If you haven’t seen the designs of Safa Sahin, you are missing an opportunity to experience a new reality in footwear design. Nike’s avant garde genius is making waves in a sea of white trainers and underwhelming beige ballet flats by dreaming differently. A first look at Sahin’s designs might leave you feeling a little shaky on your feet, but upon deeper review, his portfolio is wearable and watchable – we simply cannot look away.

Studying design in Turkey, breaking through with his own brand, and then landing a covetable gig at Nike sounds like a prolific and admirable career for any apparel designer, but Sahin is young, hungry, and only getting started. His transformative work, which is exhibited in galleries and featured on famous feet alike, is distinguished, with nods to the greats in fashion surrealism, object wearability, and a Dali-esque fluidity.

Sahin is an outstanding example of believing in your own visions, pursuing what you love, and creating with reckless abandon. Not too many years ago, Sahin’s work was rejected by many well-known shoe brands and labels. Many artists would take this as a sign that something needs to change – that their work needs to be more similar to the brand they hope to work for or, to the shoes already on the market. Not Safa Sahin. Arguably, his work flourished more in the face of commercial adversity, blossoming into a completely otherworldly aesthetic. His work is inimitable and challenges the status quo which, in his view, is a measure of his success.

In a world where so much of design is now a digital thing that exists to be looked at and scrolled past, Sahin’s work stands apart boldly from a pinprick stiletto heel or staunchly from the base of a boot, asserting itself as a real objet d’art. His work can be worn, felt, and touched. In fact, the layers of texture and the incorporation of unlikely shoe materials beg to be manipulated by hand. By designing his renderings, Sahin has the great fortune of also acting as sculptor.

While we know and quickly understand his work as unique and even weird – a term he would nod along with – we don’t know enough yet about Sahin, the man. With brainchild designs, such as shoes that look like food or have fingers, Sahin is more than just another scholar who chose design on a whim.

So, what makes Safa Sahin so different? What inspires his utter deregulation of the shoe industry? How are we supposed to feel when we see – or wear – Sahin’s designs? We do a quick-fire Q&A to find out more.

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a designer?
When I won the 1st place prize as a shoe designer (Detay Deri Tasarim Yarismasi), I knew I wanted to design shoes.

From your twelve years of designing so far, what can you tell young hopefuls about the industry?

Work only on your portfolio for a couple of years to grow and get better. Study graphics in magazines to develop your personal style and eye for design.

What decade in history produced the most aesthetically-pleasing shoes?
The 1990s. Technology erupted in this era which influenced shoe designers who produced iconic tech shoes.

Who, in design, or in general, inspires and motivates your work? Do you enjoy designing other items beyond footwear?
Alexander McQueen, who had a different perspective. Yes. I design bags and other products.

What can you tell us about your process for design?
I play mystic music throughout my design process at every stage. This influence helps me to determine my topic and begin to sketch. After I develop a sketch I like, I begin drawing a full rendering.

Describe the type of person who would most enjoy your work.
Otherworldly. Eccentric. Someone who lives in their dreams.

Is there a famous person you would love to see wearing your designs?

Lady Gaga, Bjork – eccentric artists.

What is the future of your design work? What can you tell us about an upcoming project?

I am working on a winter 2019 collection of high heels influenced by Japanese traditional culture.

If you weren’t designing shoes, what other type of career would you like to undertake?

I would be a contemporary artist or painter.

How would you like your work to be remembered?

Just crazy.

Safa Sahin (safa.sahin on Instagram) is a revolutionary mind, the type of designer who challenges the pretense of buyability and knows, with confidence, that the right brands and the right buyers will find you. While Sahin’s designs stand out now, here’s to hoping the the rest of the world will rise to his level of oddity and self-assertion.

Text Kayla Naab
Images Courtesy of Safa Sahin