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Entertainment

Shoes Make the Man

Igor Dewe is just the sort of jollification injection the pouty, dour-faced fashion industry needs: a hairy 21-year-old French guy who gained notoriety by dressing in rainbow-tie-dyed Lycra shorts.

by Milene Larsson
Feb 23 2012, 1:30pm

Photos by Maciek Pozoga
Archival Images Courtesy of Igor Dewe



Igor hanging out in Montmartre, Paris, in his tin-can shoes and a bunch of fabric he found, topped off with a traditional Croatian vest.

Igor Dewe is just the sort of jollification injection the pouty, dour-faced fashion industry needs: a hairy 21-year-old French guy who gained notoriety by dressing in rainbow-tie-dyed Lycra shorts, heelless platform pumps, and a Turkish hat while sexily grooving his hips and soaping up the limos of stuck-up journalists as they arrived at Paris Fashion Week. Igor is a dancer, performer, fashion activist, and designer, and he makes the most original and insane footwear we’ve ever seen. We’re talking 16-inch platforms made out of fruit, tin cans, sand castles, candle wax, and leaves. Not only does he create the shoes with his own hands, he also crafts equally spectacular outfits and performance art pieces. For instance, he once hooked a fruit juicer up to his crotch and invited people to slurp the sweet goodness that dribbled out of an attached plastic hose. Of course, we had to speak with Igor for the betterment of those sad souls of the fashion industry—and the world at large.

VICE: Helllllloooooo, Igor. How do you come up with your crazy shoe ideas?
Igor Dewe:
I don’t know. I just play around with whatever I find and work a lot with concepts. I started making shoes because I couldn’t afford to keep buying Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Louboutin shoes. I built my first pair out of a pallet of wood, and then I made a pair out of tin cans. My father has an atelier where he welds parts for airplanes. I use his equipment to make strong, architectural, and masculine shoes.

So you believe that men can wear heels and still look masculine?
Yes! Take orthopedic shoes, for example. They do wonders for people with deformed feet. I find the concept of those shoes interesting; you can’t tell where the foot is, so you can lengthen the silhouette without anyone knowing. I think that’s genius—that they enable you to change your body according to your desires. I would love to have super-tall and beautiful legs, but a pair of orthopedic shoes tailored for me would cost $6,000! So I make my own versions instead.

How, exactly, does one walk in 16-inch heels?
It’s actually pretty easy, but they can be heavy and sometimes I cut myself on them. I like how walking around in my shoes is a challenge. I’m not scared of falling over, I just walk out. Sometimes I have to go back home because blood is pouring all over me and I can’t walk.

Are your shoes for sale?
I don’t think I could sell them, as they are pretty fragile and they take ages to build.

If there’s no commercial gain, why put in all of this work?
When I see photos of my performances, I’m like, “Am I crazy? Why did I go there and do that?!” I guess I have this psychological need to perform and create. If I don’t challenge myself, if I don’t build the shoes I’ve sketched or make a performance and a video, I’m depressed and feel like a failure. It’s like an urge, a sexual drive. You don’t know what will happen when you’re performing on the streets, and that’s the adrenaline kick I’m after. It makes me feel alive.

Igor claims he wears his high-platform metallic shoes (top right) for orgies with his robot friends and then puts on the candle shoes (top left) to pray and ask forgiveness for his sins. He spent two days making his fruit shoes (bottom), which you can see in his Selling My Juice video.

Do you have representation? An agent or a gallery?
No. I would like to get exposure, but I’m really bad with the whole communication and marketing process.

Come on, you’re a marketing genius. The performance you did outside Galliano’s final show for Dior, where you dressed like a Roman emperor in crazy-high platform shoes, holding flowers and a sign that said “The King Is Gone,” was a brilliant publicity stunt. You must have put a lot of thought into that.
Even though Galliano said some horrible things and deserves what happened to him, I still wanted to pay homage to him for what he’s done. Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier are my favorite designers because they bring folklore and forgotten cultures back to life in a modern mix of ethnic glamour. Some of Galliano’s friends came up to me and thanked me. I don’t know whether Galliano saw me, but I was in a lot of newspapers. Even Boy George posted about me on his blog.

