Thursday, October 14, 2010

Innovations: Benoit Shoes

“This collection is a manifesto to Beth Levine, she has been my inspiration from the very start,” explains Benoit Méléard of the muse behind his latest collection, Manifesto. It’s not every day that you hear a love story like this one and, as we sit in a quiet corner at Hôtel Costes, he tells me how it all began. It was a decade ago when iconic shoe designer Levine first read about Méléard’s work in French Vogue, where he paid tribute to her as the First Lady of American shoe design. “The next thing I knew there was a plane ticket and money to meet her in New York,” Méléard says. “She instantly became my mother hen.”

There is something remarkably modern about Méléard’s work; he takes obvious delight in mixing up the subconscious to produce the unexpected by combining materials like jersey and mesh with classic heels and styles like the mule (whose popularization in the 1960s can be attributed to Levine). Emblems of his now-deceased muse resonate throughout: He uses her same font (“I love cliché’,” he says) and, most notably, Levine’s iconic elastic straight line. While this was hidden inside Levine’s heels, Méléard takes this outside of the shoe, creating an architectural configuration around the foot—constantly refining his own codes, but always with Beth Levine in mind.

How fitting that Nancy Sinatra wore Levine’s boots in the ad shots for the hit song “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’, ” as Méléard tells us how he designs his own shoes to be commercial, something that women can actually walk in without fear of swaying from side to side or falling over. How on earth does Lady Gaga, who we all love for her outlandish, towering platforms, do it? Why, at least one pair was courtesy of Méléard. “That was totally experimental,” he explains. “I just sent them to her and she wore them!” You’re a lucky man, Monsieur Méléard—clearly the ladies just can’t get enough!


Love the gold!

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