John Ashford: The Shoe Designer Who Redefines Couture

John Ashford is a multi-talented artist who has made a name for himself in the world of fashion. He is a shoe designer, visual artist, illustrator, photographer, stylist, author, and teacher. Ashford's passion for art and fashion has led him to create some of the most exquisite shoe designs in the world.

Model Rachel Winters wears John Ashford shoes.

The passion for shoes

Ashford’s journey in fashion began after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a major in Commercial Art. He then traveled to many cities in the United States and around the world, where he gained inspiration and knowledge from different cultures. In Naples, Italy, he met an old veteran cobbler who taught him the art of constructing the perfect stylish and comfortable shoe.

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Black top, The John Ashford Collection. Jacket, House of Goodluck. Shoe & pants, Authentic by John Ashford.

After learning from the veteran cobbler, Ashford combined his artistic ability and the lessons he learned to create The John Ashford Collection in 2003. This shoe collection is a fusion of art and fashion, and each pair is a masterpiece that reflects Ashford’s creativity and unique style.

What sets John Ashford’s shoe designs apart is the level of detail and creativity that he puts into each pair. He sees each shoe as a work of art, and he spends countless hours perfecting each design. His shoes are a reflection of his personality, and he uses his unique style and perspective to create shoes that are both fashionable and functional.

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Rise to fame

Ashford’s shoe designs have also caught the attention of celebrities, and he has made shoes for some of the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Wendy Williams, Alicia Keys, Ashanti, Paris Hilton, and many others. His shoes have been worn on red carpets and at high-profile events, making him one of the most sought-after shoe designers in the industry.

In late 2012, Ashford launched a new shoe line called Authentic by John Ashford. This brand is a true reflection of Ashford’s love for high fashion art, and each shoe is handcrafted and signed by the designer himself. Authentic by John Ashford is a unique collection that defines couture and stands out from other shoe brands.

As mentioned above, in addition to his work as a shoe designer, Ashford is also a visual artist, illustrator, photographer, stylist, author, and teacher. He uses his many talents to create art that reflects his vision and perspective on life. He is an inspiration to many young artists and designers who aspire to make a name for themselves in the fashion industry.

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Jump suit, Ana Segura. Black top, The John Ashford Collection. Boots, Authentic by John Ashford.

His shoes are currently sold online at and in select stores in Canada, select boutiques in the USA, and the John Ashford Showroom in New York City.

Chat with John Ashford

HBZ: Can you tell us about your early life and how you developed an interest in fashion and shoe design?

JOHN ASHFORD: In the 90’s I was a Dj/Turntablist in a Hip Hop Jazz Band. We had a record deal in Paris, France. On a tour in Naples, Italy, I ran into a shoe cobbler at a coffee shop. I was showing a woman my artwork and the cobbler approached me. He told me it was his destiny to teach me shoe making.

HBZ. What sets your shoe designs apart from others in the industry?

JOHN ASHFORD: I don’t pattern my designs after what’s popular. I am inspired by nature and colors.

HBZ: How do you approach the design process for a new shoe collection?

JOHN ASHFORD: I think of a life experience I’ve been through and pattern the designs based on it. For example, what shoes would a woman wear after a failed marriage.

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HBZ: Can you share some of the challenges you have faced in your career and how you overcame them?

JOHN ASHFORD: After I studied with the cobbler from Italy for 5.5 months, I had no idea how to get my shoes out there when I returned to the US, so I called my friend who was a wardrobe stylist in NYC and she came over to view my pieces. When she saw my work, she fell in love with it. She wore a pair to her job at Petite Peton, which was a luxury and popular shoe store in The Village, and immediately the owner called me and wanted my boot masterpieces in their store.

Since I make every shoe one of a kind, it takes time to construct each shoe. Once people understand how long it takes (about 5 weeks) artistic shoe lovers get excited for the wait.  I’ve also learned to work on multiple pairs at the same time.

HBZ: How important is comfort and functionality when it comes to designing shoes?

JOHN ASHFORD: When I was taught shoe making, I was told most companies don’t make shoes for comfort, it’s about the look, so we decided: comfort first, looks second.

HBZ: Can you describe the materials and construction methods you use for your shoes?

JOHN ASHFORD: I use very different materials. Having travelled to over 23 countries , it was awesome getting materials that weren’t popular in the United States.  My favorite though is soft leather. I also use the Hand Welted Shoe making technique for construction.

Dress, House of Goodluck. Wedges, Authentic by John Ashford.

HBZ: Which of your shoe designs are you most proud of, and why?

JOHN ASHFORD: I am proud of all my designs, but I really enjoy making thigh high boots. They are like sculptures of art to me.

HBZ: How do you keep up with the latest fashion trends while maintaining your unique design aesthetic?

JOHN ASHFORD: Since I am also an Art Teacher in the Bronx, NY. I am surrounded by young teenagers and I get to see the early trends, color ideas and morph them into shoe designs.

HBZ: Can you tell us more about the shoes Rachel Winters is wearing to shoot this cover for Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam?

JOHN ASHFORD: These are 11 inch wedges that I call “Black Knight Rider.” My theme was “Jousting.” I asked myself, “What would a modern day Queen wear while in a Joust Battle?” Surrounded by spikes, soft leather, denim and the base of plywood and rubber, these shoes are fitted for true battle on a runway near you.

HBZ: In what ways do shoes reflect the personality and traits of the person wearing them?

JOHN ASHFORD: Every human has wants, needs and desires. Confidence can get you all of the above. Most clients that appreciate art, tend to wear my one of a kind brand.

HBZ: What advice would you give to aspiring shoe designers looking to break into the industry?

JOHN ASHFORD: Study hard, learn the craft of shoe making, then understand your target market.

HBZ: What can we expect from the John Ashford brand in the future?

JOHN ASHFORD: Authentic By John Ashford is my brand. Look for my Art book of my shoes this fall 2023, a updated website, and the men’s collection in the super near future!

Photographer: Tom Marvel @tommarvelphotography |
Model: Rachel Winters @rachelwinters.
Designer: John Ashford @johnashfordshoes |
Makeup: Nikki Jelin @nikkij_mua.
Hair stylist: George Grierson @geoxge |
Re-toucher: Anne Nguyen @retoucher_anne.

Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam