It’s not often that the 18th-century Queen of France and one of the greatest voluptuaries the world has ever known is invoked to describe a contemporary accessory. Nonetheless, Marie Antoinette and her exacting standards are cited by photographer and poet Christopher-Calvin Pollard when detailing his elaborate new shoe for his Iconoduly line, co-founded with the French-American artist Virginie Hauss. So lofty is its concept (and, at $15,000, its price tag) that it transcends footwear altogether. Indeed it’s part of the duo’s mission to revive, using centuries-old artisanal techniques, what they see as the lost art of adornment.
Let’s break it down. Limited to 51, each pair of the Thyrsus shoe (named after a pinecone wand that, in Greek mythology, is associated with prosperity and hedonism) is handmade from beginning to end. The heel itself is carved by a master sculptor from solid cocobolo wood and finished with 24-karat gold leaf; the pinecone scales in the back are individually cut and stitched from fine ostrich-leg leather; the insole is wrapped in Lelievre embroidery; and the outsole is fire-branded with the edition number. Which is to say, nary a synthetic molecule goes into the production.
Incredibly, there is already a wait list, says Pollard. But unlike Birkins, buying into Iconoduly requires rules of ownership. “I am very picky about who I let purchase a pair. All women must first complete a Proust Questionnaire and then the selection process begins.” Even when clients are allowed in, there is a shroud of secrecy that must be met at all times — it’s a rule.
Pollard says he plans to make exactly one style of shoe per year, and he has the next 20 years already designed and sketched. Even the perks are planned out. For 2015, the Thyrsus will come with a skirt and earrings and, for 2016, the as-yet-unveiled object of adornment will ship with a 22-karat gold headpiece and a bench. Not just any bench, surely, but the most exquisite divan ever made.