Fashion

Meet Lady Gaga's wild and wacky shoe designer

Kobi Levi's footwear art combines the essence of daily objects with the shape of shoes.

Lady Gaga performs on stage at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2015.Lady Gaga performs on stage at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2015.Lady Gaga helped launch the career of shoe designer Kobi Levi. (Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

For years, Kobi Levi’s whimsical shoe creations remained in boxes. His passion for designing avant-garde footwear design was a mere hobby that he explored out of a small room in his apartment in Israel. That is until his shoe designs caught the attention of international pop star Lady Gaga.

It was 2010 and Levi, after 14 years of designing, decided it was time to share his creations with the world. He posted photos of his designs on a blog and watched it take off. “A short time after, it got a life of its own and there was huge interest in my work, and it has never stopped since!” Levi told From The Grapevine.

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Israeli shoe designer Kobi Levi's avant-garde creations are worn by women around the world.Israeli shoe designer Kobi Levi's avant-garde creations are worn by women around the world. (Photo: Mirit Har-Lev & Gili Adler)

Shortly after posting photos on his blog, a studio executive working on Lady Gaga’s music video for “Born This Way” reached out looking for Levi to design several pairs of his custom-made “double” boots for the video. The designer thought it might be too good to be true. After all, he had never sold a single pair of shoes up until this point.

But it wasn’t a dream, or a prank by a friend, and Levi’s collaboration with Lady Gaga changed the course of the designer’s career. “I was very flattered to know that such a creative team, that collaborates with some of the world’s best designers and fashion houses, contacted me after seeing my work,” says Levi. “I love to collaborate with creative people and I hope to collaborate both with Gaga and her team in the near future.”

Levi’s shoes, which are priced from $800 to $3,000, are handmade in his Tel Aviv studio and require weeks’ worth of intricate craftsmanship. Levi’s shoes are handmade in his studio in Israel and require weeks’ worth of intricate craftsmanship. (Photo: Courtesy Kobi Levi)

Following the success of his blog and Lady Gaga collaboration, Levi, who graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem in 2001, opened up a studio in Tel Aviv. “I realized that in order to keep the fantasy look of my designs, I have to make them in my studio,” says Levi. “A production line cannot be made like this, both structure wise, as well with all the details. Without both, the magic will be gone.” In 2011, Levi started selling shoes to the public.

Levi’s designs aren’t for the risk-averse. His shoes are wearable sculptures designed to be displayed on the feet. “I like to use iconic images of everyday life, things we all know, and show them in a new way, with a sense of humor,” says Levi. “I think that is what people like about my work, the combination of familiar, new and fun.”

A black hot coffee heel pouring from the white delicately decorated pot. ($1,960)A black hot coffee heel pouring from the white delicately decorated pot. ($1,960) (Photo: Kobi Levi)

Levi can let his imagination run wild because he pays no mind to trends or designing for a particular customer. For this reason, his creations run the gamut from a watermelon-shaped wedge and shoes that look like flamingos, to a heel designed to look like an elephant trunk. The designer’s intention is to capture movement that gives life to still objects.

Levi's design process is both demanding and time-consuming. A single pair can be a month-long grueling process, from conception to wearable art. "It starts with the idea, which just pops-up in my mind, or I can decide to work with a certain concept in mind," says Levi. "I start with a 2D drawing from different angles. If I like what I see I continue to 3D model, making a sample pattern cut and sculpturing a test heel. I adjust lines and proportions and when I feel all is good, I can continue to make the complete pair from the final materials."

Levi created a series of shoes based on different Disney villains.Levi created a series of shoes based on different Disney villains. (Photo: Courtesy Kobi Levi)

Levi says he’d love to eventually design more accessible footwear. While he wouldn't dedicate as much time personally creating each pair, don't expect a consumer-friendly Kobi Levi line to be without his wild flair. “I’ve already designed and made samples for a line with more accessible prices, using my artistic design touch.”

Check out Levi's custom-made "double" boots in Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" music video below:

Lindsay E. Brown is the managing editor of Eco-Chick, the web’s first ethical fashion, beauty and travel site for women. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, and Cottages & Gardens. Lindsay has been featured as a fashion and beauty expert on the Veria Living Network. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The opinions expressed in blogs and reader comments are those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of FromtheGrapevine.com. While we have reviewed the content to ensure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, From the Grapevine is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information.

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