Steven Arpad (1904–1999)
Arpad was a French designer best known for his avant garde accessory designs around the late 1930s. Arpad remained anonymous throughout his life, his name never appearing on his work. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is the only collection of his unusual designs in one place. He was often commissioned by the major fashion houses of the day. The black double platform heels above, for example, were designed for Balenciaga:
Published in Vogue in October 1939 as a design for Balenciaga, this pair of extraordinary shoes is actually the work of designer Steven Arpad, and appears in the Arpad archive at the Brooklyn Museum as Model No. 487. Like many designers, most of Arpad's work seems to have been done anonymously and released under the name of an established fashion house, so the Museum's archive and collection of shoe prototypes by Arpad provide the sole documentation of this portion of the designer's oeuvre. In this fantastical interpretation of footwear, Arpad presents an intensely inventive and unique rendition of the platform sole, an important feature at the time. Although the source of inspiration is not known, the arched supports strongly recall building or aqueduct forms, underlining the parallel numerous clothing designers have made between fashion and architecture. -(C) Met Museum
Don't those platforms look a lot like the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, in fact?
From the Met Museum:
As with another pair of shoes in the Brooklyn Museum by Steven Arpad (X1025.1a-b), the design of this fantastical Baroque heel references architectural design. Although unlabelled - a feature seemingly shared by all of Arpad's footwear - the design is documented by an archival sketch in the Museum's collection. The platform sole was an important design element in the late 1930s and 1940s, but was rarely as brazenly reinterpreted as in Arpad's design. Part of this extremity can certainly be attributed to the strong Surrealist influence in couture at the time. The fact that Arpad is known to have designed footwear for couture houses raises the possibility that this pair may have been designed for Elsa Schiaparelli, whose work was most noted for including Surrealist elements. -(C) Met Museum
Here is another extraordinary design by Arpad, this one a prototype for the theater.
In this design for the theater, Arpad creates a sculptural and somewhat surreal fantasy where the graduated prow-like flanges seem to swallow up the front of the foot. Although the design seems somewhat off-putting and unbalanced, Arpad does not fail to include elegantly refined details and design resolutions, notably in the treatment of the juncture of heel and vamp. -(C) Met Museum
Now take a close look at this next design, which at first appears to be what we'd recognize as a simple platform sandal.
A frankly sculptural heel with continuous quarters on this model terminates in a pair of hooks to secure the wrapped ankle straps. This design is in perfect harmony with the contemporary wrapped and draped evening gowns inspired by classical sculpture.
See more Stevem Arpad work here.