Image: Kobi Levi – Footwear Design
Image: Kobi Levi – Footwear Design
The work of Israeli artist and designer Kobi Levi may turn heads – but they’ll be directed towards the ground, as it’s feet that are his own personal walking galleries. Levi fashions representations of everything from banana peels to shopping carts into outrageous – and expensive – shoes. He has come to international attention, featuring in print and web publications including Marie Claire Greece, Glamour Italy and New York magazine. And celebrity feet have even walked a mile (or thereabouts) in his creations. Whoopi Goldberg wore his Chewing Gum heels while interviewing President Obama on The View, and Lady Gaga was clad in Levi’s Double Boot design in her “Born This Way” music video. Animals, in particular, seem to be a frequent source of inspiration for Levi, and his website boasts an array of beasts in shoe form, all waiting to take their first steps.
Levi created two pairs of Rooster shoes – one in black, the other in brown. The designer fashioned his first footwear from cardboard when he was in high school, although he has since moved on to leather for most of his current quirky looks. This particular shoe represents a rooster through the use of yellow heels and interiors, an orange-red comb, and a dark-colored front. The 4-inch-high shoes sell for $1,540, but buyers be warned: Levi has only made 20 of each style. Both the high price tag and the small quantities are explained by the fact that Levi constructs every shoe himself. “It’s a really big effort to get the right shape… So for now, I make every little thing by hand,” he said during an interview with CNN.
Levi has said that his Toucan heels depict “a great ‘match’ between the image and the shoe.” This “wearable sculpture,” created by the Israeli artisan, copycats a toucan’s defining characteristics – namely, its beak and feathers. In an almost backwards fashion, the heels, which are modeled on the toucan’s beak, and back of the shoe – mimicking the toucan’s coloring – flow seamlessly to the toe, which includes a fan of feathers. “The end result is a real fantasy sculpture that can have another life when is worn, and not only on display,” said Levi. These $1,800 heels are available from Levi’s website.
Levi again demonstrates his liking for birds with his pair of Swan shoes. The white creations are sleek and streamlined, with the heel doubling up as the creature’s face and bill. The birds also have a darker alter ego in the form of the Black Swan – and both versions, which are priced at $1,680, make quite the splash. Levi – who graduated in 2001 from the Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design in Jerusalem – doesn’t work on this fantastical footwear all the time, though. He has also helped to design and develop shoes for chains in Israel and has created custom orders for venues throughout Europe.
From air to sea, Levi switches his inspiration to aquatic animals with the Orca. “This is my own ‘design language,’ a more fun, cartoonish – but stylish and sophisticated – approach to footwear and high-heel design,” is how Levi describes his design methodology. He delivers his message with these stylish closed-toe slingbacks, which feature a contrast of shiny black and white leather, leaving shoe aficionados in no doubt as to what massive marine mammal they draw inspiration from. The thick heel looks to represent the intensity orca whales project. And you can almost hear the roar of the 4.7-inch heels against a hardwood floor. If you’re brave enough, you can pick up these shoes for $1,680.
The Rooster shoe also has a lighter-colored counterpart in the Chicken. From the front, the shoe may appear to be a somewhat unadventurous white pump; from the side and the back, however, the bold red and yellow are revealed, as well as the curved heel. As with the Rooster, the Chicken’s price tag is $1,540. “As a designer, I don’t mind if it’s not going to be a big quantity, I just want it to be the best,” the Tel Aviv native revealed to CNN, explaining why he has a limited amount of shoes available despite many requests for his various designs.
While jumping in Levi’s Miao heels might be impractical, the shoes themselves can look like they’re ready to pounce. This playful pair even has a paw at the bottom of each heel, while the toe of the shoe mimics a cat’s paw as well. Although actually modeled on a stretching cat, a pair of Miaos could be mistaken for two dogs ready to leap. Yet whatever the interpretation, these shoes can leap into any shoe lover’s closet for $2,100. Made of suede, they feature an 3.3-inch heel and come complete with bells on their “collars.” Can you say “miao?”
The Stork is the first of Levi’s “bird triplets” – three very similar-looking pairs of shoes carrying themselves on very steep and delicate stiletto heels. “Technically, it’s wearable if somebody’s brave enough to actually put themselves in them,” Levi said to CNN of his designs – and it would indeed take a brave soul to slide their foot into this shoe. The Stork’s color scheme is similar to the white Swan’s, but the unique styles of both heels differentiate them. The toe of the Stork represents the bird’s beak and tail feathers, while the heel conveys the long-legged avian creature’s balancing abilities. Anyone wishing to purchase these might also need to do some balancing where their checkbook is concerned, as a pair of Storks costs $1,960.
Another long-legged avian represented in Levi’s triplets is the flamingo, perhaps the best-known balancing bird. The $1,960 Flamingo shoe features pink glossy leather, a just over 4-inch stiletto heel, and a platform of almost an inch, below the curling toe of the shoe. “A shoe is a very complicated object to design, it involves a lot of mini architecture: materials, techniques, tooling. All the shoe parts – upper, insole, heel, sole – need to be created perfectly together to give the whole picture,” explained Levi during his CNN interview. The attention to detail that Levi has crafted into each and every pair of shoes he creates is clearly visible.
Each new style dreamed up by Levi takes around a month to create, as he figures out the general design of the shoe and then makes every single part by hand. This painstaking skill all goes into creating a shoe that exhibits the physical characteristics of the animal it imitates. Levi began studying fine art in the fourth grade, and he still recalls his first shoe sculpture, created in the 10th grade using just a single metal wire. The Ostrich captures the bird’s white, black and pink colors, and it can be purchased for the price of $1,960.
“They’re always real shoes; it’s never supposed to be just a toy. I make each pair one by one, and they’re strong,” Levi has said, and the artist is clearly proud of his designs. His Elephant heels look particularly strong and are reminiscent of an ankle boot. The sides of the shoes imitate large elephant ears and cover most of the wearer’s feet in gray leather. And for the heel, Levi has added the fine detail of an elephant trunk, curved and shaped like the real thing. The height of these $1,800 shoes will send you to new heights, with a 4.7-inch heel and a 0.8-inch platform in the front.
3. Mallard Duck
Levi’s Mallard Duck design celebrates the male of this duck species, whose feathers are bold and beautiful compared to the coloring of the female. Levi sells the leather heels for $1,680, but he has spoken out about the costs incurred in crafting his shoes, saying, “I don’t even think about the money part when I make it. I just buy whatever’s needed or as much as needed until it’s perfect and then it’s just my own art at this stage.” Art aficionados and heel enthusiasts alike can appreciate the coloring and detail that Levi included in this design. He really captured the browns, greens and yellows that typify the mallard duck.
These fierce-looking heeled shoes make what they represent quite obvious. The pitiless, toothy grin peeking out the back and the ominous-looking dorsal fin leave no doubt as to what’s snuck up on the shoe-wearer. It’s another sleek yet cartoonish design that will set you back $1,680. When asked about the creation of his shoes, Levi replied, “I make the first one, so nobody can tell me it’s impossible, it’s too crazy – there it is!” The way the pointy teeth border the perimeter of the shoe here does look pretty crazy, but Levi once again achieved the seemingly impossible with this outrageous design.
Infinitely more chic than a pair of Hush Puppies, these loud and proud Dog heels were featured exclusively on Levi’s blog. Information on this particular style is unavailable on his site, but with their saggy ears, cute button noses and playful peek-a-boo tongues, they remind us of a cute sausage dog, inviting customers to play with them. The only element missing is a wagging tail.