, and it was a shoe I wanted to wear with their jewelry. So I designed it with that in mind. And then my leather providers had this pony hair that was a beige-blonde, very high in texture. And that [version] is called Bionda Downstairs. Bionda means blonde.

What made you decide to pursue becoming a cobbler? Well, a huge misconception is the word cobbler. All cobblers do is fix wood, the wood the shoe people make. The real word—and it’s an ancient English word—is cordwainer. A cordwainer makes the shoe, from concept to completion. Don’t get me wrong, cobblers do a lot of work, but they don’t make the shoe. They just fix it for you.

Got it. Tell us a little about your training as a cordwainer. The first thing you learn is patternmaking, and you learn how to look at the last, how to hold the last, and how to make the pattern off of the last without using computers. We’re using ancient methods—you cover the last with paper, and you work in half millimeter increments. It’s very, very old-school. First you learn how to make a men’s shoe with a pattern, and once you learn how to do a Derby and an Oxford, and you master those, then you move on to women’s pumps.

From left, Ildemaro’s “Prim” and “Zola” designs.

Would you consider expanding beyond shoes? My heart is in shoes, but I love—maybe because I travel so much—I love luggage. I use special shoe trunks when I travel. Not that I can really afford [their luggage], but I love Globetrotter.

Is it tricky to work in fashion yet live in Dallas? Oh, yeah—the whole out of sight, out of mind thing. But it’s also nice because I don’t get caught up with all the little trendy trends. I live within the city limits and I have five vintage scooters. That’s how I get around.

Do people know you as the scooter girl? When I’m riding around Dallas I’m always dressed up in my heels. So people follow [me] and take a lot of pictures of me. I used to be really private and turn away from them, but now I think, ah, maybe they’re getting a picture of the shoes.