WHEN I last interviewed Raphael Young, I was blown away by his extraordinary talent, his poetic history and his inspiring outlook on life. After being orphaned in Korea, and then adopted by a French family in Lyon, Young first developed his skill a shoe artisan under the guidance of his uncle, Alexandre Narcy (the celebrated, four-year-long shoe designer for Monsieur), when he interned for him at YSL. Yes, Raphael Young shoes are jarring, in a way that makes you say “I need these in my life right now,” but what most intrigues me about Young is his beauty as a human being. As I get to know him that little bit better, I’m cast under his spell and fall in love all over again.
I love the natural chic of Paris, which is cool, but can sometimes be too feminine. The Brit is the better woman maybe...
What did you dream last night?
Ouhla... I do not know if I remember correctly, but I keep having a recurring dream lately where I fly and I die. I do not know if we can talk about it – it’s a bit scary.
When in London, what do you enjoy most? And what inspires you the most here?
Walking... Strolling... Looking... people, buildings, shops, Londoners. The noble chic is in the air here, and creativity is more electric; you're in the land of rock, which is the music I listen to when I draw. London is midway between Paris and NYC, a free city on the old continent. I like the paradoxes.
Are there any secret places in London you recommend?
I never get to stay long in London for shopping, but I’d say the classics – Notting Hill, Covent Garden and Carnaby Street. I want to see an eclectic street in Paris also, as it reminds me of my punk time in high school. As for the kitchen, Zuma and Ubon, of course. There is also Bob Bob Ricard’s alert button, ‘press for champagne’, which I love. I tried it and the waiter immediately ran by asking if that was the "emergency champagne?” I want the same switch at home.
Do you prefer British or Parisian style?
I love the natural chic of Paris, which is cool, but can sometimes be too feminine. The Brit is the better woman maybe... But you know, women’s styles are similar in almost all major cities in the world. They have the same codes, and wear the same clothes.
What British shoe designers do you admire?
Georgina Goodman, she's an artist.
What do you think about the whole scandal with John Galliano?
I think it's absurd. Poor John was not in his normal state, he said, of course, horrible things, but when you're completely stoned and so drunk, of course you say anything. He has Jewish friends and is not anti-Semitic, only broken and angry, and maybe tired. Let us not forget that he was able to recreate the Dior woman, and there is an incredible creative. He did not deserve that, losing everything.
Your shoes are very architectural. Which city do you think has great architecture?
I love two things: design (technology, modernism) and technical prowess. These are two different things. The challenge is to combine the two. The creation of something beautiful, cutting-edge design and the realization of outstanding state-of-the-art craftswork. So I will answer your question, the city is the most inspiring is New York.
How do you spend your free time?
It depends on the time. There are times with parties and going out with friends, and times of solitude and withdrawal, to take stock, to think, to create, to do nothing sometimes, stay home, smoke and read and draw, write things that I read the next day and add some pages to my book that I started ten years ago. And then there is travel. Most often with Paul, my business partner and friend. I can leave the world behind with him; he feeds my curiosity and stimulates my desire to explore. He is a true friend.
Would you rather an artist in the French Revolution or a poet in Victorian England?
A revolutionary artist, of course. Because of their suffering and how they took control of their own destiny. One must learn to suffer to create with sincerity, and accept loss for what one believes.
Whose shoes would you rather walk in Charles Baudelaire or William Shakespeare?
Baudelaire; I like his poetry and unhappy utopia. The ‘spleen’, I wish I invented that word.
The Queen or Nicolas Sarkozy?
The Queen of course! The life of the Queen is much cooler than that of President Sarkozy, and I would have loved to organize crazy palace parties with rock bands and gents who arof noble reverence.
Napoleon or Nelson?
Neither one nor the other. I was military, and almost had a career in the Navy, and I do not profile a good soldier.
Margaret Thatcher or Marie Antoinette?
Marie Antoinette had had a tragic end too... and Thatcher is not sexy. But I told you in the first question, long live the revolution, so Marie Antoinette – for loving love. I would have loved if she had worn Raphael Young. She was very bold I think, and that's good.
Raphael Young is sold at Liberty's (liberty.co.uk)
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