Midnight 00’s PVC-wrapped heels conjure up more images of Marie Antoinette-esque opulence than the typical notions of campy fashion. Their ladylike silhouettes are the opposite of any cartoonish, drag-friendly platforms. They’ve been seen as of late on some of the chicest street-style stars in the upper echelons of “serious fashion.”
But when the research team of the Met’s Costume Institute emailed the brand’s creator and designer, Ada Kokosar, in late December, it was for all of the above reasons that they wanted to include her shoes in an upcoming exhibition. “Camp: Notes on Fashion” debuts to the public on May 9 after its Monday evening Met Gala opening in New York after its Monday evening Met Gala — and the stylist-turned-designer’s shoes will be front and center. “They sent the researcher from the office, and he came over to my studio in Tribeca with white gloves — like [the heels] were a piece of art,” recalled Kokosar. “It was a very emotional moment for me. Never could I have imagined that my shoes would be in a museum.”
The Costume Institute’s team, led by head curator Andrew Bolton, chose a pair of lilac-hued kitten heels — wrapped in Midnight 00’s signature PVC ruching — as part of the exhibition’s opening section. It points to Versailles as an incubator for the modern camp movement, deemed Camp Eden for the way in which the royal courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV indulged in every sartorial whim for the concept of se camper, or in other words, the bold posturing that led to the towering coiffures, layers of tulle and high heels (for men and women) that graced the gilded halls. “By tracing its evolution, the show will embody the ironic sensibilities of this audacious style and establish the critical role that this important genre has played in the history of art and fashion,” said Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Versailles fashion was most visually immortalized by Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film “Marie Antoinette,” and it’s an aesthetic into which Kokosar’s spring ’19 mules, in their macaron-pastel colors, fit perfectly. But they’re not merely historical shoes: “They look very much like Versailles, but with the PVC, they are twisted,” said Kokosar. “At first, I was looking at the exaggeration, artifice and unnatural parts [of camp]. My shoes fit this idea, but also after reading the essay, I find that the concept is actually very sophisticated. It’s about being rebellious with original ideas. And that’s why I made this brand.”
Kokosar’s Costume Institute inclusion, along with some 250 other objects that include womenswear, menswear, sculptures and drawings, puts her on a rarified stage, one that is not usually reserved for emerging designers like herself. (Her mules will join pieces from the likes of Elsa Schiaparelli, Vivienne Westwood, Bob Mackie, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo, Jeremy Scott and a long list of other accomplished designers.)
It’s a design stamp of approval for the venture, which started out as a capsule collaboration with Cesare Paciotti in 2017 and has blossomed into a full-fledged brand (with the help of business partner Marco Calcinaro, CEO of Paciotti). “The designs were unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Cassie Smart, head of womenswear for MatchesFashion, which as carried the line since fall ’18. “Ada’s vision is very imaginative. The contrast of being opulent yet durable showed such a strong brand identity.”
Still, the 38-year-old designer has a ways to go, commercially speaking. Despite a splashy fall ’19 presence at Paris Fashion Week in February (and 18 retailers worldwide), Midnight 00 is not in the U.S. brick-and-mortar market. “We decided to wait. We want to get in with the best,” said Kokosar, who recently moved from New York back to her home city of Milan to focus on the business. “I recently received advice from a friend. He told me, ‘Ada, your shoes are wow, and it’s a combination of many elements. There is the volume, the ruffles, the silk, the PVC, the crystal accessories, the pearls. Not everybody wants all of these elements in one shoe.’ So I need to pick one of these elements and develop it more (commercially),” she said.
Until then, she has the Met.