You may remember my earlier post when I introduced Becca Klein, a life-long Disney fan and sensational artist. Now, we take you behind the scenes of her inspirations, creations, and utterly genius designs, which, for the record, I will be first in line when her amazing works of art are made into live action footwear…
Salutations! My name is Becca “becsketch” Klein, and I have a consuming infatuation with Disney and shoes.
In trying to articulate something as genetic and encompassing to me as Disney and shoes, I realized that each of these formative passions are an embodiment of my two favorite people that I associate with them – Disney is a reflection of my mom: enthusiasm, love, courage, and inspiration; and shoes were a reflection of my Gram: classy, witty and wonderfully unique.
Besides being stylishly unforgettable and my favorite person on the planet, Gram had a collection of shoes that would make Carrie Bradshaw trip on her Blahniks. Like myself, Gram was vertically challenged, but she could rock the highest stiletto and did so every Sunday to church. She had closets (yes, plural) of shoes: pumps, skyscrapers, wedges, espadrilles, suede shoes, leather shoes, old shoes, new shoes, shoes with the tags still on – shoes the completely wrong size just because she thought they were beautiful and had to have them. I would go into those closets as a little girl and try on every pair I could reach, tromping around their house and praying that my feet would one day be big enough to wear her cast offs. Unfortunately, the Foot Fates ceased my growth exactly one shoe size down from her glorious closets of size sevens, but I’ve kept her stunners as sculpture, a testament to her awesome style and influence. And, I’m not beyond stuffing a half box of Kleenex in the toes so I can literally walk in her shoes again.
My mom doesn’t have as many heels as her mother did, but she did have a covetous pair of pumps in rich crimson that I adored to play dress-up in. She even had little clip on red bows that I would attach to the front of the shoes to make them more authentic to what I imagined were reflecting back at me in the sheen of the oven door – the Ruby Slippers. When it came to aspirational footwear, none trumped the Ruby Slippers. The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie – I watched my 50th anniversary VHS so many times that the film inside the cassette heaved a sigh and split from exhaustion (true story). Seeing the legendary Ruby Slippers in person at the Great Movie Ride in Disney World rendered me gobsmackedly and uncharacteristically solemn: you can see my hands clasped together, stunned. I remember being vaguely horrified I was wearing inordinately clunky high tops in their presence.
My mom loves Disney, and I love Disney. Gram loved shoes, and I love shoes, and eventually my love for shoes and Disney became synonymous with my love for my mom and Gram. Being lucky enough to realize my childhood dream of becoming a full time artist, it was natural to me to take my two biggest loves and funnel them into a creative soul (sole?) outlet: my Disney inspired shoes. The joy and history that comes with my experiences of Disney in film and in person, and the rapture I get from a stunning pair of heels oozed into an innate mashup of inspiration fueled illustration.
I use the vast collection of Disney characters to create shoe designs inspired by the palette, personality, and style of each character and their movie. I started my first conceptual collection back in 2011 with the Disney Princesses. I then dabbled with some other characters, and dove into the design fodder that is the Disney Villains.
I start each design with a trip down memory lane for the best “research” ever, either re-watching the movie, listening to the soundtrack, or going on a google sprint to refresh myself on the facets each character. Then, I break out a pencil and start doodling ideas – straps, rivets, booties, pumps, gems, fabrics – and try and match the elements of the shoe design to reflect the tone and feel of the character.
I then scan my doodle and bring it into Photoshop where I start assembling and blocking out colors and shapes. I use my trusty stylus/tablet combo to digitally draw and add texture and dimension to each detail and refine and reinvent as I go. I’ve always worked “straight ahead” – my sketch is usually the most actualized planning of a design I do before throwing myself in and seeing what sticks. Granted, it’s not the most efficient method (working in progressive passes would probably be much more productive) but, it’s how I work: I plow forward until I’m perfectly happy with each section before moving on. You can see the progression of my Esmeralda inspired shoe from The Hunchback of Notre Dame below. Though, I’ve been told toward the end it’s like Spot the Difference.
Here’s my Elsa from Frozen inspired shoe.
The physical shoe style reflects her character’s duality and tenuous balance: the caged straps represent how she felt trapped in her own self and how her queenly presentation was dark, restrained, and lacked a luster or sparkle, but on the inside (the shoe lining) she was bursting with concealed color and vibrancy. The swirls of sparkles spill onto her refined shell showing the unpredictable surges of her power .The spikes are my interpretation of the lyric “frozen fractals” from Let It Go – the beautiful but dangerous quality of her magic.
Here’s that crafty cat –my Scar from The Lion King inspired shoe.
This was the first shoe I designed based on a non-human character, and I was amped for the challenge. Since he didn’t have a costume to pull from, his corporeal palette and environments inspired my color choices. I knew that the opportunity to translate fur was too obvious to pass up, so I covered the bulk of the bootie in pony hair. The asymmetrical straps are created with the visual illusion of the talons (on the zipper pulls) ripping open the shoe, representing Scar’s ruthlessness. The zippers themselves add that bad-guy edge and imply his scheming manipulations – how his vicious plans “teeth” together like gears in a clock. I had to incorporate his namesake into the design and made a literal “gash” down the outside of the shoe and surrounded it with weathered leather in an iridescence and hardness like a scar (turn your head to the left and you might recognize the shape of his nose). The obsidian heel echoes his cliff Lair, and his dark, craggy personality. The chartreuse lining alludes to his ambition and drive for the…lime…light.
And now for the indubitable: Mary Poppins.
I created this “Disney Sole” for my mom for Mother’s Day, since she is my Mary Poppins and it’s her favorite character. The base of the shoe is designed to reflect Mary Poppins’ more practical(ly perfect) “spit spot” side: the navy of her traveling clothes, and a tidy, no-frills, classic shape. The flowers are from the floral on her tricky carpet bag, and the leaves of the pattern breeze out and across the shoe because she comes and goes with the changing of the winds. The upper part of the shoe represents her elegant Jolly Holiday ensemble so I made a sheer lace in the body of the mary-jane, accented with delicate embroidered flowers. Encircling the trim are woven ribbons like she has about the neck and wrists of her blouse. I had ruffles that went around the openings at the ankle and arch, but it was looking fussy and a little too prissy, and as Mary Poppins says, why would you insist on complicate things that are really quite simple?
For now, alas, my shoe designs are only my conceptual illustrations, but I have many delusions of grandeur and it is a dream and a wish my heart makes to one day to make them into the real heel deal. I have a constant wealth of inspiration in Disney, and a bottomless passion for shoes, so I really can’t see an end in sight to the design possibilities.
I thank you, dear reader, for your indulgence. I’ve had such a hard time condensing (obviously) and articulating the way I’ve been inspired by Disney because it really has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It continues to move me and evolves as I grow. Behind the characters, and the stories, and the experiences, there’s a pureness, a love, and honesty to Disney that gets right to the heart of things. I suppose that’s why Disney on a whole is such a visceral thing to so many people – it reflects the heart.