Cocopunkz creates wearable shoe art
by Lisa Wong
Photography by Renat Touichev - www.renat.ca
Model - Heather Gillis
Miranda Pang and Ada Fu are artists first, shoe designers second. Sitting in a cozy coffee shop on South Main St., Pang and Fu tell me how their love of art translated into Cocopunkz, a hand painted shoe line which is already earning acclaim and devoted fans in North America and Europe. Both women bring a lifelong love of art and painting to Cocopunkz. Pang's parents--lovers of the fine arts--encouraged her to draw from a young age in a strict yet creative way. "My mother used to give me a pencil and paper but no eraser and say, 'Draw a picture, but you can't erase anything!'" Pang says laughingly. From there, she moved on to Chinese painting, acrylics, and watercolours. Fu was also encouraged to nurture her artistic talent by her parents, enrolling in drawing classes during her youth and eventually studying interactive arts at SFU. Last year, Pang and Fu decided to experiment by painting on an old pair of boots. The duo decided they were onto something and began painting on heels, perfecting their technique and the materials used with every new pair they finished.
Pang and Fu coined the name Cocopunkz for their shoe line: "Coco-" comes from the word "rococo" and is meant to evoke the elaborate, detailed aesthetic of the French artistic movement, while "-punkz" hints at a contemporary twist. The dichotomy of the name embodies their partnership perfectly: Pang sees her work as more classic and ladylike, while Fu has a modern pop art aesthetic. Each pair of shoes that they complete is unique and tells a story. For example, Pang's 'Caged Oiran' heels feature a stylized geisha on one shoe and a goldfish on the other. Pang explains that this pair of shoes was inspired by a Japanese film she saw about oiran, high-ranking courtesans in Japan. This film compared oiran to goldfish who lived their lives as captive ornaments, admired and coveted by all but not truly living. Aside from being partners in business, I suspect that these ladies are each other's biggest supporters and fans: Fu's favourite pair of heels by Pang is 'Caged Oiran', although unlike most people who covet them, she prefers the goldfish shoe over the geisha shoe. When asked which pair of Fu's shoes Pang likes best, she cites the candy shoes--heels painted with candy corn and conversation hearts--because they remind her of sweets from her childhood.
Cocopunkz also does custom orders starting at $300 a pair. For custom orders, Pang explains that "it depends on what the customer has an idea of already." The client is invited to brainstorm ideas; the duo then decides which one of them would be better suited for the project and refines the design sketches based on ongoing feedback. Painting itself takes five to 10 hours, after which the shoes are coated. Pang and Fu use oil-based paints and add a finishing coat on top which render the shoes water-resistant--always a plus in rainy Vancouver. A major foodie, Fu would love to customize food-festooned dress shoes for celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain from the show No Reservations, while Pang, ever the classic lady, would paint a pair of floral-patterned heels in subdued colours for Grace Kelly. Cocopunkz has bright plans for the future, including doing more events and raising their profile here and abroad. For now, though, they hope to raise the bar for creative dressing in Vancouver, one hand painted pair of stilettos at a time.
Cocopunkz shoes are sold at Jules and Eve and Forsya in Vancouver. For custom or international orders, visit their website at www.cocopunkz.com or their Etsy shop.