Aoi Kotsuhiroi

...capturing the body is a form of intention in this carnal caress of suspended moments.

by Jemma Gray
Aoi Kotsuhiroi designs body art, described in her words as feet objects or body objects. The very wording portrays them as fetishised objects and the aesthetic of these pieces reinforces this concept since they visibly draw on the art of Japanese bondage; Kinbaku. She applies this technique to all her exquisite heels, tribal headwear and organic accessories. Aoi is a true artist in the many forms of the word; not only a designer, she’s an artist and trained poet, often answering her interview questions in verse. A candidly spiritual person, she uses elements of Victorian and Buddhist tradition through her work, drawing on materials such as human hair. As a result, Aoi’s accessories secure a sentiment that far extends their powerful aesthetics. Fine details such as intricate knots juxtapose with glossy Urushi laquer and primeval horns as heels. For such powerfully confronting designs they have a quiet, naive vulnerability that echoes an otherworldliness that Aoi strives to take us into. Her ‘Colorless Murder’ shoes were chosen for the recent ‘Punkature’ film showcasing the process of a shoot by SHOWstudio founder Nick Knight and stylist Alistair Mackie for ‘Another’ magazine. We chat to one of our most extraordinary Black Sheep about her visceral creations.

Punkature’s theme by its very nature was about merging fashion’s toughest subculture, punk, with the serene beauty of couture. Your shoes embody this sentiment perfectly – is it usually strong shoots like this that select your pieces?
My pieces take position on borders that question and arouse, in most cases, quite radical feelings. Thereby they attract engaged people.
It is in this order of the impossible chaos, where habits' rules disappear, that this improbable fusion gets materialised.

What do you think makes your shoes perfect for Punkature?
Punk is a "tribal" story, of rebellion, it's a refusal of social conformity, it flirts with death like a necessity of life ....
This is not about dwelling on appearances, but to seize inside the codes an extreme political position of survival. Taking some elements from daily situations like a safety pin and putting it in a "savage" sophisticated manner and so to give rise to the signs of sublimation.
Brutal and fragile beauty, our ephemeral existence that seeks in this difference a protective balance, so that through the dirt and the perishable, our dreams of life can grow and breathe.
In front of that backlighting there is this girl, attached to her feet are some animal forms that have transformed her. She moves in a different constraint of life, her body covered with rags bears the traces of her nuptial hunting parades, bird of prey flying in its beauty's dignity .... We cannot cage her.

You are a young disciple of Kinbaku (Japanese rope bondage), providing you a means to closely connect the heel with the foot, leg and ankle. What’s fascinating is that although a method as severe as bondage is utilised, they actually look delicate. They appear secure yet elusive. Can you tell us a bit about the theme of contrast employed in your work?
The Kinbaku's continuous link is a ritual of embrace and adoration ... To stay in this notion of "bondage" is perhaps a misreading that arises when the eye remains on the surface.
To seize that the links between the lovers are a complexity of knots and feelings, in which the capturing of the body is a form of intention in this carnal caress of suspended moments.
With the awareness to grasp the fragile, the gesture guides a soul's breath to seek the frontier's sublimation, echoing abandonment and trust.
The contrast of the trap that protects and awakes senses, keeps its part of mystery far from a reason that can trap and suffocate the dizziness of the contemplation of physical beauty.
Far from suffering, this intimate relationship continues to grow as a poison of delight that grows around you.

What are your cultural influences?
The shadowy delicacy of Hasegawa Tôhaku's 'Pine Trees', the sensual brutality of Jim Harrison or Ryôkan's "landscapes", Kawabata's raw refinements, Im Kwon Taek , Park Chan Wook, Kim Ki-Duk or Akira Kurozawa's magnificent turmoils, Naomi Kawase's fragilities, the semisweet floating of Jirô Tanigushi or Yuki Urushibara's mangas, some pictures of Shunga that I love ....

You use a mix of shiny and distressed Urushi cherry tree wood to enhance an organic, natural continuation from human foot to manufactured shoe. We have noticed that many emerging shoe designers aim to blur the boundaries between shoe and foot. Do you think that the confines for shoe design are widening? Is it because today’s designers are more often concerned with empowering innovation over logistics?
I stay away from all this "topicality", from these registers of "producing" for this or that reason, from the conditions it takes to please or satisfy the idea of an innovation and a race to the "consumable"...These details do not interest me.
On the other hand, the 'object' as an extension of a sensitive body, developing a kind of "root" of some sort, allowing it to modify the idea of itself and its own ability to capture unknown vibrations, is a great stimulation.
These objects attached to us, like a marvellous transplant that could give us a balance of sensations and perceptions, is a form of language that seduces me.

Your shoes are available only in a few sizes, sometimes simply coming in the standard sample size 4. In this way, are shoes sometimes the hardest items to make work for shoots when using emerging designers’ pieces, (where production is limited)?
My choices are deliberate, each "feet object" is unique, like an identity. A single specimen and only one, no "cloning" or repetition in series, none of this. I want to stay in this protection of the unique as a fragile relationship. It's not about "economic" reasons that would prevent me from endlessly reproducing the same thing until nausea. The choice of making one single piece is a radical position that allows me to develop at my own pace the "growth" of the object and its poetic condition.
The object has to form some sort of ritual with the female body. Through this relationship it finds its "savagery" again in the delicacy.

Do you have any experience of collaborating with other emerging designers?
Collaborations are tricky, the subjects do not lack to note the differences and other deviations ... For the moment, I refrain to participate in this.

Are there any fellow shoe design talents you have noticed on NJAL that you admire?
I am very picky and the smallest detail can make me change my mind ... thereby I have not seen anything yet.

Finally, how did you get to where you are today?
Because I dig up things
and turn them upside down to look at their roots..
I see stories end to end,
I make a road again.
I didn't know I could do this:
seeing from the inside.