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Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

By Hai Hien   October 21, 2021 | 06:00 am PT
La Quoc Bao spends 30-40 hours decorating a canvas shoe with royal motifs from Hue and sells his creations for VND7-12 million ($309-530).
Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

Bao, 24, a native of the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, studied architectural design at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

He has compiled a collection of canvas shoes with motifs from the Nguyen Dynasty, the last Vietnamese kings that ruled in Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 with Hue as the imperial capital.

Bao also has a collection of old attire and embroidery from the same period.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

He began painting old patterns on his shoes when he was 19, but two years later he switched to Hue royal motifs after being inspired by a visit to the ancient house of Huynh Thuy Le, a wealthy Chinese-Vietnamese man during the French colonial rule, in Dong Thap Province's Sa Dec Town and seeing many pictures of historical figures in traditional attire.

The photo above shows a pair of shoes with the design inspired by Duc Tu Cung, mother of Emperor Bao Dai, Vietnam's last king, wearing Nhat Binh traditional outfits of the Nguyen Dynasty.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

Nhat Binh was a ceremonial dress worn by women of noble rank under the Nguyen Dynasty. It had two long collar strips forming an eye-catching rectangle around the neck, which coincides with the shape of high-neck sneakers.

Bao spent three to four days researching and experimenting with various decorative layers before extracting the collar pattern from Nhat Binh's clothes and simplifying it to fit the area of the shoes shown.
Three years ago, Bao drew the Hue royal motif on his first pair of shoes. It took him four days to complete and he still has it as a keepsake.

"At first, I was just experimenting for fun, but I got an unexpectedly positive response after posting it on my personal page," he recalled.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

Bao first creates 3D designs on the computer and makes appropriate adjustments before drawing and painting on real shoes.

He paints on shoes manufactured and distributed by a domestic shoe company. However, he will import shoes from abroad for customers with large foot sizes.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

He said the drawing process has five steps. The first one is to research the piece that inspires him, including its history, setting, and related stories. The next step is to select a specific pattern. Then comes the 3D design testing, followed by sketching. The last step is to design the final shape and color it.

"I want to keep the characteristic of the motifs as authentic as possible, just adjusting a few details for it to be appropriate and fashionable."

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

He said the most difficult thing for him to depict when drawing was keeping the “feel and vibe” of the original patterns.

For example, embroidery patterns are frequently bordered with glitter and raised around the edges. So when drawing, he must also outline a tint color line and repeat it many times until the desired thickness is achieved.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

Because he always tests his strokes on another piece of fabric first, Bao is able to control the amount of paint on each brush before applying it on the real shoes.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

He said it takes him 30-40 hours to complete designing and drawing one pair of shoes and another 36 hours for the paint to dry. One of his favorite works is the Phung (Phoenix) pattern.

This pair of shoes is patterned after a woven attire, with a phoenix pattern that was worn by a Nguyen Dynasty princess, that he bought in the U.S.

This pair of shoes is being exhibited at the Dubai Expo 2021, at the invitation of the Department of International Relations under the Ministry of Culture - Sports - Tourism towards promoting the Nguyen Dynasty's fine arts in modern designs.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

The artist said he has so far finished 70 pairs of shoes. He only paints when he has free time or when a customer places an order.

Depending on the number of motifs, each pair costs between VND7-12 million.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

Most of Bao's customers are in 20-40 age range. He said his customers like his shoes because they are unique and carry a lot of historical significance.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

In the future, he intends to open workshops to train and form his own team and increase the number of products. However, he said that quality must still come first.

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

"I feel that it is necessary to propagate national culture. By doing this, I hope to kindle awareness and love for the country’s cultural traditions. I also wish that our cultural heritage will be preserved and not die out over time."

Photos courtesy of the artist

 
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