Olive Oyl is so much more than a 1930’s cartoon character, she was my first role model. This dark-haired skinny-bones with the giant feet was a working woman and single mom who always had two muscle-bound sailors fighting over her. What a welcome relief from Malibu Barbie! So when I spotted a set of bulbous heels named “Olive Oyl” (image below) I had to see who was behind them.
Kobi Levi, who we covered here, is a freelance footwear designer who has honed his trade collaborating with shoe companies in Israel and beyond. In the dozen years since graduating from Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Levi has designed commercial footwear in Italy, China and Brazil. He is currently based in his hometown of Tel Aviv.
Levi began designing unique shoe styles that played with standard definitions of fashion. In 2010, he started a blog and uploaded images of these quirky creations. The site attracted a niche audience and reactions poured in from shoe-lovers and fashion magazines, and he began to peddle the shoes online.
Lady Gaga wears his “Double Boot” design (image below) in her “Born this Way” music video.
Two years ago he opened his Tel Aviv studio where he produces limited edition designs, all handmade using top-quality materials. They ain’t cheap (prices are upwards of $1500 per pair).
The driving force behind each design is creativity, not functionality, but all of the styles are totally wearable. Comedy is an important part of Levi’s work and he often riffs on situations relevant to the act of walking. Check out his banana peel slides, or the sticky-chewing gum heels (images above).
“The shoe is my canvas. The trigger to create a new piece comes when an idea and/or an image comes to mind. The combination of the image and footwear creates a new hybrid and the design/concept comes to life. The piece is a wearable sculpture. It is ‘alive’ without the foot/body. Most of the inspirations are out of the ‘shoe-world’, and give the footwear an extreme transformation. The result is usually humorist with a unique point of view,” he states on his website.
Green Prophet’s broadcast the designs of another Bezalel Academy graduate, Israeli designer Hadas Ilani, who makes wacky shoes out of pine needles.
Some of Levi’s shoes may replicate ducks and dogs and orca whales, but they don’t have a strictly environmental angle. This story about Tel Aviv’s peachy cobbler is brought to you for the simple pleasure of seeing some happy-making Middle East design. Let us know if you spot these on the street.
All images from Kobi Levi