When Kobi Levi received an email from Lady Gaga, he initially thought it was a hoax. Why would one of the world’s biggest stars reach out to a virtually anonymous Israeli shoe designer?
It was four years ago, and Levi had just sold his first pair of shoes, when Lady Gaga’s agent requested to order custom-made boots for the singer to wear in her music video “Born This Way.”
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“It was a very simple email, and obviously I thought it was too good to be true,” the 40-year-old Levi tells NoCamels. “In my mind, I thought I needed an agent to communicate with Gaga’s people, so I asked my friend to make sure it wasn’t a practical joke.”
Until then, Levi, now a footwear maestro known for intertwining art into his designs, had only been creating whimsical footwear as a hobby, storing the shoes in boxes he kept at home. “I just showed them to my friends and family, then put them in a box and that’s it,” he says. “In 2010, I took pictures of all the shoes I made, and posted them on a blog page. And it just took off, as if the shoes had a life of their own.”
Taking the shoe world by storm
Following the major success of his blog, Levi, who graduated from the prestigious Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem in 2001, decided it was time to open a studio in Tel Aviv. And so in 2011 he started selling his shoes to the public.
Levi’s designs aren’t merely shoes one wears for comfort – they’re reflections of inspirations from his daily life. Among his recent creations is a summer-themed line that includes a watermelon-shaped wedge heel and a beautifully curved stiletto. Other unique designs include women’s shoes that look like flamingos, a dog and even a shark.
In the past, Levi paid tribute to Disney fans, designing an entire footwear collection mimicking the entertainment company’s most evil figures. One of Levi’s most breathtaking designs is a shoe with a stiletto heel made out of fake chewing gum, creating the illusion that the woman just stepped on a piece of pink bubble gum!
Levi’s designs have earned him praise in some of the world’s glitziest fashion publications like Marie Claire, Elle, Glamour and Runway magazine. CNN even referred to Levi’s designs as “wearable sculptures.” The talented designer also made television appearances in the US, where he showcased and modeled his footwear collection.
And while merging art and commerce into fashion been a complex feat for many, Levi’s secret is to focus on creating a final product that is equally artistic and wearable, captivating to the human eye.
“It is challenging because it has to look like a sculpture, be bold and still look good as a shoe,” he says. “I like the shoes to be completely wearable, even though they have high heels. I like that fantasy look where elegance and fun mix together.”
Levi’s shoes, which are priced from $800 to $3,000, are entirely handmade and require weeks’ worth of intricate craftsmanship. And while the price tags for Levi’s designs are steep, the designer has plans to reveal a more affordable fashion line in the near future.
But for now, Levi, a new dad, is enjoying fatherhood after recently welcoming a baby girl. At two weeks old, the lucky newborn is already donning her very own pair of custom-made shoes designed by her dad!