Art has always been integral to the practice of Marie Laffont, a charming Paris-born, NYC-based footwear designer who debuted her eponymous label of sophisticated, comfortable shoes in 2019. During Frieze Los Angeles this February, Laffont—who often announces collections in accordance with international art fairs—doubled down on her artistic output and debuted “This is Not a Shoe,” an NFT (initially) released in an edition of 100, exclusive to the community of the creative web3 platform P00LS. Starting at $10 per NFT, the inaugural launch sold quickly, and additional digital editions were gifted to friends of Laffont—including her mentor Pierre Hardy, designer and artist Andre Walker (who she has collaborated with), Almine Rech Gallery, Clearing Gallery, artist Claire Tabouret and the Lycée Français de New York (which auctioned theirs for a school benefit). Laffont is already considering more.
“I’d been intending to do something artistic with my brand,” Laffont tells COOL HUNTING. “Before I became a shoe designer I had exhibitions, including one at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.” Laffont studied at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture before embarking on her Masters under the legendary Pierre Hardy at École Duperré in Paris. There, in addition to intellectual discourse around design, she continued to work with clay and other materials for artful exploration.
To secure her first internship in the industry, Laffont sent drawings to Christian Louboutin, who ultimately hired her. “When I started to work with shoe designers, I didn’t have time to focus on my own artistic practice,” she continues. After a handful of years with Louboutin (where she learned every corner of the business) and a stint with Sonia Rykiel, Laffont moved to NYC and launched her own business a few years later—while pregnant with her first son and unable to find something chic and well-crafted but comfortable to wear.
From her beloved Gigi line to her extravagant, personality-packed Derbie collection, Laffont strikes a balance between high-design, premium materials and wearability. Further, all of her shoes are made in Italy. “I wanted to develop something that matches my personality,” she says, “Whether I am wearing an OshKosh jumpsuit or an Alaïa dress. I also do not want to compromise between aesthetic and comfort. I try all of my shoes styles myself for a minimum of one month. I walk everywhere. I run in them. I want to be sure that when people buy my shoes, they’ll wear them forever and come back for something more.”
Laffont’s NFT edition began with a conversation with Hugo Renaudin, co-founder of P00LS. Renaudin mentioned that they’d developed a digital gallery and creative collective called The Factory, named after Warhol’s studio. “I started to see if any other shoe brands had done NFTs. Aside from sneakers, no luxury shoe brands had gone down this path. So, I came up with an idea and told Hugo that I really wanted to be a part of it,” she says.
“I was thinking about what an NFT is,” she says of her process. “It can be complicated to explain because it’s a new form of art. Some people are like ‘Ah, this is not art.’ But, if we recall the work of Marcel Duchamp, when he debuted his Readymade work, people were saying, ‘This is not art.’ It took time for everyone to understand Duchamp and now museums have elevated him to one of the biggest artists in the world. NFTs could be the same.”
For her NFT, Laffont decided to design a shoe that was not a shoe. “It’s a 15-second video of a form that we can imagine might be a shoe made from pink faux fur. Suddenly, you hear wind and the hairs of the shoe begin to move. When the wind stops, the shoe starts to beat like a heart. You do not know if it’s a shoe, an organic animal or some strange form from the future. You cannot name it.” Maison Lune, an exquisite home and contemporary art gallery in Venice, hosted the NFT launch party during Frieze Los Angeles, not far from the fair itself.
A kinetic take on Duchamp’s Readymade concept with an enchanting infusion of cotton-candy-colored fluff, Laffont’s NFT is a mission statement for her brand. It underscores the artistic side of founding a brand and demonstrates that artists will continue to find a way to create art.
Images courtesy of Marie Laffont