Raphael Young is the intriguing, bad-ass shoe designer hailing from Paris. His collections are explorations in extreme craftsmanship, angular geometrics and monochrome embellishment that seem fundamentally fresh — yet reflect the classical style/quality of the iconic design houses and influences that nurtured his vision, including his uncle, legendary Monsieur Alexandre Narcy
, who was the footwear director at YSL
for over four decades.
In just three seasons Raphael (who is 34 and of Korean heritage) has cemented a position as the ‘edgiest’ most sought-after shoe creator by fashion aficionados the world over. This week, Raphael sat in the Priestess NYC atelier in the West Village, showcasing the intricate details of his super-durable carbon-composite heels and boots in a mosaic of metal and leather. From Vogue and Lucky to The Museum at FIT, the critics were mesmerized.
While they all heap praise on the collection, Raphael has the more theatrical role of conveying his vision — especially now that his talent has been recognized by major publications and prominent stores, and is the reason he has come to NYC to percolate his brand. Paul Viguier, Raphael’s Marketing Manager, says “creativity and craftsmanship are in his blood and Raphael gives methodical attention to detail, research and quality.”
Looking like a character from the d’Artagnan era, dressed in dark tones with his wavy-slick black hair and leather-spiked boots, Raphael is one of those rare talents who seem to fall from the sky — although the reality of his story is decades of hard work and collaborations with venerable design houses from YSL and Manish Arora to the Korean powerhouse, Avista-Kaylee Tankus. Yet for all his practical knowledge of design and production, his philosophy is fundamentally that of a master artisan.
“What interests me about shoes is the transformational process,” he says. “The process of turning a concept into a concrete with amazing artistic attributes and properties that cannot be easily replicated.”
For the AW/09 collection, that means focusing on futurist motifs and morphing images of the Art Nouveau and Bauhaus periods into chic battle armor shoes and boots for exquisite women: indestructible carbon and aluminum heels with silhouettes comprised of the finest nappa and specchio nero leathers and audacious metallic finishes.
He cites Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe
, Zaha Hadid
and Le Corbusier
as serious inspirations and is very keen on light-weight materials such as carbon-fibers and composites. Raphael’s contribution to modern fashion has been both his technical and abstract treatments of embellishment and innovative/cool décor. His ‘Eagle One’
Aluminio heels are to die for
and have been seen on ‘it’
girls Eleonora Abbagnato (Dancer Etoile of the Opera de Paris
), singer Katy Perry and bomb-shell Bond-girl
, Olga Kurylenko
. His work conjures images of strong, sophisticated women fused with courageous femininity.
Born in 1974 in Seoul and adopted by French parents, Raphael was raised in Romans near Avignone. His father was an engineer and his mother a pediatrician. Steeped in fashion from an early age and mentored by his uncle who was a master technician-artisan, he moved to Paris and in no time was recognized as a creative-genius. (He was also a Naval cadet where he took a keen interest in uniform tailoring and French military design).
Raphael showed his first eponymous collection three seasons ago in Paris and swiftly became a cult figure. Embedded in his work is a ‘gothic-chic-futurism’ that juxtaposes leather matte and shine, playing with textures and their reflective qualities. There’s nothing remotely simple about the complex, futuristic synthesis of line, cut, and glinting surfaces that manifest beautifully in his work (it is as if they might have been extruded from some techno-industrial machine). The shoe range is amazing and comes in iridescent gold, silver and copper tones enveloped in soft leathers with a raw, motor-bike aura.
Raphael’s genius is his projection of couture techniques into a universe of advancing and changing technology. A crude description might be “sci-fi gothic motorbike couture,” but in truth the right words are hard to find.
Raphael Young defies references or narrative, and fuses experimentation with materials and sculpture to the Nth-power. He is a visionary designer who is humble and grounded and whose shoes are, well, superb!
Cody and Raphael at Priestess NYC
Check out the gallery at: www.raphaelyoung.com
For sales enquiries contact Paul at: firstname.lastname@example.org
–Cody Ross (email@example.com)