I've finally crawled out of popular cultural hibernation and caught up with the gratuitous ball of fun that is Game of Thrones. It's a lot of boobs and blood but it's beautifully produced, well-shot boobs and blood, so apparently that makes it ok. Therefore when Anastasia Radevich's new shoe collection popped up in my inbox, entitled "Lost Civilisations" where lands and far-removed in time and space are resurrected in shoe-form, I couldn't help but sneakily think of the mythical lands that I've been gorging on in my time of procrastination.
No such lowbrow references for Radevich though. She uses this collection of shoes to explore the civilisations of the past, present and future, initially spurred by listening to David Christian's Big History. For the past civilisations, she looks to the seasunk cities of Alexandria, Gulf of Cambay and Yonaguni as well as the mythical Atlantis and looks at how they were doomed to vanish due to rising sea levels. She then looks at the present state of the earth, commenting on environmental issues and the mistreatment of the planet. Finally, the future will give way to a rebirth of the Earth as she imagines a second ice age, when the planet resets itself in a very pure state of nature.
That's a lot of talk to interpret in a collection of shoes and the only way Radevich is able to achieve this lofty talk of lost civilisations is to cram in as many experimental techniques as possible. Radevich was kind enough to share some glimpses into her shoe laboratory, where she has ovens, chemicals and mysterious glass jars, that bring her intricate sketches and otherworldly visions to life. Radevich has never been one to shy away from the complicate route of doing things with previous shoe collections including LED light-embedded mesh and curved 3-D printed heels, but this is possibly her most ambitious collection yet where each shoe has to be produced singularly and individually to achieve the aged appearance that fits into her narrative. "The challenge was to reflect an abstract concept in the shapes and details of a shoe. I then developed the details of the piece and selected the materials and experimented with texture and the appearance. I thought of the strength of design and how it had to support the message AND convey the mystery to draw the viewer to the shoe piece. So I reinforced that message with nontraditional methods of sculpting of components of the shoes."
The Past civilisations are interpreted with sea-sunk heels that look like they were excavated in marine biology missions as the metal heels were galvanised and then rusted in an innovative process in shoe making. 3-D sculpting further refines the curved and organic shapes that Radevich is a fan of and she has experimented with clay-like and mother of pearl coatings to make the shoes appear even more like they've been dug out of a tomb somewhere.
The present state of the earth are represented by Meccano-esque heels that a demented robot queen might wear in a fictional tale of the rise of the machines. The leather and silk uppers in this series of shoes have been screen-printed with images that depict disasters like oil spills, land mines and atomic bombs. A more literal manifestation is the heel that reads "This Will Destroy You". "It took about a week to arrange the letters for the "THIS WILL DESTROY YOU" shoe properly. I experimented with the fimo clay and was very close to giving up, but realised that I could do a mock up using regular paper."
The last part which leads on to the future is a serene ending to this turbulent collection. Radevich imagines an earth frozen over. Yes, I can't help but think of that spectacular opening scene in the first episode of Game of Thrones, where you see The Wall separating North and South. "The carved resin heels from the "Future" part were sculpted in 3D, this was the only method to achieve a perfect symmetry and balance." 3-D printing is a process that I've been thinking about a lot, wondering how soon we are to seeing garments come to life from screen to reality. Right now, Radevich is still in the fashion industry minority of using it in their work but she might be on to something with her crazed laboratory experimentations.
Her work is highly singular and in a way, alienating to how the majority of shoe designers work and possibibly to potential customers as well but Radevich's niche is something to be commended from an innovation point of view.