As we have seen in various posts here on The Cool Hunter, footwear has become a genre of art all of its own.
Much like how the simple need for shelter has crescendoed into superfluous McMansions, the shoe started out as a humble necessity: to keep the toes out of harm's way. Currently - as anyone who's purchased a pair of platform sneakers or sky-high stilettos can attest - a need for beauty and style has far overshadowed the trivial want for comfort.
Oscar Wilde once professed, "One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art". The financially fortunate seem to agree, with well-manicured feet peeking from artistic footwear worth their weight in rubies and diamonds. Cobbler extraordinaire Stuart Weitzman took this tendency to an unprecedented pinnacle with the unveiling of his "Cinderella Slippers" which were worn by singer Alison Krauss at the 2004 Oscars ceremony and priced at $2M.
Thankfully, enjoying the art of footwear is not limited to those of stratospheric bank accounts. The need for fashionable shoe has crossed all social boundaries. From retro-style sneakers to high-end designer fashion heels, shoes are a major part of the international fashion market, and shoe sales are a serious indicator of status and sub-culture.
Naturally, the shoe store has evolved, side-by-side, into an equally stylish hub of modern fashion. No matter if you're talking about a pair Jimmy Choo wedges (a must on the streets of Manhattan) or a rare collectable pair of original 1972 Adidas sneakers — there is a carefully manicured storeroom and market-analyzed price tag for each.
So what's your favourite shoe store?
We want to see stores that feature the most original display and merchandising techniques out there.
From sneaker shops to high-end department stores to exclusive boutiques, if you know of a great candidate then send us an e-mail
A tactile sense of texture, a romantic play of light, and a reverence of natural beauty are all evident in this graceful, angular villa that seems monumental yet inviting. It brings up memories of hikes up a mountain on Crete where the white ruins of an ancient chapel cling onto the cliffs. But these ruins are on an entirely different island and they are brand new.
With its two main blocks at 90-degree angles, the Plus House appears from above to form an almost complete cross or a plus-sign. The opulent weekend villa juts out of a mountainside in a popular holiday area known for its hot springs, in Shizuoka Prefecture on Japan’s main island of Honshu.
The architects of this stunning beauty are husband and wife, Masahiro (36) and Mao (33) Harada, who founded Mount Fuji Architects Studio in 2004. Both are avid mountaineers — so much so that they named their company after the country’s highest and most admired mountain, also located in the Shizuoka Prefecture.
Plus House shows off their talents at being bold but not grandiose, and at involving the surrounding nature in delicate detail but without giving up the individuality and presence of the building.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the deceptively simple two-level concrete structure has private rooms and a bath on the lower level, and salon and kitchen on the upper. The water for the bedrooms and bath comes directly from a natural hot spring. The exterior is clad entirely in white water-polished marble with surface texture changing gradually toward the outer tips of the blocks from rough to mirror-smooth. The interior is also covered in white marble that reflects the blue light from the south (ocean) and green light from the west (forest). - Tuija Seipell
Opening with just a billowing piano refrain and acoustic strumming, you get the immediate feeling that there's something pretty interesting about The Gadsdens' breakthrough single The Sailor Song. After that initial hook, the UK quintet completely ensnare you with some witting strings and slurred vocal coos from singer Jody Gadsden, sounding like he's had one too many drinks and far too many sleepless nights. Expect to see these guys gobbled up by the Greys Anatomy crowd in no time. - Oliver Queen
Many old concepts are best left in the past, but not the barbershop. Brendan Murdock believed this statement so strongly that in May 2006, he opened Murdock, an upscale, traditional barbershop on Old Street in the funky design district of Shoreditch in East London. Murdock was right, of course, and two more of his “male grooming nirvanas” have opened since — in September 2007 in Liberty’s department store and in August 2009 among the high-fashion boutiques on Stafford Street in Mayfair. Still in his mid-thirties, Murdock has taken the scenic route to barbershopping — ambling from financial studies to a career as a lawyer, and then opening the CRU restaurant in Shoreditch in 2002. He now focuses solely on all aspects of his shaving emporiums that offer the traditional wet shave, haircuts, manicures and facials. It seems men are in for some serious pampering as Murdock has said he wants his stores in every major city around the globe, and we have noticed old-style barber stores with a modern design touch opening everywhere from Milan to Sydney and NY. - Tuija Seipell.
