I wanted to see where sexy ends and grotesque begins – Leanie van der Vyver

Leanie van der Vyver speaks to Dezeen about her project "Scary Beautiful", a pair of extreme, back-to-front high heels.

From the Series

Dezeen and MINI World Tour: recent design graduate Leanie van der Vyver speaks to us about her project Scary Beautiful, a pair of extreme, back-to-front high heels, which she presented at Design Indaba in Cape Town. 

Van der Vyver, who comes from Cape Town originally, explains the concept behind the shoes, which she developed as part of her graduation project while at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. "In my thesis I wrote about how humans are constantly trying to reach perfection and the different ways that we practice control over our bodies," she says. "I looked at what the high heel is traditionally doing and I pushed it over to see where sexy ends and grotesque begins."

The project drew gasps and laughs from the Design Indaba audience in equal measure when van der Vyver showed video footage of a model walking in the shoes as part of her PechaKucha talk. She explains that the contorting effect they have on the wearer was a key part of the project.

"The effect of the shoe became more important than the shoe, so the shoe became a kind of accessory to the posture," she says. "What was interesting was that it became an amplification of what the high heel does. So if the girl's butt is slightly pushed out [when wearing high heels], in these ones she's almost raring to go, with her butt lewdly sticking out and her legs animalistically flexed."

Scary Beautiful followed on from an earlier project of van der Vyver's, a pair of trainers designed to "inflict a gangster swagger" on the wearer (below). It was this project, she says, that made her realise that "you can actually do a lot more with fashion in terms of it altering the body and its performance."

But while neither project is a serious proposal for new footwear, van der Vyver was surprised by the response Scary Beautiful received from the fashion industry. "People reacted in a positive way from the fashion side of things, they were very excited about it," she says. "But the general public, not so much." Read more about Scary Beautiful in our earlier story about the project.

This movie features a MINI Cooper S Countryman.

The music featured is by South African artist Floyd Lavine, who performed as part of the Design Indaba Music Circuit. You can listen to Lavine's music on Dezeen Music Project.

Watch the Talk with Leanie van der Vyver

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