Manolo says, we live in the age of wonders, witness the rise of the Art Shoe.
A revolution in shoes is upon us. Suddenly the capital’s most desirable shoes are no longer designed by graduates of craft colleges well-versed in traditional skills. Now architects and product designers are becoming masters of the “last” and they’re pushing the concept of footwear way out into the stratosphere.
The ubiquitous Zaha Hadid is the most visible architect to have entered the shoe cupboard recently. Last September, the Pritzker prize-winner designed some enticing and affordable plastic shoes for Brazilian footwear brand Melissa, which by now most fashionable London girls must have tried on, if not bought.
Then early last year, John Lobb asked Doshi Levien to design the Apprentice Collection — post-modern brogues by this husband-and-wife design duo best known for sofas called My Beautiful Backside and tableware for Habitat.
The Spanish neo-baroque star designer Jaime Hayon has also been seduced away from his customary porcelain and crystal into designing shoes. In September last year, Camper launched Hayon’s soft men’s leather shoes in jaunty colours like custard and fuchsia. Sporty, with a distinct elegance and a whiff of the music hall, there’s an archetypal quality to this nonchalant shoe.
French designer Paul Coudamy, normally found remodelling office spaces, wowed the design world last December with thought-provoking shoes called Woodwalk for the tennis shoe company K-Swiss. A conceptual fusion between urban trainer and 19th-century Swiss country clog, the limited edition of 25 pairs, hand sculpted in wood, invites us to reconsider urban lifestyles and walking in the city.
On a balmy evening last week, Spring Projects presented Bhömer’s Beigefoldedshoe — an astonishing, highly wearable piece of origami, created from a single piece of untanned leather folded around a stainless-steel heel. They were presented along with photographs of their construction and three abstract videos on the subject of walking and adorning parts of the body.
The designer is thrilled. “To establish something in London really means something. There’s like a gold rush in design here at the moment.” She and an assistant will make every pair that are ordered through her website or through Spring Projects. It’s a painstakingly couture process, which means that these shoes are expensive — £2,250 inc worldwide delivery.
This is exactly what the Manolo has been advocating for for many decades now, the recognition that shoes are more then merely functional protective coverings for the feets, that indeed, they can and should be works of wearable art.
Now, we can only hope this laudable trend survives the current economic downturn.