Custom shoemaker Chris Francis, known for creating glam-rock designs for the music industry’s famed rockers, has stepped into the art world.
The cobbler has had his avant-garde shoes on display at the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles for a six-month exhibition. He also has taken part in the Palm Springs Art Museum for its Killer Heels Exhibition, and most recently, he exhibited his Brutalist collection at the Architecture + Design museum in L.A.
“Bridging shoes into the art world has been amazing and the key to my survival as a custom shoemaker,” he told Footwear News while at his FN Platform exhibit in Las Vegas on Monday. “I don’t have the volume of production behind me to generate the funds needed to operate a shoe shop, so I have to bridge into the art world.”
Francis started creating shoes in 2011 after attending a Louis Vuitton party where a shoemaker was on hand. Feeling inspired, Francis began making shoes the very next day. He has since created shoes for musicians such as Mötley Crüe’s Mick Mars, Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols and former Runaways guitarist Lita Ford.
“I make everything. Every aspect of the shoe is handmade,” he said.
When it came time for Francis to show his work at the Craft & Folk Art Museum, he faced a challenge. “When the museum approached me, I didn’t have any of my own work,” he said. “All the performers owned my work, and I could see it onstage and it was amazing, but when it came time for an exhibition, I had to make 51 pairs in one year.”
It usually takes Francis one week to two months to make his wearable shoes.
“The art pieces end up being the more expressive outlets of the shoe,” he added. “Whereas when I’m doing custom, I’m making for a client and it needs to fit his or her style, creating limitations.”
For Francis, a former carpenter, creating his unique-looking footwear came because of his lack of formal training.
“My shoes look the way they look because I never had formal training and I never had apprehension,” he said. “Everything was wide open, and every possibility was doable because there was no formula. That’s what keeps me going.”
Francis added, “The only way I could separate my shoes from shoes on the market was to make shoes that really stood out, and making them very different to survive being a custom-maker.”
The style of his shoes varies, describing his art as its own unique thing. With exhibitions inspired by Brutalist and Bauhaus architecture, Francis pick themes like any designer in a fashion house. “It’s essentially a very small house on a very small scale,” he said. “It’s just my production means are smaller.”
Francis is banking on expansion.
“It’s the goal,” he said. “I want an actual house where you can buy these designs, and I think it’s doable.”