Master of artisan shoe design and towering heel-less shoes Noritaka Tatehana, presents his SHOWcabinet. We take a guided tour


Master of artisan shoe design Noritaka Tatehana creates pieces of art, both wearable and ornamental, that are steeped in cultural references so rich and well thought out, that each piece ingrains itself in your mind for a lifetime. One of the most inspiring and important shoe designers of our time, Tatehana’s towering sky-scraper heel-less shoes are favoured by Lady Gaga and Daphne Guinness and his avant-garde techniques leave you craving more. He’s re-defining the meaning of ‘high-heels’ that’s for sure. Shifting the wearer’s balance forward on to the very tips of their toes, each pair of ornately sculpted and elaborately adorned stilt-like shoes draw reference from Japan’s vast cultural heritage, in particular from the ‘Orian’.

Unlike the Geisha, the Orian were –  to avoid a not so desirable word – ‘women of pleasure’. They exemplified beauty in all of its guises. Regarded highly within society, they were a group of visually alluring courtesans – with porcelain painted skin, rouge cheeks, intricately embroidered kimono’s and of course, towering geta shoes – that frequented Japan’s tea houses during the vibrant Edo and Meiji periods. Completing their hair style by peppering it with pearls, from which they hung a veil used to seduce their clientele, for these women appearance was paramount and garments that embodied the highest height of artistry, were their mode of dress.

It’s these traditional Japanese crafts that Tatehana incorporates into his work and his SHOWcabinet curated by Niamh White, is no exception to the rule. Showcasing his traditional craftsmanship skills and the way in which he translates these into the language of contemporary high fashion, the cabinet displays not only his trademark sky-scraper’s but also his garments, sculptures and paintings that employ the arts of katazome, katakana and yuzen in never-before-seen ways. From the monochrome bomber jacket beautifully embroidered with Daphne’s name by Tatehana’s mother (who Daphne is a huge fan of), to the modern representation of a Japanese sword, inscribed in mother of pearl with a humble quote from Tatehana’s father, and Tatehana’s abstract interpretation of his SHOWstudio portrait – the display is wholesome welcome into Tatehana’s world.

Alongside Tatehana’s own work, the cabinet also houses work by artist and no.1 Nick Knight fan, Taisuke Mohri, whose photorealist portrait on display combines the features of five different people, including his own mouth, under cracked glass. At first glance Mohri’s portrait has the visual qualities of a photograph, but upon closer inspection you note that it is in fact an immensely detailed pencil portrait.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the past three days have seen Tatehana take residency at SHOWstudio, creating a new pair of his iconic heel-less shoes broadcast live online; and this afternoon will see the finished pair worn by Daphne Guinness in a shoot with Nick Knight. “We actually want to show the process of creating art, so we show people how the artist works and we allow people into that moment,” Nick Knight explained at this mornings launch. “Previously art has always been presented as a fait accompli with no explanations provided and I never believe that that provides a particularly good understanding of the artist or their work. So we encourage our artists to come and create their work in front of camera. No one had ever seen Alexander McQueen cut a dress, so we actually got him to come into the studio and cut a dress! Right on camera  – it only took him about 5 minutes!”

Tune in here to watch Noritaka Tatehana, Daphne and Nick live at work.

approved mohri cracked portrait


The Cracked Portrait #5, 2014, by Taisuke Mohrifragrant wood

Fragrant Wood by Noritaka Tatehana

Images courtesy of Noritaka Tatehana and SHOWstudio.

Words: Brooke McCord