Renowned French shoe designer Benoît Méléard designed footwear for the likes of Loewe, Helmut Lang, Jeremy Scott and Alexander McQueen among others. However, it was when he first launched his own commercial collection in 2001 that he felt he could really push his penchant for the experimental to the core. For Spring Summer 11, Méléard looked for inspiration to the cult 50s American designer Beth Levine. The result is an artful mix of styles with elastic bands connecting the toe and ankle, cubist-inspired peep toes as well as leather sandals propped on impossibly high wooden platforms and heels.
Dazed Digital: When did you first get interested in shoe design?
Benoît Méléard: I think I was about 14. I know it sounds a bit like a cliché, but I always knew what I wanted to do! So I went to an art school right after doing my diploma and later went on to do a course that specialized in shoes.
DD: Do you remember the first pair of shoes you made?
Benoît Méléard: It was at school. They were very simple, but had a special metal heel…
DD: What’s more important for you: innovation or practicality?
Benoît Méléard: Well, when I started, it was all about innovation. I really wanted to stay ahead of the industry. Right now, I have more experience and I also want to create styles that are ultimately wearable. Sometimes it’s all about a line or little detail that a line that makes your designs different from the competition.
DD: I heard you were also the first person to create a shoe with an invisible heel...
Benoît Méléard: That’s true. I made it about twelve years ago when I was working with McQueen. It’s funny that everyone wants to copy it now. It’s too late, isn’t it? Either way, I think the style is fantastic for the catwalk and it’s very photogenic. I’m not really sure if it works in real life though. After I made it, I insisted that I didn’t want to sell it. But it also opened a lot of doors for me at the time.
DD: How long have you been working on your own collections?
Benoît Méléard: I started in 2001, but had to stop because I had some trouble with backers. Finding support in France is not that easy. At the time, the industry felt really dead. People didn’t want to invest in a business they considered it tricky. Right now, my partner is my backer, which is really great. I’m very happy to be able to relaunch my name.
DD: Can you tell us more about the new collection?
Benoît Méléard: The collection is a manifesto and a tribute to the legendary American designer Beth Levine. She was really like a mother to me.
DD: What is it about her designs that you love so much?
Benoît Méléard: The fact that they’re so simple yet innovative at the same time. She was a fantastic person and someone who would never stop talking about shoes…
DD: What else inspires you at the moment?
Benoît Méléard: Art, photography and music. I’m very interested in other designers too. It’s important to see what other people are doing, mainly because you don’t want to be doing the same things yourself. I also keep an eye out on new designers – especially, the ones who are currently coming out of the UK.