by Dan Rubinstein
You say you want a luxury shoe that's youthful...but not silly or too trendy? It's true, finding just the right make among the denizens of Louboutin or Marni knockoffs can be tedious, but a new player on the footwear scene is using his runway experience and tireless passion for quality to create a line of women's shoes that's altogether different.
Milan-based, Siberian-raised designer Max Kibardin studied architecture in Russia before abandoning his studies for a future in fashion; he became a model in Paris and later went to school for apparel design. This eventually led to a chance meeting with Prada executives (to pitch his womenswear collection) who rather unexpectedly asked him to consider designing shoes—ironic, since shoemaking was already in his blood. "I've always loved shoes," Max says from his studio in Milan. "I used to work at my sister's shoe store in Moscow, and even helped with the buying." Not only that, but the designer's grandfather was a shoemaker. When his fashion pals gushed over his first attempts at a collection, Max set out to launch his own line.
"Sabrina" and "Vera" styles from Kibardin's Spring/Summer 2006 collection
Inspiration for Kibardin's thick soaring heels and shapely wedges was accessed through a variety of outlets: from Kibardin's past academic coursework to structural archways and building columns to no-nonsense fruits and vegetables. For his Spring/Summer collection, he looked back to signature '60s styles and used an array of saturated colors as well as creamy pastels and striking metallics. While each shoe has a different shape, every color chosen comes from Max's fascination with exotic minerals and gemstones. The Vera ($450), fashioned in blue and pink, has a decidedly deco look with layered and crisscrossed straps of shiny leather (available in a either a low wedge or a tall heel). Another design called the Sabry ($432) has stitched, perforated pieces of leather, reminiscent of a men's loafer, paired with the stylings of a classic bowling shoe.
Buyers and fashion press have come to appreciate Max's retro designs and near obsession with quality. His shoes are made in Milan, constructed over 50 processes with hand-cut materials, selling anywhere from $400 to nearly $2,500 per pair, taking up to three months to complete. "I don't think about age when designing. I love it when older ladies appreciate my work," Max says. "They have a real experience in buying and wearing luxury products. I take it as a big, big compliment."
"Madline," "Alla," and "Sam" styles from the Fall/Winter 2006/2007 collection
The footwear category is getting some fresh talent as of late, and the Milan-based, Siberian-raised Max Kibardin is poised to join the ranks of designers to watch.