Maurice Mentjens Design, based in Holtum, the Netherlands, continues to delight and draw attention with its imaginative work. We have featured a couple of their store projects here and here, but this time, we are fascinated by the studio/office/production facility they designed for PostPanic.
PostPanic is a creative design and animation studio, but it is also a production company that animates, produces and directs its creations in-house. PostPanic produces mainly commercial projects for the international advertising, retail, broadcast and music industries. Clients include Nike, MTV and Coca-Cola.
When PostPanic decided to move to a new large facility located in Westerdoksdijk, a new high-density district in Amsterdam, it commissioned Mentjens to come up with interiors that would accommodate the various production and design teams, and also be flexible enough to suit a staff whose numbers can fluctuate from 14 to 40 depending on the workload.
Mentjens used the distance between the massive concrete columns as the defining theme of the space’s other dimensions. The production room, meeting room and staff room are all as wide as the distance between two columns, and the studio on the mezzanine level is two spans wide.
The overall feel of the space conjures up thoughts of a retro space-age station, or perhaps a secret-agent facility for a very important mission. There is a sense of industrious, “we mean business” attitude in the entire facility with delightful touches of color and fun treatments — sky-blue ceiling, red-and-gold paisley wall — to lighten up the gravity. We especially love the pod-like boardroom that resembles an interrogation chamber on a space ship headed to somewhere far, far away. - Tuija Seipell
The Cool Hunter celebrates creativity in all of its modern manifestations. We are global in outlook, culturally discerning and a trusted hub for what's cool, thoughtful, innovative and original. We value global relevance, not trends, channelling our discoveries to our worldwide audience of 900,000 readers per month.
For a long time, we have been approached by networks and production companies from Brazil to L.A. wanting to produce a weekly TCH TV. We have now aligned the key ingredients needed to create the kind of quality and diversity that we want for what we see as a culture show, not another version of poor-quality reality TV.
We are currently looking for the right people as our presenters in New York, London, Sydney/Melbourne, the three hubs where we will start the line up that we envision expanding to all continents. We need confident people who can write and present in their own natural way. Age is irrelevant — you can be 25 or 65 as long as you are interesting and interested in meeting fascinating and innovative people around the world. If you feel you could be a TCH TV presenter, send us an image and info about yourself and explain what you would bring to TCH TV.
We are also hunting for story ideas for high-quality, intriguing, relevant and creative content — from showcasing a 85-year-old aquabics instructor in Melbourne to discussing with the scientists who have discovered a cure for cancer by mimicking the cancer-fighting properties found in cancer-proof mice. We also want to hear from advertisers who are in the process of launching a guerrilla campaign or a cool, new TV ad. We want to hear from fashion designers creating something unique for their show at Fashion Week, and event producers launching an innovative event. We want to know about business start-ups, entrepreneurs, eco designers, architects, artists, gurus. If it is creative, innovative, new and, most important, original, we want to know about it. Deadline 11 Jan, 2010 - send info to [email protected]
Minjae Lee is a young South Korean artist whose work expresses a semi-disturbing inner tension that is tough to ignore, even if you feel that you'd like to. It draws you in with its powerful colours, halting imagery and clever juxtaposition of beauty, innocence and fragility with brash, loud and aggressive.
The 19-year old artist is mainly self-taught and uses old-fashioned tools — such as markers, pens, crayons, acrylics — to create his illustrations. He has yet to break into commercial success, but as his style is developing and improving each time new images appear, we will likely see a lot of him in the future.
