Image via @thesecolours
In late December, an Instagram user with the handle @m.sty posted a picture of an arched foot standing on a bronze statuette, with the caption #heelconcept. The internet kept working. But seven weeks later and there are suddenly 660 images of found-object shoe creations and counting. This weekend, your feed may have brought you a weirdly lo-fi image of someone standing on a Furby, a hunk of meat, a pile of hair curlers, a wedge of pizza, a pencil, or (the most meta) a shoe emoji. The hashtag is now a growing catalogue of ideas for new kinds of artful, implausible footwear. But what does it all mean? We called up Misty Pollen, aka @m.sty, to find out.
So how does it feel to have birthed a meme?
It just feels right, you know?
There are over 660 posts now. Is that crazy to you?
Yeah, I guess so. It's still something I just like doing for myself — and I still like mine the best!
Image via @hor.hay
What do you do when you're not creating heel concepts?
I'm an artist and a textile designer. Recently, I've collaborated with the Melbourne-based label Rare Candy and exhibited in San Francisco and Berlin. I'm also going to be filming an episode of a television show later this month.
What was the impetus for creating your first "shoe"?
I was doing a lot of self-portraiture. In the past I've also made and abandoned a lot of sculptures, which just kind of float around in my life. So the first image I posted was using a bronze sculpture that I had made. It was just the right size to step on.
Someone posted the comment "proletariat wedge" under that photo. Does #heelconcept have a democratic mission?
Well obviously it's limited by the need to have access to Instagram. In my own work I make a lot of things from scratch. I've experimented with plant dyes recently, and macramé. I repair a lot of vintage clothes. I've gotten really into darning. So I'm definitely more interested in how to take things that already exist and renew them. #heelconcept is a clash of those beliefs: it involves taking objects and making them new but it also distances the things from where they came from using a form of technology that is very momentary. There's a built-in obsolescence.
Image via @puffy_vest
What's been the most interesting part of watching the meme spread?
I just like thinking about which ones I would wear!
What are your favourites?
The one with a sprouted potato. It was created by a friend of mine named Caley Feeney. Her handle is @puffy_vest. And there's another that involves a sock with a chain safety pinned to it to make the stiletto heel. That's such a different thought from my initial one, which was about finding an object that I could really stand on. It just fully embraces the reality that's created by the image. I love how simple it is.
How would you explain #heelconcept to your parents?
There is definitely an element of it that is perplexing to people who don't have a native understanding of what it means to live online. Whenever I tell my grandmother about anything I'm doing with people I've met on the internet — which, increasingly, is almost all of my professional activity — her reaction is always, "Be careful! People on the internet are creeps!" She doesn't come from a world where people lead half their lives online. I was born in 1989 so I always had the internet. I was using AOL instant messenger when I was 12-years-old.
Would you call #heelconcept internet art? Or fashion?
I get very excited about the idea of being a shoe designer. But it's almost like the shoe I designed was a hashtag. It's something completely immaterial, it's a formula for something that in no other context would be considered a shoe. So I think it makes sense as fashion, which has so much to do with styling and illusion.
Image via @mandy_roos
Image via @waverly.nyc
Image via @neo.minimal
Image via @jonathanvelardi
Image via @martaplaton
Image via @cannesfilthfestival
Text Alice Newell-Hanson