The monster, as a symbol of ugliness, is an interesting idea for an industry consumed with beauty to consider — but that's what makes the monstrous aesthetic within Beate Karlsson's inaugural collection for AVAVAV such a talking point.
The New York-based multidisciplinary artist and designer was better known for her work seen and shared on Instagram, including a wearable version of Kim Kardashian's anatomy, and silicone baby feet. She is also a designer for Pyer Moss.
A scroll through Karlsson's IG feed reveals many silicone creatures — her AVAVAV's ogre-like footwear is just the latest addition. Yet the new collection wasn't just created for shock-factor. Made from deadstock fabric and silicone, the ogre-shoes (which deliver big "get out of my swamp" energy) hint at another monster — the excess waste of raw materials by the fashion industry, much of which passes by Florence, Italy where the brand is based.
On this point, AVAVAV's co-founder Linda Friberg explained, "After years in the fashion industry, I craved building something upon my own beliefs - something that both responds to and confronts us with the now inevitable future. Both in regard to sustainability and to what fashion will become."
Below we spoke to Karlsson about her slimy footwear debut and how she made them.
So, tell us about these monster shoes. What's the story there?
So, the Bloody and Slimey Feet boots are an extension of The Claw, an enlarged hand shoe I made a few years ago. Disfiguring shapes, in this case the shape of fingers, to disrupt our associations of the original source of them inspires me.
How do they sit in your wider body of design work?
As a designer, I always try to redefine my personal preconceptions of clothing, accessories, and products. With my pieces, in this case the Bloody Feet boot, I strive to evoke a sensation of otherness. I think when we encounter something abnormal we move further away from narrow-mindedness, sort of like the nature of surprise. The boots have generally been well received but there are also some strong negative reactions from people being disgusted by them – it’s these turbulent reactions that makes me sure I’ve gone in the right direction.
Why did you choose human innards as a reference point?
I think you can reach interesting silhouettes by disfiguring anatomical forms. I often end up with a hand shape for a shoe or a boob-shaped bag and so on.
I read they're made from deadstock fabric, can you tell me more about the process there? What deadstock did you use / where is it sourced from / how does this come together to form the boots?
Yes, the base of the boots is made from deadstock fabric that we source here in Florence, and then it's treated with a silicone surface finish. While we’re still a very small company we create some of our pieces in-house, but we are looking for ways to sustainably do a small production of the boots.
Can you actually walk in them?
Haha yes absolutely, but it might not be your most comfortable option!