Remember Barbie and the Rockers? Well, designer Carolin Holzhuber was never satisfied with their costumes nor any of Barbie’s clothes for that matter so early on she began designing her own collection but it was footwear that finally captured her attention. “When I started my BA in fashion design in Vienna I was sure that I wanted to design women’s wear,” says Holzhuber. “During my studies we had to try four different workshops—dressmaking, knitwear, shoe making and millinery. I ended up in footwear because I love the smell and feel of leather and in the end, the craft of footwear fascinated me more.”

Carolin Holzhuber. Heaven Has Heels

Holzhuber’s work is on the forefront of footwear design—sculptural works of wearable art that provoke discussions as to the role of footwear in our world.  “I saw shoe making as a personal challenge to concentrate on one part of the human body, the foot,” says Holzhuber. “In fashion, for me, it’s all about the details. Footwear is a very important detail of the whole outfit. But footwear can also be a work of art that pushes the boundaries of what a shoes is.”

In her latest collection ‘Conjoined Illusion,’ Holzhuber experiments with traditional footwear techniques and the latest technological advances combining leather with new and innovative materials such as carbon fibre. She ventured into 3D printing for the soles of her shoes, something she admits was an intimidating but worthwhile endeavor. As for inspiration, Holzhuber is influenced by what she sees and feels—everyday objects and occurrences that alight her imagination.

“The concept behind my last collection was about mirroring, reflection and conjoined twins,” explains Holzhuber. “During my research I saw mirroring everywhere in my daily life so I thought I have to work with this topic. My intention is that people look closer at objects and do not see them just as one piece. I want them to discover all the different parts that an object contains and also discover its hidden beauty.”

As Holzhuber heads into the future she hopes to create one or two sculptural footwear pieces and then produce a derivative ready-to-wear collection—shoes that are at home in someone’s wardrobe and on display in an art gallery. “Of course in our daily life we need shoes that are comfortable, easy to walk in and good for our feet. But they already exist. My intention is to design and make sculptural footwear that somehow confuses, disturbs or grasps the spectator’s interest. With my work I want to challenge the eyes and the mind. Footwear is not just about being wearable. It is about the wonderful materials, all the little steps and details that make a pair of shoes a wonderful luxury product.” We couldn’t agree more. — ANGELA GILLTRAP