“A shoe is a very complicated object to design. It is art, but involves mini architecture: materials, techniques, tooling. The end result is a fantasy sculpture to look at, but has another life when it is worn.” – Kobi Levi
From atrociously high heels to couture works of art, fashion has fallen in love with sculptural shoes. Designers are becoming more conceptual in their footwear designs often taking inspiration from art, architecture and nature with the ultimate aim of creating statement masterpieces of footwear. The exhibition S.H.O.E.S. showcases the interesting developments in shoe designing and technology through history. From André Perugia’s ‘Hommage à George Braque, to Salvatore Ferragamo’s platform shoes and Zaha Hadid’s sculptures for United Nude. What will be the future of shoe designing? How extreme can they get? Or will the technology introduce more shoes with artificial comfort?
Design versus Art
The last five years have seen an explosion of creativity in footwear design. Sexy laced-up sandals, sky-high platform heels, and outrageously decorated shoes are seen on fashionable women everywhere, from the catwalk to the street. Lady Gaga sets the trend in extreme shoes wearing the Armadillo shoes of McQueen like it’s nothing. Although I’ve ‘spotted’ her holding the arm of her bodyguard more than once. I can’t forget the moment her face hit the pavement during a ‘sky high’ fall from her Noritaka Tatehana platform shoes in 2010. I can barely walk on my 3 inch heels for a whole day!
Sometimes extreme shoes can be truly beautiful and intriguing, and at the same time they can be more of a distraction. For the past two seasons, Dutch Fashion Designer Winde Rienstra shoes have terrorised the models at Amsterdam Fashion Week despite the fact that her shoes are beautiful works of art. The audience held his breath when the models tumbled over and it almost over shadowed her collection.
The fall of one of his models last season inspired Dutch designer Dennis Diem to hire dancers to walk on his extreme high shoes. With the combination of his beautiful handcrafted collection of corsets and dresses made it dramatic, confusing yet entertaining.
Modern materials and new technology, like light-emitting fabrics and 3-D printers, are inspiring a fresh crop of (shoe) designers. One very innovative designer is London based Marloes ten Bhömer. Her shoes incorporate a multitude of design elements and materials not typically used in fashion. She does this in order to break down the preconceived notions of what is a fashion accessory. Her aim is to completely replace the standard and regimented approaches to footwear design and manufacturing with the working processes of engineering. Keeping a close eye on the way we walk and the ‘use ’of our feet. Famous are her ‘Rapidprototyped shoe’ (3D print) and Rotational Moulded Shoe, both very clever in design and comfort.
Rem D Koolhaas and Iris van Herpen are also a great example of using 3D technology. They have been working together for a while launching several experimental shoes with 3D printing for United Nude. In July 2013 the couple designed a 3D printed shoe for Iris her Couture show ‘Wilderness Embodied.’ Van Herpen: “For me, fashion has always been about setting your own boundaries and making a statement. This time around, Rem and I wanted to create something that echoed the beauty and wilderness of the natural world, so we decided to use the technological capabilities of 3D printing to bring this concept to life through a pair of shoes.”
Will we get back to more comfortable high tech shoes like the trendy fly knits of Nike, or the more technical ‘comfy’ shoes of Marloes ten Bhöhmer?
Kenneth Ramaekers, curator of S.H.O.E.S./ director at Modemuseum Hasselt on the future: “Designers are almost unlimited in their experimentation with material and technology. Of course, I ask myself whether the technique is going to be that good. Every slightest bump or grain of sand in your shoe can already provide a very unpleasant feeling. I think Marloes ten Bhöhmer is very innovative in using future technology. With her leather laminate she found a way to deviate from the original shoe shape and maybe the shoes of the future will indeed look like this.”
Is the sky the limit? If you look at the timeline of shoe designing in history, it would seem so. Like Kobi Levi says himself: “The shoe is just a canvas for creating something unexpectedly beautiful.” I totally agree, but please something where we can walk on…
Courtesy of images: Le 21eme