By ALISON MUTLER (AP)
BUCHAREST, Romania — A designer known as Romania's "shoe architect" has come out with a new pair of sandals that increase a woman's height by 12 inches (31 centimeters).
The new shoes are being compared to skyscrapers because of their towering heels. But the price also may have something to do with it. In a nation, where the average salary is euro450 ($575) a month, the hand-crafted sandals are selling for up to euro1,200 ($1,525).
"Heels have an advantage because (many women) don't have long legs," said Mihai Albu, who's had a 20-year love affair making stilettos. "They reposition the waist," he said in an interview on Wednesday in his Bucharest atelier.
High heels have become fashionable, but Albu's are at least twice the height of ones that international designers have been flirting with for several years.
For instance, in Washington last month independent boutiques were strutting footwear that seemed revolutionary, such as apple red patent and black stiletto heels. But the platforms were only 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) and the red heels 4 1/2 inches (11.4 centimeters).
Albu, a former architect, blends math, architecture and art in his creations, which are more foot sculpture than regular footwear.
He uses French leather and encrusts it with jewels, feathers, mirrors, and taps into Romanian women's perennial love affair with high heels.
Despite the price, Albu says he has received dozens of orders for his new sandals from Romania's well-heeled.
"I am creating a constructed chaos," he said, describing his extravagant sandals in architectural terms. In addition to their breathtaking height, his footwear features special effects and its appearance varies, depending on the angle. There is the sandal with an emerald heel topped by a skull mask out of which bursts a shock of peacock feathers.
Another shoe features three heels, two of which are decorative.
There are boots that resemble a glass vase — the model tucked in flowers to the transparent boots on the catwalk — and unicorn-like boots with a heel in front.
His latest creation, the 31-centimeter (12.2 inch) heel sandal, is a construction of three black wedge sandals. It blends high-tech architecture with design and only comes in small sizes.
"If a woman is 5 foot 9 (175 centimeters), she'd be towering above everyone if she wore these," he said.
Albu draws inspiration from Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi and Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, and he never shops at the mall.
"I keep an eye on major shoe designers, so I know what not to make," he joked, although his latest creations follow the latest trend for higher and higher heels.