Dancing Shoes

From classical ballet to disco, dance informs accessories designer Pierre Hardy's imaginative creations.

(Illustration: Ping Zhu/Surface)

Dance has always been a huge part of my life: My mother taught modern dance, and as a student of fine arts at the École Normale Supérieure, I studied both dance and drawing, learning how to combine these passions. During that time, I also discovered the intersection of fashion and dance, and became interested in the whole staging aspect of theatre, from the costumes to the lights to the choreography. This has carried over into my design work.

Some of my earliest inspirations were Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and Nijinsky’s choreography for Le Sacre du Printemps. This isn’t a classical ballet in the sense that it isn’t sweet or frilly, but rather it’s all about physical strength. In terms of current inspirations, William Forsythe does incredible work bridging classical ballet with crazy abstraction, while filmmaker and musician Peter Goetz and contemporary jazz dancer Matt Mattox each push creative limits. In general, I’m fascinated by the repetition seen in all forms of dance—90 percent of the work is in the rehearsal—as well as in the self-discipline and dedication required. In dance, you push yourself to go just as high or as far as you can, all the while staying in balance.

Today, Benjamin Millepied, director of the Paris Opera Ballet and the L.A. Dance Project, is introducing dance in new ways through such platforms as the Third Stage. This virtual stage takes away the formality traditionally associated with dance and makes it more accessible through a variety of new settings and the use of music videos and technology. Choreographer Bobby Charmatz is another incredible talent whose works explore the ways in which we experience dance.

I’m also inspired by the dancers in David Hockney’s drawings and paintings, especially as seen in his recent Dancers VIII (2014), a work that pays homage to Henri Matisse. Hockney’s color palettes and studies are just masterful. He also de- signed imaginative and beautiful sets for the Ballets Russes, as well as for the opera and theatrical productions.

Movies about dance are another obsession. I find the Wim Wenders documentary Pina, about Pina Bausch and her dancers, to be so emotional. It’s almost unbearable to watch. The film focuses on her dancers who are now in their sixties and highlights their landscape. I find the repetition and rigor of their routines fascinating. Saturday Night Fever is another favorite and one of the most beautiful movies about dance ever made. The film is supposed to express insouciance—the happiness of the disco era—but it’s really a terribly sad drama. Dance serves to lighten its storyline.

Disco holds a particularly special place for me, as it was during this era in the 1980s in Paris, at places like Les Bains Douches and Le Palace, that there was incredible creative energy. The spirit of disco has inspired the creation of many of my shoes— platform boots, metallic high tops. Ultimately, I’m always conscious of the body and its physical limits because of my dance training. Feet are tools, so shoes must be functional. But I try to hide that functionality and create things that are beautiful and infused with personality.

As much as I love dance, I don’t do it very much much anymore. I prefer to mainly observe. In my opinion, there is no worse dancer at a party than a former—or a professional—dancer!

The author leads his eponymous label and is also creative director of Hermès jewelry and shoes. 

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