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Now, the Invercargill footwear fanatic is sharing those memories by exhibiting just "a fraction'' of his collection.
More than 100 pairs of shoes will be on display at Mr Downie's Soled Out exhibition, from what he claims is ``without doubt'' the largest shoe collection in the country.
Mr Downie "fell in love'' with shoes as a teenager living in Dundee, Scotland, when he realised they were what helped people to stand out from the crowd.
"That's something that never left me and ever since that day I've not grown up and I've just continued to collect and collect these shoes until this day,'' he said.
With about 25 years in the fashion industry, it was "natural'' for him to "collect a few things'' over the years.
While "you should never ask a shoe collector how many pairs he has'', Mr Downie threw out a number of "around 700'', each with a distinct year, country, city, or shoe company headquarters from around the world.
"I know who people collect fridge magnets. Other people collect all sorts of things. I use shoes as my memories of visiting these countries and cities.
"There's a lot of shoes here that you wouldn't see anywhere else because people have worn them straight away. But I've kept mine pristine in a box.''
While many pairs were limited edition, Mr Downie said he never put much thought into the value of the collection.
"I know there is a re-seller's market but I don't sell any of my collection.
"The collection's very much mine in how I was and things I was wearing through the times.
"I look back and remember where it was from and what I was going through at the time ... there's a lot of memories there.''
Some of his earlier pairs had begun to break down over time.
"Some of them are that old that you can't wear them anymore but they're classed to me as pieces of art.''
The Soled Out exhibition will be open from Friday at Classic Motorcycle Mecca in Invercargill