Why did you start doing these performances if not for promotion of your footwear?
I met some new friends a couple of years ago, and we started partying a lot. Eventually they moved in with me. That’s how I met Maja Bergström, who makes my videos. We needed money for rent, so we started doing performances under the name House of Drama. We’ve performed at clubs, art fairs, fashion events, and even the Cannes festival. I still perform with them, but I like to have my own thing on the side as well.

What was your first solo performance?
Money Mercy, in which I begged for money off to the side of the catwalks during Paris Fashion Week, dressed in a Gypsy- and folklore-inspired outfit and Nina Ricci platform shoes. I love fashion, but Fashion Week has become such a fake, commercial mega-event with police surveillance and high security. I felt this urge to protest, to stain that perfect universe of luxury and beauty, to which only the elite is invited, and bring it back to reality. I wanted to remind people that fashion also takes place outside, on the streets. The second performance I did was a protest against the editors in chief and fashion journalists who take themselves for stars and arrive in limos. I figured, “I’m going to trash their cars!”

Are you speaking of the performance you documented in the Fashion Carwash video? I love that video! Especially the bit when the bodyguard pours the bucket of soapy water over you.
Yes, the guard and I had a little fight. Fashion has become so serious and boring. I wanted to bring some humor to it all.

I’ve noticed that almost all your performances are interactive in some way. You invite passersby to get involved.
Yeah, the interaction with the public is important to me. I like to work with the street and test people’s reactions. Whether they get upset, angry, happy, or curious when they see me, it creates a connection, which I really like.

It took ages for Igor to collect the shells for these shoes, and tube after tube of superglue to make them sturdy, but they still dissolved the third time he waded into the water. Now they only exist in his video The Little Sand Castle.

It’s funny that most of your performances take place in Paris, because Parisians are famously cruel to those who purposefully stand out in a crowd.
That’s true. The atmosphere in Paris isn’t exactly friendly. I feel like people are getting darker, and it scares me. It feels like something dark is coming; maybe it’s just the economic crisis, but I have an eerie feeling that fascism is on its way back. I only perform when I have the courage. I’m often depressed and feel like nobody needs me.

We definitely need you.
I always perform when I’m traveling, though. It’s a great way of meeting a new country. Last time I was in New York, I performed every day and it was amazing because people were so positive. I really felt like Mickey Mouse. I would love to go back, but I can’t return to the States right now because I was recently thrown in jail for a night after one of my performances at Art Basel in Miami.

You were locked up? For what?
Yes, it was horrible. I was supposed to perform at a night hosted by Le Baron [a Parisian nightclub] at a hotel, but there were so many people outside I couldn’t get in. I tried the staff entrance at the back, but the guards threw me out violently on the pavement. Then six security guys came and held me down. When the police arrived I tried to explain what had happened and that I was supposed to perform, but they said they didn’t care and that “we don’t wear high heels like that on the street in this city.” Then they threw me in jail.

You were thrown in jail for wearing high heels?
Yeah, it was crazy.

Do you frequently get hassled by police and security during your performances?
Yes, all the time! It’s really annoying and tiring, and I have to have authorization if I want to perform now.

But it’s just clothing and shoes. Can’t you dress how you want?
No
. Even if I’m wearing a carpet and a miniskirt they’ll threaten to arrest me because I’m “naked.” But I’m not naked! I like to protest for political causes as well, but I always encounter problems with the police. The last political protest I did was my Grève de Vêtements Pour Sauver la Grèce [Garment Strike to Save Greece] performance, when I walked around in leaves, flowers, and platform shoes, ancient-Greek style.

What’s next for you?
I don’t know. I’m trying to ask myself what I want to do, but it’s hard. When I see all the shoes I have assembled, I think that maybe one day I could do an exhibition with them and the videos. That would be nice.

To see more of Igor’s shoes and watch some of his hilarious videos, visit www.igordewe.com.