These shoes aren't made for walking
IT would take someone with quite a foot fetish to create the sort of collection that Samuele Mazza has just come up with. But the soft-spoken and rather boyish-looking Italian art director said it was his love of unusual form in fashion that persuaded him that the world's art cognoscenti would absolutely have to see his shoes.
Footwear and fashion fanatics - as well as bona fide art lovers - have extolled the virtues of the Cinderella's Revenge collection of exotic, intriguing, outlandish shoes that have been showcased in galleries in arty hot-spots: Milan - where the collection, like Mazza, is based - London, New York, Washington and Tokyo. It has also been seen by people in Las Vegas, Toronto, Israel and Spain. And in an arrangement with the Italian Trade Commission in Hong Kong, it is expected to arrive in the territory later this year or early next year, no doubt after having popped up in a dozen or so other countries.
'It is quite a special concept,' said Mazza, in dry understatement. 'But it was something I really had to do.' He had the idea five years ago, for no particular reason, that shoes were not merely a functional, and often aesthetic, accessory. Of course they were an art form, he believed, and he set out to prove it. His background as a fashion designer helped, in that he realised the transience of his business. Mazza wanted instead to transform fashion into art 'that would last.' He combined this desire with the concept of arte ludica - or as he explained, 'literal, playful art that means deep irony' and spent months on the telephone chasing top fashion designers, architects and artists - 'post-modernists mainly' - to submit what they believed to be the most fantastic shoe.
'I followed them all the time, chasing them. I know I was a nightmare for them and even now, some of them hate me.' The aggravation was worth it: Mazza received 400 shoes - some so exquisitely designed he was afraid to touch them, others so bizarre they were freakish. He selected 200 of the best, which now form Cinderella's Revenge.
Like the black beaded lace-up ankle boot with two spike heels and five stubby little ones, courtesy of Jean-Paul Gaultier, or the wooden step under a simple black flat shoe from Vivienne Westwood, or the gold shoulder bag which merges seamlessly with a platform heel by Maurizio Dori. One particular favourite is the cheeky high-top, prised open in the front to reveal a plush red tongue and shiny white teeth. Clearly, these were meant to be admired - and never worn.
Mazza's fascination with fashion accessories and interpreting standard shapes into surreal ones also led to his highly-acclaimed Hurrah for the Bra! exhibition which featured, as an example, one adorned with Fiat headlights.
'I like things that go on the body that change so much the way a person looks and his or her personality - shoes, bras, glasses, hats,' said Mazza.
'So many of these things can be very architectural, so very beautiful to look at.' In overcoming the inevitable stumbling blocks as he organised his rather unconventional collection, Mazza knew he had to 'ask people who had open minds, who had imagination and were interested in design work.' The submissions finally selected for Cinderella's Revenge were chosen on the strength of their character, humour and eccentricity, he said. Even elegance had something to do with it - perfection of line and shape.
'None was very fashionable. They were architectural and some were very poetic, using as many materials as possible.' Fur, suede, tin, plastic, wire, wood, even spindly little twigs - Mazza believes the final collection is a tribute to the cream of creative talent, and is so inspiring that museums from as far away as South Africa have heard of it and requests to see it are pouring it. He conceded that women, especially, enjoyed the exhibition.
'Imelda Marcos is not the only woman to collect shoes. A lot of women love them, value them as much as jewels,' he said.
'Other things are much more eclectic. But every morning, everybody puts on a pair of shoes. In compiling Cinderella's Revenge, we transformed something just useful into something poetic.' Next on Mazza's agenda is a tribute to the tie. He promises that after seeing his collection, no man will ever look at them the same way again.