Paris-based shoe designer Raphael Young managed to get the fashion world into a tizzy over his sculptural spring 2009 collection of wooden wedges and cone-heeled sandals. After last season's Japanese samurai influence, Young turned the focus of his most recent collection to the future: The mosaic-patterned leather shoes and boots have metal details and extreme, architectural heels. But even though the hard angles and tough, almost masculine shapes may be aesthetically futuristic, they are crafted using traditional, haute couture techniques that are rarely still practiced. He learned the methods — which involve carving all the lasts and heels from wooden blocks and assembling the prototypes by hand — from his uncle, Alexandre Narcy, who designed footwear at YSL for 40 years. Young, who studied physics and math in school, says the towering pieces are comfortable, made with balance in mind, and constructed in such a way that each shoe receives individualized attention. These edgy, well-crafted shoes may not be for the stylistically safe (or budget-wary), but we enjoy seeing designers who take risks and don't follow trends.
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