In Their Words: An interview with the man who sees an animal on every shoe
Back in my early club days one of my most coveted pair of shoes was a pair of Tokio Kumagai black suede pumps with funny, little whiskers jutting out all over.
At a time when Japanese designers like Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto were the must-have uniform for the downtown art set, Tokio Kumagai designs– particularly the shoes– were right in step. Often extraordinary and whimsical, the shoes shared the Japanese minimalist fashion aesthetic of the time that still looks modern. The most iconic being most a pair of mouse flats long before Marc Jacobs turned a rodent into a chic shoe.
>> SHOP FOR CUTE FLATS
Unfortunately Kumagai passed away at an early age and there really have not been that many designers to fill his shoes when it comes to slightly wacky, yet very wearable art for your feet, that happen to have an animal influence.
Enter Tetsuya Uenobe.Uenobe takes it up a notch with pieces of art that you happen to be able to wear. I was able to interview the designer and ask a few questions about his craft.
SH: What inspires you to turn shoes into wearable art?
TU: My art line was designed as an eye catcher at trade shows at the beginning. I realized that these shoes got the attention so I decided to develop a line of them. When Mrs. Hanae Mori offered me a chance to exhibit my works in an exhibition “Made by Hand Hanae Mori and Young Artists” at a contemporary art museum, I adopted a little more radical designs.
SH: What are your influences? Are there any specific designers or artists?
TU: One day when I was making shoes, a toe-shape seemed like a nose of an animal. When I was gazing my shoe’s toe blankly, a bird occurred to me. They were very beginnings. I especially respect a Japanese designer Mr. Tokio Kumagi and a Dutch designer Mr. Jan Jansen.
SH: Can these shoes be custom made for individual wear or are they only to enjoy as an art piece?
TU: It is not to customize them to fit individual customers’ feet like bespoke shoes. However customers can order colors even if colors are difference between right foot and left one.
SH: Where are your shoes available?
TU: Some stores in Tokyo, Japan. Some my customers order my products directly via email. I have not got any trade to US now. However I expect price range at US retailers will be 1,200- 2,100 US dollars as a rough estimate.
SH: Is there anything fun that you would like to share with the FocusOnStyle readers?
TU: I just want to make people smile
Visit Tetsuya Uenobe Online:
Photos: Tetsuya Uenobe