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Japanese Artisit wins over Lady Gaga with Footwear

Young Japanese artist wins over Lady Gaga with bizarre shoes

Bizarre-shaped platform shoes designed by a young Japanese artist have become one of the favorite fashion items of singer Lady Gaga.

Noritaka Tatehana, 26, a Tokyo-based artist, designed the extremely thick-soled, heel-less shoes that Gaga was seen wearing during her stay in Japan in June. She was there to support the reconstruction of the country's northeast that was devastated by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

While majoring in dyeing at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Tatehana produced kimono made of Yuzen-dyed fabrics and "geta" wooden clogs. In January last year, he unveiled the bizarre-shaped shoes at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum as part of his graduation project.

"I learned shoemaking on my own. I don't think I've designed something new. I just offered a contemporary interpretation of such traditional Japanese footwear as wooden clogs called geta and pokkuri worn by apprentice geisha," Tatehana said.

After unveiling the originally-designed shoes, he pitched them to fashion magazines and other overseas media via e-mail. In April 2010, Lady Gaga's stylist Nicola Formichetti placed an order with him, saying that Lady Gaga wanted to wear the shoes when she appeared in a Japanese TV show. The stylist asked him to produce one pair in a week.

Formichetti, who was apparently satisfied with the finished product, subsequently placed yet more orders with Tatehana. He has thus far delivered a total of 15 pairs to the stylist.

"It took me four months to produce one pair for my graduation project, but I can finish a pair in four days now," Tatehana said.

His eccentric shoes are priced at 200,000 yen to 600,000 yen per pair and are only made-to-order.

In June, Tatehana was blessed with the opportunity to see Lady Gaga in person in a corridor of Nippon Television Network broadcast station in Tokyo.

"It was only 30 seconds, but I was moved when she encouraged me to produce more shoes," Tatehana recalls.

A Tokyo native raised in the ancient capital of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Tatehana grew up watching his mother teaching doll making and decided to go into the fashion business at age 15.

He particularly admires Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela, among other fashion designers.

"Like them, I want to become someone who can change culture and the current of the times, transcending the world of fashion," he said.

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