R.M. Williams‘ new Burnished Collection is the ultimate in Autumn footwear. A palette inspired by the Australian outback offers earthy rust, dusty ochre and deep tan, ideal for stepping out as the season changes. Combining style and artistry, the finished collection is a combined effort of R.M. Williams and Italian craftsman Duilio Girotti, a burnishing expert. Each single-piece leather boot travels through 90 pairs of hands as it is dyed, polished and buffed. The end result? A bespoke item made with care and the quality needed to get you through Winter.
We sat down with Head of Design for R.M.Williams, Jeremy Hershan, to discuss the beautiful new collection.
R.M.Williams AW18 draws inspiration from Swedish photographer Hakan Ludwigson. How has this been reflected in the collection?
We drew inspiration from Hakan Ludwigson’s Bulls & Bulldust, an uncompromising study of station life in the Northern Territory during the early 1980s. The photographs tell the story of the unforgiving conditions, the exhausting work and the enigmatic charm of the outback. There is a sense of mystery, romanticism, and adventure that permeates the captivating figures of this book which directly influenced the mood of the collection. The deep saturated tones of the raw visceral images provided the backdrop for the seasonal colour palette.
You collaborated with Duilio Girotti, an Italian craftsman and burnishing expert.What was it about Duilio’s approach and technique that resonated so well with the R.M.Williams brand?
To elevate our burnishing process, we partnered with Duilio. Coming from a background of regional Italian shoemaking, Dulio brought his own approach which was very Italo-centric, so it was about taking elements of this and adapting it to develop a finish that reflected our unique outlook as an iconic Australian brand and true to our DNA.
As a designer, could you share your personal experience in working with Duilio?
Duilio didn’t speak a lick of English and despite having spent many years myself working in Italy I am equipped with only basic manufacturing terminology, so mostly we relied on grunts and hand gestures. That’s something Italians are very comfortable with though and seemed to work a treat.
Duilo spent a 4 week period within the Adelaide workshop; how did the R.M.Williams craftsman respond to the experience?
Burnishing is a technique that British and European shoe-makers have mastered over centuries, designed to bring out the unique character of leather. It was an amazing experience for our craftspeople to be exposed to this. They walked away with was an intimate knowledge of the process that has helped elevate our Burnished collection and really showcaseR.M.Williams’ world-class level of craftsmanship.
What makes the burnishing process unique?
In our case, the boot is constructed from what is referred to as a blank ‘crust’ leather. The colour is applied by hand and re-worked over time to create an antiqued effect with particular attention paid to the heel and toe areas to produce a rich patina with unique highs and lows.
R.M.Williams has a rich history that reflects the unique Australian landscape and elements, how has this influenced the burnished colour palette?
I am deeply inspired by the vast Australian landscape. Spending time in the birthplace of the brand, the Flinders Ranges, the unique sense of light and colour really hits you. I’ve drawn on this experience to establish a unique view on colour for the brand. The colours are striking, distinctive and reflect the stark beauty of our own backyard.
Can you talk us through the burnished offerings within the collection? Is it your intention to continue and expand the burnished technique in future?
The burnished collection is centred around our iconic Australian-made footwear, namely our flagship men’s and women’s dress boots; the Craftsman and Adelaide. In addition to this, we have added the Signature Buckle boot and Millicent. Alongside the footwear, there’s a range of complimentary belts. Being a labour intensive hand-worked process it will always sit at the pinnacle of what we do, but I see it expanding into other relevant products in time.
View imagery of the AW18 collection and its creation in the gallery below.