What characterizes his work overall is drama. The ethereal females that populate most of his work exude a dark, organic tension, and it seems that even the brightest marker colors do not quite manage to save them from some sort of looming peril. Or are we, the viewers, in fact, the ones who are in danger? Whatever the case, we are drawn in, interacting on an emotional level, surprised, looking for something.
Minjae Lee’s penchant for dramatic expression is clear also in the work of those he admires. His favourite photographer is the 55-year-old Japanese Hiroshi Nonami, whose women are equally capable of telling a dramatic, dark story. Not surprisingly, Lee’s favorite fashion designer is the king of runway drama, the Gibraltar-born, 49-year-old John Galliano. - Tuija Seipell
To create a perfume can be a very lucrative business move if you are an established fashion house, brand name or celebrity. It can be difficult to find a fragrance that is authentic, contemporary and created for those who appreciate a good quality scent.
So it is with this in mind, that we recently discovered the unique Nasomatto Project, created by Alessandro Gualtieri (who has created scents for Valentino, Versace and Helmut Lang, to name a few).
“This project is dedicated to people who have a strong interest in a distinguished perfume choice”, Alessandro says. He believes the senses are our primary instruments that guide our reactions and this project is about sharing his personal passion for perfumes. Through the Nasomatto project, Alessandro blends unique fragrances that make strong statements; so much so he’s named each blend to suit. Duro for enhancing male strength, Narcotic Venus for the addictive intensity of female sexuality, Absinth to stimulate irresponsible behavior, Silver Musk to evoke superhuman magnetism, Hindu Grass is about universal peace and love, China White reveals a sentimental journey and Black Afgano is temporary bliss. The descriptions are enhanced further with the clean lines yet organic feel of the bottle designs. We predict you’ll become addicted as well! – Kate Vandermeer
This sleek and shiny new building is the Technology Center Medical Science (Das Science Center Medizintechnik), located in central Berlin between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate.
If you feel that the building, designed by Gnädinger Architects, looks somewhat sterile and synthetic, the architects and owners would not feel offended. The building has two main functions — it is a corporate facility and a science center — but both have to do with human mobility, specifically walking and grasping, and bionics (technology modeled on nature).
The clinical feel and sweeping forms are what makes this such a cool complex. The façade is designed to resemble the structure of muscle fibers. If you visit the Science Centre within, you will learn all about it and will never look at this building the same way again.
The building owner is Otto Bock Healthcare GmbH, one of the world’s oldest and largest companies designing, manufacturing and selling prostheses and orthopedic products. It was founded in 1919 by Otto Bock to meet the needs of war veterans. The top three floors of the new building are taken up by the company and its training and demonstration facilities.
The three lower floors house the Science Center and its three exhibitions: The Fascination of Walking and Grasping, Nature as our Guide, and Technology for People. To design the exhibitions, Otto Bock commissioned Berlin-based ART+COM, that has designed events for the BMW Museum and many retail clients. - Tuija Seipell
A fantastic array of imaginary projects keeps materializing from the hands and mind of the talented Jaime Hayón. The Madrid, Spain-born designer’s work covers practical — and impractical — objects, sets, stores, art and graphics. In addition to retail and restaurant environments, he has created furniture for Pallucco, shoes and sets for Camper, designer toys, various kinds of art, and exhibitions including “Mediterranean Digital Baroque” at London’s David Gill Gallery, and “Mon Cirque,” presented in Frankfurt, Barcelona, Paris and Kuala Lumpur.
A retro film-star sensibility joins a more ornate and traditional luxury vibe in the Octium boutique, for which nearly everything was custom-designed — from the furnishings, textiles and display elements to the lighting fixtures and wall treatments. And although within this fantasy world, each selection of jewelry has its own unique display environment, the overall atmosphere manages to seem calm and the look harmonious. The jewelry on display includes the Octium Collection, exclusive pieces, as well as selections from Hanna Martin, Ivanka Trump and Pipa Small and others. - Tuija Seipell