Art & Design

Mollie Gondi on Raphael Young

Art & Design

Mollie Gondi on Raphael Young


A mutual friend of ours quoted you as, “a little boy who made his dream come true”. Looking back on your life up to this point, would you say that’s true?

It is true. My passion always is the creation, and creating my own label under my real name was like a dream, even though designing for big names is already a very cool achievement. When I decided to work in fashion and to become a designer, against my family wishes regarding my professional choices, I would never have expected to see my name and my shoes in all the big fashion magazines and papers, to dress celebrities and to meet them. Things happen and disappear like that sometimes; you don’t have control, surprises of life. Some would say it was my destiny with my family background and my uncles, and I think they are right and would even say more, it was my destiny since the day I was born, being adopted by a French family and using my origins and my path at the service of the creation. 

Regretfully I couldn’t make the opening of your store in Paris but would have loved to pick your brain about the moment those doors opened for the first time. Would you say this was your biggest accomplishment to date?Once it happened did you get a moment to breathe or were you back to the drawing board the next day designing the first high heel to hike Mount Everest…

Ahah!! I think the day of the opening I did not really understand what happened. I realized some days later. Of course it’s like recompense, an accomplishment, but I worked so hard for years to get this for me, it was just the next step. Actually I was very stressed, anxious to show my work and my maison to the public. It’s the reason why I invited all my friends to feel more comfy and to have fun, and we had fun, we drank loads of bubbles and it was a very cool moment that I wanted to share with people I like. Once it happened I immediately went back to work on my stuff, this job requires working a lot; people can’t imagine how many hours I work and almost no vacation for years. My holidays are when I travel to New York or in Asia, for business reason, but when I’m not in the studio or in the factory in Italy it’s like a vacation for me.

In my opinion, the way you design, the shoe is no longer the after-thought when putting together an outfit. When I wear your shoes, I start with the shoes. If I could get away with it I would only wear the shoes.

I think it’s a very good way to wear my shoes and I love it!! I love women naked with only shoes on her.

Your shoes are undoubtedly works of art in themselves. Does it excite you when you sell a more elaborate shoe over one of your more simplistic designs? Like, someone is getting the genius that lives inside of you?

That’s a good question, and yes it’s exactly what I feel when someone buys a very elaborated style, which have required many hours of work and headache, it’s like I felt the woman is feeling the same emotion as me, that she understands me, that she knows what is a simple basic shoe and what is really different and unique. It makes me feel unique the same way, that her buying my shoes is like she’s buying me, or a part of me, and I love this sensation. That I would live in her through my shoes on her feet.

What does designing feed you? Raphael the human being…

It’s exactly the right word, feeding me. I’m lucky enough to have a passion, and like all people who have a passion, I live for it. I don’t need to have hobbies or interests; it’s all about my passion, which is my job. I can spend all my time on it. It’s necessary for me to feel good, to exist. Creating is the most beautiful that exists. It’s a divine privilege; a gift that life gave me. At the end of the day, we are here on earth to find the peace of our soul and let a print of it stay; in my case it passes by creating and designing.

I’ve heard there’s so much more on your design resume than one would think. Like cars and boats. Is this something we should be taking note of? Should we be looking for the next Raphael young designed spacecraft?

Yes I mean I design shoes, I work in fashion so I design all kind of accessories, but my passion is not only shoes and accessories, it’s creating in general, art in general, so yes I like to create whatever things, especially product design and architecture, furniture. I collaborated with Aston Martin and on other projects completely out of fashion. I would like to do more collabs like this and I’m open to any kind of project concerning packaging, mass consumption like telephone, high technology, home objects. My furniture book is in progress, and I want to design eye wear too.

Under all of this design talent, there must be a secret hidden talent you are dying to tell the world about…

I don’t know if there are secret hidden talents, I think that talent is revealed doing things. There is something maybe people don’t know which is my passion for art sculpture. Making shoes requires to carve and to sculpt, in my case it is, and I will certainly give more importance to pure art in the future, because there is no economic market rules, it’s the real freedom of expression of our emotions and art. For me it could be the final arrival, to quit fashion for art. So wait a few years again and I hope I could exhibit my art sculpture works in a gallery in New York and all art cities.

Have you ever thought about jumping the pond? Planting you in the US? If so, where and why?

It’s strange that you ask me this. And yes big big news, a real scoop, I’ve been talking for a while with a famous big company in the United States to join their shoe studio and to create their collection. I love NYC and New Yorkers, since the first time I started to come more often to Gotham I felt I could live there and I think it’s my city. I have very good friends in NYC and I want to experience the NYC way of life. If everything goes well I plan to move to NYC very soon. In July maybe!! I’m looking for a loft downtown, definitely the part of the city I prefer. Between west village and Tribeca, Meatpacking, Soho. It’s more artsy, it’s cool people, cool places, less serious than uptown, more human I would say. No high buildings, no stress with big avenues and people dressed in costume and ties, downtown is very European in terms of lifestyle, and people are too.

There’s an old nursery rhyme about an old woman who lived in a shoe. A big shot Hollywood movie producer comes to you and wants to recreate that house on the big screen. What does the house look like?

Wow it would be a dream to design this house; I have to think about it. Definitely I would say a high heel shoe house, made in wood, leather, metal, glass and black stone. Something between Zaha Hadid and old Japanese palais. Water everywhere, falls, mini rivers, a Zen garden, sculptures in the garden and inside, giant shoes, leather everywhere is very important too. I could cover the walls in leather, the floors, and special leather. It would be amazing to create this project.

Some people dream in black and white and others in color. Do you dream in shoes? Have any of your ideas come to you in a dream?

Yes absolutely. And the most incredible part is that I can order myself to dream of shoes sometimes. In most cases when I fall asleep and I’m in collection period, my mind is evading from reality, and I start to see forms, movements, construction, and all these components are turning around waiting for me to start reconstructing a new object. I mean when I create shoes I don’t think about shoes. I think at first to create a nice object. Self-sufficient. But I would say that it’s not only when I dream, this mechanism is operating all the time, I think in this way, this process of creation is permanent, I can’t stop it, even when I’m on holiday or having fun with friends, I’m always on the look out, in this permanent process of research, attentive to everything which could give me an idea.

And finally, the most important question of all, what is currently the album/artist that you have on repeat?

I agree. Creation is fed by creation. And the most nourishing aliment is the music. I listen to only one kind of music when I design. Rock. British preferably. The only exception, when I need to feel sad to create, would be some piano ballads, very deep and inviting you to feel strong melancholy. It’s another aspect of my process for creation, sometimes I need to be sad, not to feel bad but to find what I have in the bottom of my belly, to be honest with myself and my soul, to express what I feel deeply. And for that nothing is better than sad piano.

A glimpse of Young’s studio space.

You can visit Raphael’s site HERE