For his newest project, Bryan Oknyansky conquers an unlikely designing concept – shoes carved from metal and formed on complex software typically used by architects. He sat down with Wonderland to discuss the six-strong collection and his self-started umbrella label, “Shoes By Bryan”.

Tell us about the Heavy Metal Series.

The Heavy Metal Series collection was born out of a collaboration with Kimberit, a Haute Couture fashion label based in Berlin. I was asked to design a footwear collection inspired by twilight and how it alters our perception of the world around us. I interpreted Kimberit’s concept to apply to perception in general, how people develop pre-conceived notions of the world around them and are rarely challenged to see things differently or with a different perspective. To create Heavy Metal Series I used 3D printing technology from 3T RPD as well as CNC machining technology at Coventry Prototyping Panels, processes that add material and subtract material to create and sculpt my shoes.

When did you start designing shoes?

I designed my first shoes, women’s sandals, in 2008 while still studying architecture in Los Angeles. There was an open competition that I entered, even though it was my final and busiest year in university, and I won first place. When I first met Kimberit in a chance meeting at Berlin Fashion Week SS11 I showed them my sandals and we generally got along very well. A year after that meeting, Kimberit asked me to design shoes for their next collection, and so I officially began designing shoes in May 2011, just about one year ago.

Where do you usually look for inspiration?

The inadequacies of life and contemporary product design are enough of an inspiration pool for me to imagine a more exciting world with progressive aesthetics and experimentation. That said, nature provides me with endless inspiration; specifically, how it creates something from seemingly nothing; how everything happens for a reason; where forms emerge out of material computation at the molecular level. That¹s where designs like Spider Heels
and Spinneret Heels come from. The other designs are inspired by high-tech technology and high-performance materials.

Which shoe designers do you presently admire the most?

I really admire the late Salvatore Ferragamo for really making a business out of luxury bespoke footwear; the black and white photos of all those lasts cluttering the workshop walls tagged with the names of the most important entertainers of that era is quite admirable. Another great late designer whose shoes I really admire is the late Alexander McQueen. Simply put, the footwear produced under his watch can fuel entire artistic generations. A living shoe designer I admire is Terry de Havilland, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Cobbler.

Take us through your typical designing methodology.

My footwear design process pretty much mirrors my architectural design process. Everything starts with a concept, usually about specific materials or structural principles, or even a sketch of something that comes to mind. In every case, I begin by sketching, even on the cliché napkin at times, they turn out to be real lifesavers to creatives. When a substantial idea emerges from my sketches I dive right into digital design using advanced computer modeling software. When the designs are ready to test I use 3D printers and CNC routers to prototype the designs which usually kick-starts a feedback loop of designing in the computer, materializing a sample, developing the design further in the computer and prototyping again until I get the perfect balance of artistry and functionality in a shoe expression.

Words: Jack Mills