Summary

Alternative Name(s): Platform Shoe, Platform Sandle

Right platform shoe made by Woolerton & Wilson, with high wooden sole decorated with Kung Fu sticker on side. A label on the sole indicates that the shoe was model 417, and that it was Woolerton & Wilson's 'fabulous Kung Fu shoe which stopped the traffic at the recent London shoe show'. Supplies were available on a quota basis due to a limited supply. The shoe was available in blue or beige pearl with black patent, and the factory price was 5.75 pounds. Appears to be dated 1975.

The shoe was acquired by Paragon as a sample from Wilf Sparks, who acted as their representative in London. Company principal Lex Davison would meet with him on business trips; from the 1970s, his son Richard would meet Wilf.

Paragon Shoes Pty Ltd became one of the most significant 20th century Australian shoe manufacturers, and at one time was the largest manufacturer of high quality of women's shoes in Australia. Its factory was located in Melbourne, and its shoes were sold throughout Australia and New Zealand. Paragon shoes were manufactured in a factory in Argyle St, Fitzroy, in the 1920s, one of the largest single-storied factories in Australia. Manufacturing later moved to Stanley St, Collingwood. Some shoes were also made in other factories for Paragon, and some were apparently designed overseas. Up to 100 people worked in the Stanley St factory, with as many as three generations working with the company at the one time.

As fashions changed and new market sectors were pursued, Paragon created new labels for its products. Pierre Fontaine was established in the early 1960s as a cheaper shoe; Parisienne was aimed at the younger buyer, and Belle Chaussure was aimed at a sophisticated buyer. Royal Paragon was made with luxury materials, such as brocades, crocodile or lizard skin. Innovare was made exclusively for Myer. Overseas trips were taken to undertaken 'fashion espionage' - such as photos of shop windows in Italy. The donor instigated the practice of buying retail samples and bringing them back to Melbourne in the late 1960s-early 1970s.

Physical Description

Right shoe - platform sandal, model 417, with dark brown patent leather (synthetic uppers), peep toe and ankle strap with buckle fastening. High platform of raw timber with rubber sole. Platform features adhesive sticker of female doing a Kung Fu high kick. Small black and white photograph of the shoe accompanies it in a milar sleeve.

Significance

The Paragon Shoe Collection comprises over 90 objects, including pairs of shoes and single shoes, point-of-sale materials and promotional materials such as business cards and an umbrella bearing the company name. The Collection documents the business and products of Paragon Shoes Pty Ltd, one of the most significant 20th century Australian shoe retailers, and at one time the largest manufacturer of high quality of women’s shoes in Australia. Its factory was located in Melbourne, and its shoes were sold throughout Australia and New Zealand.

The collection was largely donated by a member of the Davison family, which ran the Paragon business for most of the 20th century. It documents the changing designs of Australian women's footwear, from the 1910s to the 1980s. It illustrates the development of new shoe styles, from sample shoes bought overseas to shoes that went into production and were worn by Australian women. The collection is complemented by an archive held at the State Library of Victoria, including company records, shoe design sketch books and further point-of-sale material.

More Information

  • Collection Names

    Paragon Shoe Collection

  • Collecting Areas

    Working Life & Trades, Clothing & Textiles

  • Acquisition Information

    Donation from Mrs Diana Gaze, Mrs Diana Gaze, 26/10/2005

  • Date Made

    Melbourne, Greater Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1975

  • Agent

    Wilf L. Sparks - Paragon Shoes

  • Inscriptions

    Printed on label attached to inside of sole: "W. L. SPARKS / Model , 417 Woolerton & Wilson's / fabulous Kung Fu shoe which stopped / the traffic at the recent London / Shoe show. Because of a limited / supply of bottom units orders on / this she have had to be put on a / quota basis. Available also in . blue or beige pearl; black patent. / Ex factory price 5.75 [pounds]. Last no. 3198 / Further ref. this shoe see leeter of / 1/1/75." Printed on inside of strap: "L7033 417A/4 60SIZE"

  • Classification

    Clothing, Female, Footwear

  • Category

    History & Technology

  • Discipline

    Technology

  • Type of item

    Object

  • Overall Dimensions

    22 cm (Length), 8.5 cm (Width), 19.5 cm (Height)

  • References

    Howard, G., 2004. Lex Davison: Larger Than Life'. Turton & Armstrong, Sydney. Copies of several newspaper articles about Paragon from the early 1920s were included with the donation. The State Library of Victoria holds an archive relating to the Paragon business, containing receipt books, account books, advertising, clippings, sample book, sketches, photographs and a poster - MS 13570. The content dates range circa 1928-1988. An additional archive, PA 01/05, ranges 1940s-1980s.

  • Keywords

    Footwear Industry, Manufacturing, Making History - Paragon Shoes