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When fantasy and avant-garde come together

When fantasy and avant-garde come together

  • Are shoes utilitarian or art? Going by the creations of Masaya Kushino and Kobi Levi, art takes precedence. The two avant-garde shoe designers talk to The Luxury Bulletin about their works

Designing avant-garde shoes is very much a work of greater ingenuity than one thinks. After all, these pairs of shoes stand out from the rest for their odd craftsmanship and details in every aspect. Needless to say, one feels curious enough to design such footwear in order to bring out their eccentric beauty as to how they can be turned into breathtaking works of art just by pushing the limits. In fact, the wearability factor is also a major part of this artwork. 

Fully well-versed at this artistic work are two famous avant-garde footwear designers, Masaya Kushino from Japan and Kobi Levi from Israel, whose collections are believed to be nothing less than priceless collectibles. Their creations capture the essence of innovative shoe designs that are unmatched in quality.  

Masaya Kushino 

Before starting his career as a shoe designer, he designed clothes for a short period of time. This chore didn’t appeal to Kushino at all, leading him to abandon it for good. “I began to look at the world of footwear with a clear picture. It was more reflective of my untapped potential than what relationship I’ve had with clothes. When shoes are made, their shapes evolve on their own. They’re more like statues,” he says. 

He believes designing provocative and otherworldly types of shoes is his way of making things happen and let his strong curiosity toward anything in shape come to life. “I simply love to embrace challenges as they drive me to do what I do best. I made up my mind to design shoes in the end because I was bored with the trends of footwear design as they lacked a touch of originality,” Kushino says.

Though the shoes might be portrayed as comfortable to put on, they aren’t for daily use. As he explains, “When I try to think of myself as a fashion designer, I have to create shoes with comfort as the superseding factor. However, as an artist, I just keep that thought at bay while designing.”  

Kushino primarily banks upon his intuition while making shoes that are applauded for their artistic splendor and scientific benchmark. “Each shoe designed by me is a one-of-a-kind creation because it involves a lot of research on the materials that I use to make each pair,” he says. 

It’s no wonder that famous museums and art galleries such as the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology – New York, Brooklyn Museum, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and MUDAC (Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland) all have been bowled over by his avant-garde shoe designs. They’ve, in fact, promoted his shoes extensively by exhibiting them. “I feel absolutely rewarded by their love of my work,” he says. 

Kobi Levi

Levi looks at life as a curious person, always questioning why things look the way they’re, how they can be so different, and be more fun at the same time in addition to their original purpose. Motivated strongly by this stance, he started to design shoes that today are easily categorized as out of the box. “I saw in shoes wearable sculptures with interesting shapes, and I was intuitively attracted to footwear,” he says. 

What makes his shoes highly special is that he treats them as a form of wearable art which is ultimately what makes the biggest difference and sets them apart from a commercial design approach. “Each design is a star in its own and doesn’t mean to complete a total look, but rather create and lead the look that follows it. My shoe creations take inspiration from different things such as animals, nature, objects, everyday situations, people, or life itself on the whole. So nothing in them looks like a “normal” shoe unless an iconic shoe is the inspiration behind a wearable art,” he says. 

Talking about what the future holds for avant-garde shoes, Levi explains, “Avant-garde creations find and create their own niche, their own world in museums, galleries, art collections, select boutiques and on online stores. Artistic designs are completely different than commercial products in every aspect.” 

His designs have been a source of attraction in galleries around the world, and for which he feels extremely happy. “I’ve had solo exhibitions as well as group exhibitions in Northampton Shoe Museum and Art Gallery, UK, Museu du Calcado-Sao Joao De Madeira, Portugal, APM shopping mall HK and Shanghai, Parasol Projects NYC, Boca-Raton FL USA, Mudec Museum, Milan, Grassi Museum Leipzig, Germany, Stadtmuseum Munich and many more,” Levi says. 

While he thinks any person can find his work suitable for their personality and self-expression, celebrities have shown a great deal of interest in his shoes too. “Lady Gaga wore a pair of boots designed by me. Whoopi Goldberg still wears a selection of styles, and Fergie wore my “Chewing Gum” heels and I made a special design for Netta Barzilai, a winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018,” he says. “I just feel proud.” 

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